2 May 2017

Ethiopia: Gold Medallist Eyes to Defend Her Ottawa Marathon Title

Koreni Jelela was the women's winner at the Ottawa marathon in 2:27:06 in 2016

Last year's Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon gold medallist Koreni Jelela is preparing well to defend her title in this year's the IAAF Gold Label race that is set to take place on 28 May, the organizers announced.

Ethiopian women have the winning streak for successive seven years while the men won for four years in a row. Considering this the domination of Ethiopia may very well continue at the 2017 edition of the Ottawa Marathon, commonly called as the IAAF gold race.

Last year the Ethiopian women's had a sweeping victory by occupying all the three top places. The defending Ottawa champion remembers that day by saying, "What I most remember about Ottawa last year is that the weather was so heavy - it was windy and cloudy - and we Ethiopians finished 1-2-3 in the women's race.

"But the support of Ethiopians in the crowd, I remember, made me so happy and proud that we all have got these results to make the entire gathering and including the Ethiopians feel happy. I was so sure all the hard work was worth it."

She added that there are so many things that she likes to talk about Canada but "Of all the city of Ottawa is so beautiful with amazing people. I will not forget that."

She also can't forget the waving of mass flags, ear piercing ululations and other forms of celebrations inside and outside the area after the Ethiopian emerged victorious. "We were greeted with amazing victory songs and dances," she said to a Canadian paper a week earlier.

For her successful result the defending champions gives the credit the Ethiopians residing in Canada and elsewhere close to it. She said: "But the support of Ethiopians in the crowd, I remember, was so encouraging. It actually pushed me to go forward to win. The Ethiopians were everywhere. Some of them were running just equal to us. With that spirit coupled with our daily practice, I was so sure that the result worth it."

Trains with large group of distance runners under coach Gemedu Haile-Mariam she managed to set a Canadian all time record of 2:22:43 in Toronto six years ago.

She told journalists that Aselefech Mergia (2:19:31 personal best), Aberu Kebde (2:20:30 PB), Tirfi Tsegaye (2:19:41 PB), Feyse Tadesse (2:20:27 PB), Shure Demise (2:20:59 PB), Amane Beriso (2:20:48 PB) are few among her training partners. These are some of the world's most talented marathoners.

As part of her preparation she is running roughly 180 kilometres each week at altitudes of between 2500m and 2800m above sea level with the intention of defending her Ottawa title.

A year ago she easily handled the competition, which included 2015 winner Aberu Mekuria, stretching her winning margin to nearly three minutes by the finish. Now Aberu is also returning with vengeance in mind.

The event organizers also disclosed that the men's race will feature several Ethiopian stars including Seboka Tola marking his second visit to Canada in seven months. He finished a strong second at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last October. With a personal best of 2:06:17 from the 2012 Dubai Marathon he will be one of the hot favourite. His compatriot Sisay Jisa with the personal best time of 2:06:27 will take part in Ottawa, the organizers said.

Due to the unique hairstyle Sisay's nickname is 'Sherube'. Earlier this year he finished 4th in Dubai with a time of 2:08:09 and Ottawa will mark his first race in Canada.

In 2014, Yemane Tsegay emerged victorious in the men's race while Tigist Tufa took the women's title. Yemane also set a still standing Canadian all time record of 2:06:54 that day and earned a bonus of a Hyundai Santa Fe SUV. A year later he represented Ethiopia at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing earning the silver medal. He isn't the only Ethiopian to excel beyond the Ottawa Marathon.

Tigist Tufa set the course record of 2:24:31 but didn't add incentive of a Hyundai vehicle for an all comers' record. Later that year she ran a personal best time of 2:21:52 to win the Shanghai Marathon in China. But it was her surprise victory at the 2015 London Marathon that really caught the world's attention. She traces her rise to the elite level from her Ottawa victory.

Will the Ethiopians repeat that dominance in this year's Ottawa Marathon? The athletes are determined to do it again. The organizers express delight by what they see in the Ethiopian great athletes' enthusiasm and inspiration.

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