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Dubai (UAE): After a titanic battle that saw them both set marathon personal bests in the emirate in 2010, Ethiopian athletes Chala Dechase and Eshetu Wendimu will once again renew rivalries when they go head-to head at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday (January 21).
After last year’s three-way battle with eventual winner and compatriot Haile Gebrselassie, the two are no longer unknown quantities in international distance running and will be among the favourites to lift the $250,000 first prize. Just thirteen seconds separated them in Dubai in 2010 with Dechase taking second in 2:06:33 just 24 seconds behind Ethiopian legend Gebrselassie.
The 26 year-old Dechase has a good marathon track record – his previous best over the 42.2km distance had been an impressive 2:08:31 for second place in Amsterdam in 2008, while just as striking was the manner of his victory in the Great Ethiopian Run over 10km, held in Addis Ababa a month after his marathon in the Netherlands.
On that occasion, he beat Deriba Merga, who had finished fourth in Beijing’s Olympic Marathon, into third place, rewarding the faith shown in him by his coach Getaneh Tessema.
Although he struggled to 15th place in 2:14:57 in Boston in April 2010, he returned to Amsterdam having regained form, taking third place in 2:07:23 in October and is returns to Dubai aiming to go one better in the world’s richest marathon.
For several years 28 year-old Wendimu was one of Gebrselassie’s favourite pacemakers, playing a significant role as ‘Geb’ broke Paul Tergat’s world record in Berlin in 2007. His successful marathon debut in Dubai in 2009 culminated in third place in 2:08:41 twelve months before that current personal best of 2:06:46.
So far Dubai and Berlin have been his choice for the marathon. He placed seventh in the German capital in 2009, clocking 2:12:28 but was short of that performance last September when he finished 14th in 2:15:36. A more heartening result in terms of Wendimu’s overall development was breaking the hour for the first time in the half marathon: he ran 59:52 to finish runner-up by one second to Kenya’s Patrick Makau in the Hague’s City-Pier-City race in March 2010.
Since Makau subsequently became the fastest marathoner of the year with his 2:04:48 in Rotterdam a month later, Wendimu’s performance suggests he can now be a genuine contender for a marathon title starting in Dubai this week.
“The battle between Haile, Chala and Eshetu over the last 12km was one of the highlights of last year’s men’s race,” said Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon event director Peter Connerton. “Chala and Eshetu have already shown their marathon credentials and we can expect big things when they return to what we believe is the flattest and fastest marathon course in the world.”
Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is supported by The Dubai Sports Council, Dubai Holding, “Official Outfitter” adidas, The Address Dubai Marina, Dubai Eye 103.8 FM, Khaleej Times, TNT, Gatorade, Aquafina, Fitness First, Men’s Fitness, Plan B and by government departments Dubai Police, RTA, Dubai Municipality DHA and the Dubai Ambulance Services.