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Event Preview Women Marathon

Having long been dominated by the Africans, particularly the Kenyans and Ethiopians, the women's Marathon title might well have passed to Britain's Paula Radcliffe this time around.

Having smashed the world record this season with a run of 2:15:25, the reigning European 10,000m champion could have crowned her conversion to the marathon with World Championship glory. But her absence, along with outgoing titleholder Lidia SIMON from Romania, will cast a shadow over the Marathon in Paris.

Nevertheless, Asia intends to make its mark on the discipline, with Japan and its armada of distance runners to the fore, led by Misuki NOGUCHI, with a time of 2:21:18 in Osaka, and followed closely by Masako CHIBA (2:21:45) and Naoko SAKAMOTO (2:21:51).

China is also threatening to get in amongst the medals, notably with Shujing ZHANG, who this year posted a time of 2:23:17 in Seoul and is more than capable of springing a surprise.

And while Asia stirs itself into action, the Africans are not resting on their laurels either. The Kenyan team seems especially well equipped, including the favourite for this event, Catherine NDEREBA, who ran 2:19:55 in London this season, as well as Beatrice OMWANZA, winner of the last Paris marathon in 2:27:43. Her fellow Kenyan Joyce CHEPCHUMBA, 2:23:22 in 2003 and 3rd at the Sydney Olympics, also seems determined to snatch a medal at the World Championships.

Similarly, Ethiopia will be expecting big things from Elfenesh ALEMU, who has run 2:24:29 this year. But it is hard to see any Europeans in the field able to replace the lanky frame of Paula Radcliffe at the top of the podium.