Athletics
Carlo Jonkerman, KweséESPN 21d

African men to restore status quo in NYC

Endurance

Sunday's New York Marathon comes with an extra dollop of motivation for the male African entrants following Galen Rupp's win in Chicago last month.

The American became the first non-Africa-born runner to win one of the world's six major marathons since 2010 so the big contenders will be determined for lightning not to strike twice in succession.

Interestingly, on Sunday only seven runners representing African nations will be among the 21-strong professional field tackling the 42.2km through the streets of New York.

However, you can't look past one of them for the title; even more so if you look at the pedigree of Kenya's Wilson Kipsang, and the Ethiopian trio of Lemi Berhanu, Lelisa Desisa and Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, the defending champion...

Kipsang's name immediately stands out, with the 35-year-old having victories in four of the six major marathons on his CV. He started the peerless feat by claiming the 2012 London title, then setting a world record while winning Berlin a year later, winning a second London title in 2014 and adding the New York title that same year.

A few near-misses have followed but Kipsang showed that he still has the legs and big-race temperament by winning this year's Tokyo Marathon with a course record of 2:03:58.

That is comfortably quicker than the much younger Berhanu (23), Desisa (27) and 21-year-old Ghebreselassie have ever managed.

Be that as it may, the 47-year history of the race shows that only five men have been able to win it back-to-back, and Ghebreselassie should be well up for being the first since John Kagwe in 1998 -- even if he's been quiet this year.

Berhanu, the 2016 Boston champion, won in Xiamen back in January and has also been off the radar since so should be fresh; but the real unknown element is how Desisa will shape up.

The 2013 and 2015 Boston marathon champion has spent most of the last year as part of Nike's Breaking 2 project but faded badly during the the attempt on a sub-2-hour marathon in May and this will be his first big race since, while his fellow attemptees Eliud Kipchoge and Zersenay Tadese have competed since. Kipchoge even cruising to a second Berlin title.

Meanwhile it would be a big surprise if Kenya's Geoffrey Kamworor (the two-time defending half-marathon world champion who hasn't completed the full distance since 2015), 28-year-old Ethiopian Musa Babo or Uganda's Harbert Okuti were to emerge victorious.

If for some reason African hearts are broken for the second straight world marathon major, then it will almost certainly be by one of four men with African blood coursing through their veins.

Eritrea-born Meb Keflezighi would be a hugely popular winner, not least because he competes for the USA and has previously won this race (2009) and the 2014 Boston Marathon (the year after the bombing incident), but this is also the 42-year-old's farewell.

Meanwhile Shadrack Biwott has a fifth from last year's race before claiming fourth in Boston in April, while another American convert in Somalia-born Abdi Abdirahman has a PB of 2:08:56 though he is now 40. Eritrean-Swiss Tadesse Abraham (35) is even quicker and could come into the reckoning in a slow tactical race... which of course is a possibility considering the weather prediction of scattered showers.

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