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21st Vienna City Marathon on Sunday: Lidia Simon wants to show she is back and qualify for Athens

2004-05-14

Lidia Simon, one of the world’s top women marathon runners of the last decade, has chosen Sunday’s 21st Vienna City Marathon to qualify for the Olympic Marathon in Athens in August. Romania’s national qualifying time of 2:37:00 should be no hurdle for the national record holder (2:22:54). In its 20 year history the Vienna City Marathon has never before seen such a strong woman runner as Lidia Simon. Sunday’s marathon will once again be Austria’s biggest single day sporting event of the year. Adding runners who will participate at shorter distances, organisers of the Vienna City Marathon expect about 20,000 athletes to take part.

It is nearly three years ago when Lidia Simon celebrated the biggest win of her outstanding career. The Romanian won the marathon at the World Championships in Edmonton. A year earlier she had won the Olympic silver medal. Since neither Olympic Champion Naoko Takahashi (Japan) nor the bronze medal winner from Sydney Joyce Chepchumba (Kenya) were selected for Athens Simon could be the only marathon runner with a medal from the previous games. She was second in 2000 finishing just eight seconds behind Takahashi.

In 2002 Simon interrupted her career due to pregnancy. It was on Christmas Eve when she gave birth to a son (Cristian). Last autumn she came back to marathon running, but only finished in a time beyond 2:40 at the Chicago Marathon.

Speaking at a press conference today the 30 year-old runner said she should be able to show a much better performance on Sunday: “In general I feel physically stronger after giving birth. And I hope to run faster times in future. As for Sunday I will look for a first half of about 73 minutes. That should be relatively easy for me, so I hope to cover the second half a bit faster.”

It will be a tougher job for Sonia Oberem to qualify for Athens, which was supposed to be her final marathon race. Since the German qualifying standard is set at 2:30:00 and Oberem had injury problems until April she is not sure whether her training will be good enough to snatch a very last ticket for the Olympics. “I remember Vienna well. So it was my first choice to run here”, Oberem said. The 31 year-old German was third in Vienna four years ago clocking 2:27:25. Besides her bronze medal from the European Championships in 2002 she has an extraordinary world championships’ record: Oberem finished 8th, 7th, 6th and 5th between 1995 and 2001. Additionally she was 8th at the Olympics in 1996.

In contrast the men’s top contenders will not run for a ticket to Athens on Sunday. Kenyans Moses Tanui, Raymond Kipkoech, Samson Kandie, Matthew Sigei and Patrick Chumba are regarded as potential winners. “I hope to be able to run a sub 2:10 time. My training went very well”, Moses Tanui said. At 38 years he wants to show that he can still cope with his countrymen. But there will be a chase for Athens in the men’s race as well. Austria’s best marathon runner Michael Buchleitner hopes to finish inside 2:13:00 and may be even break the 18 year-old national record. It was Gerhard Hartmann who won the Vienna City Marathon back in 1986 clocking 2:12:22.


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