Ethiopian athletes seek more World Athletics Platinum Label road race success when they contest the Tokyo Marathon tomorrow, March 5, 2023.
Sisay Lemma and Ashete Bekere will lead Ethiopian entries in men’s and women’s races, respectively.
Sisay heads a deep men’s field that stars six sub-2:05 athletes and 46 who have dipped under 2:10 so far in their careers, as per the sports governing body World Athletics.
He clocked his PB of 2:03:36 when finishing third in Berlin in 2019 and since then he has become a Platinum Label race champion, winning the London Marathon in 2:04:01 in 2021.
It could take a performance near his top form to hold off competition that includes his compatriot Tsegaye Getachew, Uganda’s Stephen Kissa, and Kenya’s Titus Kipruto, who all dipped under 2:05 last year, plus Kenya’s Bernard Koech, who ran 2:04:09 for the runner-up spot in Amsterdam in 2021.
Another Ethiopian athlete Deso Gelmisa is also expected to be a threat.
The 25-year-old ran his PB of 2:04:53 in Valencia in 2020 and came close to that with 2:04:56 back at the same event in December after winning the Paris Marathon in 2:05:07 in April.
Olympic sixth-place finisher Suguru Osako leads the Japanese team with the 2:05:29 PB he ran in Tokyo in 2020, and he’s joined by his fellow former national marathon record-holder Yuta Shitara (2:06:11).
Ashete: “my favorite marathon”
In the women’s race, Ashete forms part of a women’s line-up that features four others who have PBs under 2:19 and 14 who have gone sub-2:25, according to WA.
The 34-year-old Ethiopian aims to go faster than the 2:17:58 PB she set to finish second in Tokyo last year.
Ashete relishes the prospect of her third Tokyo Marathon appearance in her marathon career, during which she garnered six victories including in Valencia, Rotterdam and Berlin.
“I doubt there are too many other athletes, especially in Ethiopia, who have run 25 marathons,” she told her NN Running Team. “That makes the accomplishment special, but I think it is even more special because the race will be in Tokyo, my favorite marathon.”
“I have had a very good preparation and psychologically I’m much stronger than in the past,” she said.
Ashete is the fastest in the field but her compatriot Tigist Abayechew and Kenya’s Rosemary Wanjiru are not far behind her.
Wanjiru ran 2:18:00 and Tigist 2:18:03 to finish second and third respectively in Berlin in September. Ethiopia’s Worknesh Edesa also finished fourth, clocking her PB 2:18:51.
The trio clash again in Tokyo in the women race featuring Japan’s woman-only national record-holder Mao Ichiyama, who ran 2:20:29 in Nagoya in 2020.
Featured Image: Ashete Bekere finishes second in the 2022 Tokyo Marathon (Photo © AFP / Getty Images)