SA’s Gert Thys versus the world in comeback run

2011-01-21 00:00

GERT Thys, a multiple Olympian and one of South Africa’s greatest marathoners, lines up for the Standard Chartered Dubai marathon this morning and faces the might of the world in his bid to put his career back on track.

Thys, who recently finished second in the Beijing Marathon, is up against Eliud Kiptanui who heads a talented field featuring 14 other men who have all broken 2 hours ten minutes for 42 kilometres.

With a first prize of $250 000, the competition is sure to be fierce given that six runners have times better than 2:07. Kiptanui is tipped following his blistering 2:05:39 debut set in Prague last May. Chala Dechase (2:06:33) and Eshetu Wendimu (2:06:46) who finished second and third to Haile Gebrselassie return with Evans Cheruiyot making his comeback after injury that has sidelined him since his 2:06:05 victory in Chicago in 2008.

Add to the mix Deressa Chimsa (2:07:54), Sammy Mugo (2:08:20), Muguleta Wami (2:08:32), David Kemboi (2:08:34), Dereje Tesfaye (2:08:36) and Laban Kipkemboi (2:08:38), and the ingredients are there for the most open race in years at 7 am this morning.

Thys (39) has his work cut out, but he comes with a great pedigree having been the first man to run three sub 2:08 marathons. He is ranked in the top six in the world in the half marathon, and was the winner of the 1999 Tokyo marathon in 2:06:33, just 30 seconds off the world record.

The South African was disqualified and suspended following his Dong Marathon win in 2006 and has just returned to form; although he may not be in line for a win, a top ten finish today is not unlikely.

On paper he is one of the fastest in the field and, although that was 12 years ago, he is not scared to mix it with the younger athletes.

“My training times are the same as back when I was running really fast. So, we’ll see,” said an undaun­ted Thys at the media conference.

Former winners Berhane Adere and Askale Magarsa of Ethiopia lead the ladies rankings, while another four contenders have times below two hours 25 minutes and could cause an upset on the pancake-flat course in Dubai.

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