Iten - Ethiopian athletes may have
obliterated their opponents in Monday's Boston marathon, the opener in this
season's World Marathon Majors (WMM), but Kenyans are strong favourites to win
Sunday's London race.
Kenyan men have won seven out of the last
16 London competitions and Kenyan women six, while Ethiopians have won just
twice in each category.
Reigning WMM champions Eliud Kipchoge and
Mary Keitany will lead a strong Kenyan contingent that also includes former
London marathon winners, Wilson Kipsang and Priscah Jeptoo.
With places in the Rio Olympics team up for
grabs, the Kenyans are eager to put in their best performances. A new
anti-doping law, due to be passed before May 2, is aimed at saving Kenya's
runners from a threatened Olympics ban after a spate of positive drug tests
Men's champion Kipchoge, 31, says his goal
is Olympic selection not breaking the course record of 2:04:00 set in 2014 by
fellow Kenyan Wilson Kipsang.
"I always love the challenge of
competing in the big city marathons," Kipchoge told AFP before departing
for the British capital on Monday night.
"But I cannot say I will be going for
the course title. Marathon running is a team event," said Kipchoge, who is
set to face Kipsang and world record holder, Dennis Kimetto, in a repeat of the
2015 London marathon.
Kenyan-based Italian coach Renato Canova
has singled out Kipchoge, a former world 5 000 metre champion and Olympic
silver medallist, as the runner to watch this season.
"Kipchoge is head and shoulders above
all the Kenyan marathon runners and he is a very strong contender to win the
Olympic gold medal in Rio," said the Iten, Kenya, based Canova, who has
coached several Kenyan marathon runners over the past five years.
So focused on the Olympics is Kipchoge that
he has not run a marathon event since Berlin in September, when a broken shoe
denied him a world record. Kipchoge finished the race in a personal-best time
of 2:04.00 but well outside the world record of 2:02.57.
Two-time champion Kipsang, 34, has not
ruled himself out of contention for the London title.
"The performance on the day will
depend on how well one has prepared himself for the race," said the 2012
Olympic bronze medallist, after his final 25 kilometre run in Iten at the
"I have practised my finishing very
well and I'm ready for the London marathon and a place in the team for the
Olympics," said Kipsang.
Keitany finished runner-up to Ethiopian
Tigist Tufa in the women's race last year, but the 34-year-old mother of two
has the fastest time on the start list for London.
Buoyed by a solid performance during her
New York marathon title defence last November - when she relegated Tufa to
third place - Keitany believes she is strongly-placed to win the race and
become only the fourth woman runner to win the London marathon three times.
"I have won London twice and the
atmosphere is very welcoming. I feel very much at home competing there"
said Keitany who was, however, disappointed when a hip injury forced her
training partner Gladys Cherono to withdraw from the race.
Cherono, the Berlin marathon champion and
last year's fastest marathoner had been expected to make her London marathon
debut on Sunday.
Fellow Kenyan and current world half marathon
record holder Florence Kiplagat will also be competing in what will be her
fifth London marathon. She finished second in 2014.