Jemima Sumgong winning at the 2016 London Marathon (© Getty Images / AFP)
Olympic champion Jemima Sumgong will defend her crown at the Virgin Money London Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday 23 April.
Sumgong defied the odds last April when she recovered from a bruising fall to beat some of the world’s best in the British capital with a devastating finish. The 32-year-old went on to make history at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games when she became the first Kenyan woman to win the Olympic title in the marathon. Sumgong defeated Ethiopia’s world champion Mare Dibaba in Brazil to confirm her status as the world’s top marathon runner of 2016.
Dibaba, who took the bronze medal in Rio behind Bahrain’s Eunice Kirwa, will be one of Sumgong’s main rivals in London from a field that includes four women who have broken the 2:20 barrier and no fewer than nine who have run quicker than 2:22.
"London is the marathon every runner wants to win," said Sumgong. "I can’t wait to return to defend my title."
The women's elite line-up announced today includes all three medallists from last year’s race, three of the top five finishers from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, four previous London Marathon champions, and the winners at last year’s Abbott World Marathon Majors races in Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York.
The quickest on paper is again Mary Keitany who will be aiming to become only the fourth woman to win the London Marathon three times after completing a hat-trick of New York City Marathon titles last November.
Keitany became the second fastest marathon runner of all time when she won her second London Marathon in 2012 in 2:18:37. But after finishing runner-up in 2015, the African record-holder could only place ninth last April after she was involved in the collision that brought down Sumgong. That cost Keitany a place on Kenya’s Olympic team and the 35-year-old will feel she has something to prove.
"I love running in London," said Keitany. "After the sickness I had before the race and the fall last year during the race, I want to show everyone what I can do. My goal is to win the London Marathon for the third time and to demonstrate to everybody that I could have won the Olympic Games last year if I had been selected."
The domestic competition for Kenyan runners will be fierce as the elite line-up also includes Florence Kiplagat, the 2016 Chicago champion and half marathon world record-holder who was third here last year and second in 2014; last year’s Tokyo Marathon champion and world silver medallist Helah Kiprop; plus the Olympic 5000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot who will make her marathon debut at the age of 33.
Dibaba to lead Ethiopian challenge
The quintet of quality Kenyans is matched by a five-strong Ethiopian contingent that is equally impressive.
Mare Dibaba, who finished sixth last year, is joined by her namesake Tirunesh Dibaba, the triple Olympic and five-time world champion on the track, who finished third on her marathon debut in London three years ago; the 2015 London champion Tigist Tufa, who was second here last year; three-time Berlin Marathon champion Aberu Kebede, who has also won the Frankfurt, Tokyo and Rotterdam marathons; and the 2010 London champion Aselefech Mergia, who has triumphed three times at the Dubai Marathon in recent years.
The 10 east Africans are likely to form the leading pack on 23 April but they will be chased hard by other athletes with notable pedigrees.
Portugal's 2012 European 10,000m champion Ana Dulce Felix ran her best time on the London course, when she was eighth in 2015. The 34-year-old returns this year after placing 16th in Rio.
2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Lisa Weightman flies the flag for Australia while Olympian Alyson Dixon will be favourite to win the British battle for World Championships places against fellow internationals Louise Damen, Charlotte Purdue and Susan Partridge.
"This is a stellar field and everyone who is anyone in women’s marathon running will be in London on 23 April," said Hugh Brasher, event director. "We look forward to a fantastic race and the London crowds are certain to be out in force to cheer home the world’s greatest runners."
Organisers for the IAAF
Women's elite field
Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:18:37
Aselefech Mergia (ETH) 2:19:31
Florence Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:44
Mare Dibaba (ETH) 2:19:52
Aberu Kebede (ETH) 2:20:30
Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) 2:20:35
Jemima Sumgong (KEN) 2:20:41
Helah Kiprop (KEN) 2:21:27
Tigist Tufa (ETH) 2:21:52
Ana Dulce Felix (POR) 2:25:15
Lisa Weightman (AUS) 2:26:05
Andrea Deelstra (NED) 2:26:46
Maja Neuenschwander (SUI) 2:26:49
Diana Lobacevske (LTU) 2:28:03
Laura Thweatt (USA) 2:28:23
Krista DuChene (CAN) 2:28:32
Kellyn Taylor (USA) 2:28:40
Alyson Dixon (GBR) 2:29:30
Louise Damen (GBR) 2:30:00
Charlotte Purdue (GBR) 2:30:04
Maryna Damantsevich (BLR) 2:30:07
Susan Partridge (GBR) 2:30:46
Tracy Barlow (GBR) 2:32:05
Jenny Spink (GBR) 2:35:57
Yelena Dolinin (ISR) 2:35:59
Tish Jones (GBR) 2:36:13
Barbara Sanchez (IRL) 2:37:14
Hanna Vandenbussche (BEL) 2:38:35
Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) debut