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Following his victory in 2014 and third place finish in 2016, Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Mekonnen Asefa will start as one of the favourites when the 2017 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon gets underway on January 20.
Mekonnen was just 18 when he became the youngest winner in the history of the world’s richest marathon setting an unofficial world junior record of 2:04:32 on his marathon debut. His surprise win came just 12 months after entering the 2013 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon as a pacemaker and remains the third fastest time in history by a runner making his full marathon debut.
Last year, he returned for another tilt at the title and only narrowly missed out to eventual winner and fellow Ethiopian Tesfaye Abera Dibaba coming home in third place in 2:04:46, just 22 seconds behind the champion.
Staged under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and held under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the 2017 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is the first world-class marathon of the year.
For Mekonnen it’s another chance to pick-up one of the richest prizes in distance running and make up for losing out in the final few kilometres last year. His win as a talented teenager in 2014 was a life-changing experience. He used a portion of the US$200,000 first prize to improve his living standards, buying both a house and a car.
“Winning in Dubai meant I was able to buy a house in Addis Ababa and I bought a car to be able to go to training,” he said. “I was also able to stop school and concentrate fully on running. It is definitely a completely different life for me now.”
Barely three months after that memorable win over the flat and fast roads of Dubai, Mekonnen earned a creditable fifth place at the 2014 London Marathon (2:08:06) and he returns to the emirate with two sub 2:05s to his name in the IAAF Gold Label event.
“Mekonnen is one runner who can really burn up this course again in January,” said Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon Event Director Peter Connerton. “He could have won in 2016 and can run a lot faster but he needs a fast race from the start. At the 30km mark last year the leading runners spent a long time assessing each other before the final run to the finish.
“If they had kept to a world record pace then I believe Mekonnen has the power and the stamina to stay at the front. He’s still only 21 and has a wonderful track record in Dubai – he will definitely be one to watch.”
Runners looking to compete in the Marathon, the 10km Road Race or the 4km Fun Run and join Tsegaye Mekonnen on the start line can still do so online through the official website www.dubaimarathon.org.
In addition to Standard Chartered as title sponsor, the Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Masafi, Sport 360, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police and the RTA.