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  2000 BOSTON MARATHON
Roba, Chebet to defend

They top list of elite runners announced for Marathon

By Barbara Huebner, Globe Staff, 3/29/2000

Defending champions Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia and Joseph Chebet of Kenya will return to defend their titles in Boston Marathon 2000, leading a list of 34 elite athletes announced yesterday by sponsor John Hancock.

THE ELITE FIELDS

Men
* Joseph Chebet (Kenya)
* Moses Tanui (Kenya)
* Ondoro Osoro (Kenya)
* Elijah Lagat (Kenya)
* Gezahenge Abera (Ethiopia)
* Julius Ruto (Kenya)
* John Kagwe (Kenya)
* Philip Rotich Tarus (Kenya)
* Jackson Kabiga (Kenya)
* Alejandro Cruz (Mexico)
* Hu Gangjun (China)
* Leszek Beblo (Poland)
* Silvio Guerra (Ecuador)
* Makhosonke Fika (S. Africa)
* Michal Bartoszak (Poland)
* Abner Chipu (S. Africa)
* Laban Nkete (S. Africa)
* Isaac Kiprono (Kenya)
* Abraham Assefa (Ethiopia)
* Simon Mpholo (S. Africa)


Women
* Fatuma Roba (Ethiopia)
* Elana Meyer (S. Africa)
* Lornah Kiplagat (Kenya)
* Sun Yingjie (China)
* Franziska Rochat-Moser (Switzerland)
* Renata Paradowska (Poland)
* Ai Dongmei (China)
* Anuta Catuna (Romania)
* Catherine Ndereba (Kenya)
* Irina Bogacheva (Kyrgyzstan)
* Marta Tenorio (Ecuador)
* Ornella Ferrara (Italy)
* Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova (Russia)
* Annemari Sandell (Finland)


   

In addition, 18,000 others are expected for the 104th running of the event April 17. The field is the second largest in Boston history, trailing only the race's 100th anniversary in 1996. That year featured almost 38,000 runners.

For Roba, the trek from Hopkinton to Boylston Street will be a race toward history, as the 26-year-old from Addis Ababa will seek to do what no runner - not Bill Rodgers, Clarence DeMar, Cosmas Ndeti or Uta Pippig - has been able to do: win the Boston Marathon four consecutive times.

Mark Wetmore, whose Boston-based Global Athletics & Marketing represents Roba, spoke with her at the Kyoto City Half Marathon earlier this month (which she won handily, in 1 hour 10 minutes 16 seconds) and said she understands that 2000 could be a very big year for her.

''It gives her the chance to do two things no one has ever done before,'' said Wetmore, ''win four straight Boston Marathons and two Olympic gold medals.'' Roba, then a virtual unknown, won the 1996 Olympic marathon before coming to Boston the next spring to begin her string of victories here.

Rodgers, DeMar, Ndeti, and Pippig all failed in their attempts to win four straight in Boston.

Chebet was named the No. 1 marathon runner in the world last year by Track & Field News after winning Boston and New York, only the third man after Rodgers and Alberto Salazar to win both classics in the same year. In his seven career marathons since he debuted at the distance in 1996, the remarkably consistent 29-year-old never has finished lower than second, winning four.

Coming back to challenge Chebet will be Moses Tanui, the two-time Boston winner (1996 and 1998) and third-fastest marathoner in history thanks to the 2:06:16 he ran last fall in Chicago, when he was passed by Khalid Khannouchi in the final miles on the way to his 2:05:42 world record. Chebet and Tanui, who train in different Kenyan camps, are no Boston strangers: In 1998, Tanui sprinted ahead of Chebet in the final 200 meters for the victory.

Also strong on the men's side should be Kenyan Ondoro Osoro, whose personal-best time of 2:06:54 in winning Chicago two years ago was the fastest debut of all time and makes him the 10th-fastest man in history. This will be the 32-year-old's debut in Boston, coming in off a 1:01:50 win in the Kyoto half.

Also here for the first time will be countryman Elijah Lagat, whose 2:07:41 in winning Berlin in 1997 is the fourth-fastest time of the field. He is followed by the up-and-coming Gezahenge Abera, a 22-year-old Ethiopian who shattered his personal best by six minutes when he ran 2:07:54 to win the Fukuoka International Marathon in December.

Rounding out the elite men's field will be John Kagwe of Kenya (two-time winner of New York in 1997 and 1998) and Silvio Guerra, the Ecuadoran who led here last year from Mile 16 to 22 before Chebet caught him and surged ahead. Guerra finished second.

On the women's side, South African Elana Meyer returns from a two-year absence for her fourth try at Boston, after finishing third in 1994 and second in 1995 and 1997. The 33-year-old, a silver medalist at 10,000 meters at the 1992 Olympics, still has her formidable speed as one of the world's best half marathoners, winning the Tokyo Half Marathon earlier this year in 1:07:33, but still is looking for her first marathon win.

Also in contention to deny Roba her fourth straight win are 25-year-old Kenyan Lornah Kiplagat, who last year posted personal bests from 5 kilometers to the marathon; and countrywoman Catherine Ndereba, who made her debut at 26.2 miles here last year and was the only woman to stay with Roba into the Newton Hills before dropping back to finish sixth. Ndereba, 27, completed another stellar year on the roads in 1999 by placing second at the New York Marathon.

Joining them will be Sun Yingjie of China, who last year ran the first half at world-record pace only to be caught shortly thereafter by Roba and Ndereba. She hung on to finish 11th.

This story ran on page F03 of the Boston Globe on 3/29/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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