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Tough Field Awaits Defending Champ Kiprotich at Xiamen Marathon
    2009-01-02 22:07:41     Xinhua
Defending champion Kenei Kiprotich will have to beat one of the strongest field ever assembled if he attempts to claim his second Xiamen International Marathon title in a row on Saturday.

The 30-year-old Kenyan, who won the race last year in a time of 2 hours 9 minutes and 49 seconds, is one of the 23 elite male runners invited by the organizing committee. His personal best is 2:07:42 from the Hamburg Marathon in 2007.

However, Kiprotich faces touch opposition from both fellow Kenyans and at least four Beijing Olympics competitors.

David Kemboi Kiyeng, second fastest among the 18 Kenyan contenders, boasts a personal best of 2:07:53 set in the Reims Marathon in October. Sammy Kiptoo Kurgat and Frederick Cherono, who both kept a personal best under 2:09:00, also have a serious shot at the title.

Meanwhile, Deng Haiyang, who finished third in 2:10:43 last year, will spearhead China's assault in the 42.195km run.

Despite facing such a strong field of competitors, Kiprotich exuded with confidence of his results.

"Xiamen is a very beautiful city. I'm glad to be back here and to compete with so many good runners," Kiprotich told a press conference on Friday afternoon.

"I did a good job last year and hope to achieve a better result tomorrow."

On women's side, Chinese runners are expected to dominate under the leadership of 2008 winner and record holder Zhang Yingying, who had a PB of 2:22:38.

A record of 33,000 runners from over 40 countries and regions will compete in the 5 km and 10 km races, Half-Marathon, and Marathon, organizers said.
 
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