Priscah Jeptoo crosses the line victorious in the women's race at the 2013 London Marathon (© Getty Images)
Virgin Money London Marathon organisers announced their women’s elite field on Wednesday (22) and the reigning Olympic and World champions will be among the opponents of London defending champion Priscah Jeptoo at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday 13 April.
Jeptoo produced the world’s second fastest time of 2013 to win the London Marathon last April and the Kenyan will need to be equally impressive this year as she steps up to defend her crown against three athletes who have run quicker 2:20 and another five who have finished in under 2:25, as well as Ethiopia’s three-time Olympic track champion and multiple world record breaker Tirunesh Dibaba, who is making her marathon debut.
However, Jeptoo will return to London full of confidence after she added the New York Marathon title in November, a victory which made her USD$ 500,000 richer as she clinched the World Marathon Majors prize.
Perhaps her main threat could come from Tiki Gelana, the Ethiopian who beat her to the Olympic title at the London 2012 Olympic Games but who saw her 2013 London Marathon chances disappear when she unfortunately clashed in a racing incident with wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy.
Gelana eventually finished 16th and a few months later dropped out of the IAAF World Championships marathon in Moscow.
As the fastest woman in the field, the Ethiopian record holder will feel she has a point to prove on her return to the British capital.
Strong competition will also come from Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat, the 2011 and 2013 World champion, who has been second in London for the last two years.
Kiplagat will believe she is due a win here, as will her namesake and compatriot, Florence Kiplagat, who won the Berlin Marathon for a second time in September. The latter Kiplagat was fourth in London two years ago and sixth last year.
However, a lot of attention will be focused on Dibaba, who won the World 10,000m title for the third time in Moscow last summer.
Dibaba was due to make her debut last year but withdrew from the field with a shin injury just a month before the race.
She made a successful return to the roads last September after Moscow, breaking the Ethiopian 10km record in Tilburg before finishing a good third behind Jeptoo and her compatriot Meseret Defar at the Great North Run in September.
Two other Ethiopians will also be worth watching.
Aberu Kebede has twice won the Berlin Marathon and last year added victories in the Tokyo and Shanghai Marathons. However, her record in London is less successful: she was ninth in 2011 and sixth two years ago.
Feysa Tadesse also will be coming with strong credentials. She won the Paris Marathon last April with a personal best of 2:21:06.
Ukrainian record holder Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko leads the European challenge. She won the Osaka Marathon in impressive style last January and was fifth at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Portuguese pair Jessica Augusto and Dulce Felix could also make an impact if they’re at their best.
Augusto has twice finished eighth in London and was seventh at the Olympics while the 2012 European 10,000m champion Felix has a top-four finish in New York to her name.
“We are delighted to welcome back Priscah Jeptoo. Our champion was a deserved winner of the World Marathon Majors title and has shown with her performances over the last two years that she will be extremely difficult to beat,” commented London Marathon race director Hugh Brasher.
“We are also pleased to see the world and Olympic champions on our start line again. Both Edna and Tiki had reason to feel frustrated last year – Edna because she just missed out for a second year in succession, and Tiki because of her unfortunate accident. I am sure they will both be determined to make their returns to London successful.”
Organisers for the IAAF
2014 Virgin Money London Marathon elite women’s field (with personal bests):
Tiki Gelana (ETH), 2:18:58, 2012 Olympic Games marathon champion
Florence Kiplagat (KEN), 2:19:44, 2013 Berlin Marathon champion
Edna Kiplagat (KEN), 2:19:50, 2011 & 2013 World marathon champion
Priscah Jeptoo (KEN), 2:20:14, 2013 London Marathon champion
Aberu Kebede (ETH), 2:20:30, 2013 Tokyo Marathon champion
Feysa Tadesse (ETH), 2:21:06, 2013 Paris Marathon champion
Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko (UKR), 2:23:58, 2013 Osaka Marathon champion
Jessica Augusto (POR), 2:24:33
Kim Smith (NZL), 2:25:21
Dulce Félix (POR), 2:25:40
Nadia Ejjafini (ITA), 2:26:15
Diane Nukuri-Johnson (BDI), 2:29:54
Amy Whitehead (GBR), 2:33:44
Emma Stepto (GBR), 2:35:05
Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH), debut
Gemma Steel (GBR), debut
Lyudmila Konavalenko (UKR), debut