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Previews15 Oct 2021

Tola, Walelegn, Tanui and Sado set for exciting clashes in Amsterdam


Amsterdam Marathon contenders

The TCS Amsterdam Marathon men’s course record could be challenged on Sunday (17) when the likes of Tamirat Tola, Leul Gebresilase, Ayele Abshero and Amdework Walelegn line up for the World Athletics Elite Platinum Label road race.

Eight women with sub-2:25 PBs, meanwhile, are also set to clash in what looks set to be a highly competitive race in the Dutch capital.

Tola’s PB, set in Dubai in 2018, is equal to the Amsterdam course record and Dutch all-comers’ record (2:04:06). The Ethiopian earned Olympic bronze over 10,000m in 2016 and world silver in the marathon in 2017, having won the Dubai Marathon earlier that year in 2:04:11.

“I was preparing for the Tokyo Marathon (before it got cancelled), but I’m happy to be here,” said Tola. “I love the country. It’s my first time here, and the weather forecast is perfect for a good performance, so I’m hoping to run a personal best on Sunday.”

The past nine editions of the Amsterdam Marathon have been won by Kenyan men, but that streak could end on Sunday as the five fastest entrants are from Ethiopia.

Tola’s compatriot Gebresilase has the fastest PB of the field. The 29-year-old Ethiopian clocked 2:04:02 on his debut at the distance in Dubai three years ago to finish second, four seconds ahead of Tola. He followed it later in the year with a 2:04:31 victory in Valencia, and he equalled that time earlier this year in Milan.

Abebe Negewo Degefa, Chalu Deso Gelmisa and Ayele Abshero all have sub-2:05 PBs. Degefa, now 37, set his PB of 2:04:51 in Valencia just two years ago. Gelmisa produced a similar clocking of 2:04:53 in Valencia last year, but more recently he raced in Chicago, finishing 29th, and so his legs may not have recovered in just one week. Abshero has a faster PB of 2:04:23, but it was set back in 2012.

But perhaps the strongest Ethiopian entrant is Amdework Walelegn, who’ll be making his marathon debut. The 22-year-old took bronze at the 2020 World Half Marathon Championships, having finished second in the U20 race at the World Cross Country Championships just three years prior. He set a half marathon PB of 58:53 when winning in Delhi last year, and he came close to that last month with his 59:10 victory at the Copenhagen Half Marathon.

Kenya is still well represented for this year’s race in the form of Laban and Jonathan Korir (no relation).

Laban Korir has competed at the Amsterdam Marathon four times. The 35-year-old, who is a training partner of Eliud Kipchoge, made his marathon debut in the Dutch city back in 2011, clocking 2:06:05 to place second. He improved on that when he returned to Amsterdam in 2016, finishing fourth in 2:05:54. Winner of the 2014 Toronto Marathon, Korir represented Kenya at the 2019 World Championships, where he finished 11th.

Jonathan Korir, another friend and training partner of Kipchoge’s, will also be returning to Amsterdam. He set a PB of 2:06:51 during his last outing at this race, which he went on to improve in Berlin in 2019 (2:06:45) and then in Enschede earlier this year (2:06:40).

Competitive clash in women’s race

While Kenyan men have dominated recent editions of the Amsterdam Marathon, the women’s race has typically gone in Ethiopia’s favour over the past decade.

Ethiopian women make up seven of the nine fastest entrants for Sunday’s race, but the outcome could be largely dictated by whether Kenya’s Angela Tanui makes it to the startline. The 29-year-old, who clocked a PB of 2:20:08 in Ampugnano back in April and is undefeated in three races this year, had been due to compete at the Boston Marathon earlier this week, but was unable to make it to the US due to visa issues. If she succeeds in making it to Amsterdam, she’ll start as the favourite.

But if Tanui is unable to make the start line, an Ethiopian victory would appear highly likely as the likes of Besu Sado, Shasho Insermu, Genet Yalew, Gebeyanesh Ayele and Haven Hailu are raring to go.

Sado, a former 1500m specialist who reached the Olympic final in that event in 2016, set her PB of 2:21:03 when finishing fourth in Amsterdam in 2019. She has a best this year of 2:27:06, set in Milan in May, but more recently set a half marathon PB of 1:08:15 in Herzogenaurach.

Insermu also set her PB in Amsterdam, clocking 2:23:28 when finishing second in 2018. She hasn’t raced this year, but her last marathon was a victory in Madrid in April 2019. She has previously won marathons in Copenhagen, Cologne, Nagano and Marrakech.

Yalew has contested just three marathons to date and has a best of 2:24:34 so far, but her pedigree suggests that time could be due some revision. She finished fifth at the 2016 World Half Marathon Championships just a couple of months after clocking a PB of 1:06:26.

Ayele set a PB of 2:23:23 this year. She has yet to win a marathon, but has made it on to the podium in four of her nine races to date.

Hailu, meanwhile, is keen to make amends for her DNF two years ago. “I love racing in the Netherlands,” said the 23-year-old, who set a PB of 2;23:52 earlier this year. “Two years ago, I raced the Zwolle Half Marathon and I placed second in a personal best time of 1:09:57. I was also here two years ago for the Amsterdam Marathon, but it didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted. I learned from my mistakes and I’ve prepared accordingly for Sunday. I’m hoping to run a very fast time.”

Kenya’s Maureen Chepkemoi could also be in contention for a podium finish. She has a 2:24:16 PB from the 2019 Istanbul Marathon and she came close to that with her 2:24:19 victory in Geneva earlier this year.

Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics

Elite field

Angela Tanui (KEN) 2:20:08
Besu Sado (ETH) 2:21:03
Gebeyanesh Ayele (ETH) 2:23:23
Shasho Insermu (ETH) 2:23:28
Haven Hailu (ETH) 2:23:52
Maureen Chepkemoi (KEN) 2:24:16
Genet Yalew (ETH) 2:24:34
Worknesh Alemu (ETH) 2:24:42
Meseret Gola (ETH) 2:28:30
Ruth van der Meijden (NED) 2:29:30
Nina Lauwaert (BEL) 2:30:24
Eva Wutti (AUT) 2:30:43
Bo Ummels (NED) 2:32:34
Melody Julien (FRA) debut

Leul Gebresilase (ETH) 2:04:02
Tamirat Tola (ETH) 2:04:06
Ayele Abshero (ETH) 2:04:23
Abebe Negewo Degefa (ETH) 2:04:51
Chalu Deso Gelmisa (ETH) 2:04:53
Laban Korir (KEN) 2:05:54
Aychew Bantie (ETH) 2:06:23
Jonathan Korir (KEN) 2:06:40
Aweke Ayelew (BRN) 2:07:12
Kenneth Keter (KEN) 2:07:34
Abrar Osman (ERI) 2:07:46
Hiskel Tewelde (ERI) 2:08:49
Shumet Akalnew (ETH) 2:08:50
Merhawi Kesete (ERI) 2:09:06
Mohamed Ziani (MAR) 2:09:29
Jo Fukuda (JPN) 2:09:52
Khalid Choukoud (NED) 2:09:55
Michel Butter (NED) 2:09:58
Aziz Lahbabi (MAR) 2:10:51
Bjorn Koreman (NED) 2:11:07
Bukayaw Malede (ISR) 2:11:22
Amdework Walelegn (ETH) debut
Afewerki Berhane (ERI) debut
Tesfahun Akalnew (ETH) debut
Mustefa Kedir Tebo (ETH) debut
Simon Cheprot (KEN) debut