Kelai favourite, Indian men aim to qualify for Oly

Mumbai: Kenya`s John Kelai, a two-time title holder and gold medallist at Delhi Commonwealth Games, starts as firm favourite for the men`s top prize of USD 36,000 on Sunday`s 8th Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon that offers a total prize pool of USD 325,000.

Kelai, who won here in 2007 and 2008, leads the strongest ever men`s field in the history of the event.

But the CWG gold medallist can expect tough challenge from the likes of compatriots Evans Rutto and Justus Kipshirchir, with personal bests of 2:08.36 and 2:10.6 respectively.

Ethiopia`s Tesfaye Tola, Qatar`s Kenyan-born Mubarak Shami, who won the 2007 Paris Marathon, and Russia`s Oleg Kulkov are among the others who will be eying for the title.

The cooler weather this year is expected to be conducive for a record-setting run with the course record of 2:11.51 set by Kenyan Kenneth Mugara in 2009 seemingly under threat.

Defending champion, Ethiopia`s Bizunesh Urgesa, and her compatriot Haile Kekebush, winner in 2009 and runner-up last year, are the leading contenders for the women`s crown.

The women`s field too has ten athletes who have personal bests of 2:30 or less. The existing course record of 2:30.04 standing in the name of Ethiopia`s Mulu Seboka since 2008 is also under threat.

The Indian challenge for the men`s top prize of USD 6,000 (awarded for the best men`s and women`s finishers from the country) will be led by the army`s trio of Lyngkhoi Binning, who took the honours last year with a timing of 2:20.12, Ram Singh Yadav – best Indian finisher in 2007, `08 and `09 – and Angad Kumar.

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