All eyes on Bekele as Kolkata gears up for TSK 25K

Kenenisa Bekele says he would have no pressure while running the non-traditional distance of 25K marathon in Kolkata on Sunday.

Helah Kiprop, Kenenisa Bekele and Valentine Kipketer, participants in the upcoming 25K run, pose for a photograph in Kolkata on Friday.   -  PTI

All eyes will be fixed on Kenenisa Bekele when the Ethiopian legend competes in his first 25K race at the USD 100,000 Tata Steel Kolkata 25K here on Sunday. On his first ever race in India, Bekele - who has switched to marathon due to injuries and is targeting to get past the world record before hanging up his boots - said he would have no pressure while running the non-traditional distance.

“I don’t really have any pressure. 25K is not really tough like the marathon. It is more like the 10K,” said Bekele, the 5,000m and 10,000m world record holder.

Bekele’s best 25K timing is 1:12:47, an intermediate time when he ran the Berlin marathon last year.

So, can he better the world record of 1:11:18?

“Who knows, may be,” said Bekele, who clocked 2:05:57 to finish second in the London marathon this year.

Distinguished field

Ugandan Robert Chemonges (Kampala half-marathon [64:31] and Dusseldorf marathon [2:10:32] winner), Tanzanian Augustino Sulie (third in Rio de Janeiro 10K, 29:42), Eitrea’s Tsegay Tuemay (San Diego half-marathon winner, 61: 38), Italian Stefano la Rosa (second in Italian 10K, 28:51:73) and Kenyan Clement Langat (San Blas half-marathon winner, 64:01) will be among the top contenders for the men’s title.

Read: Bekele eyes marathon world record, Tokyo Olympics

Among elite women, Kenyan Helah Kiprop (Delhi half-marathon winner, 68:10), compatriot Valentine Kipketer (fifth in Chicago marathon, 2;28:05), Eunice Jeptoo (Eindhoven marathon winner, 2:26:13), Ethiopian Dibabe Kuma (second in Barcelona half-marathon, 69:49) and Eritrea’s Nazret Weldu (second in Houston half-marathon, 1:14:56) are expected to make their mark.

Read: International stars to make TSK 25K a big event

Defending champion G. Lakshmanan, who set a course record of 1:17:16 last year, will look forward to improve his timing as the race has opened for international participation from this year. Lakshmanan, the 5,000m and 10,000m Asian champion, had clocked 63:53 in the Delhi half-marathon and will be keen to do well on a flat course here.

Kalidas Hirave (Delhi half-marathon, 64:07) and Avinash Sable (Delhi half-marathon, 63:58) will give Lakshmanan a run for his money in the Indian section. Women’s race title holder (1:34:15) Monika Athare, who is still recovering from the exertion of participating in the World championship marathon in London, wants to test her endurance ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

L. Suriya, who clocked 1:10:31 in Delhi last month, and Swati Gadhave, who returned 1:15:21, are the leading runners among Indian women.

The race, which starts at 6:40 a.m., will be telecast live on Star Sports 2.