By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's Lawrence Cherono says he will do everything in his power to retain his Amsterdam Marathon crown and deny Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele the title.
The two are expected to compete at this year's race, which will be held on Oct 21 and Cherono believes he has played the underdog card before and surprised his critics when he won in the Dutch capital last year.
"Last year, I was very happy with the result. I immediately knew that I will come under focus this year and though I had not known who to face, I will be happy to battle it out with Bekele and win again," Cherono said on Tuesday in Eldoret. Of the nine marathons Cherono has contested, he has won four and finished on the podium in eight.
Alongside winning in Amsterdam last year he also finished second in Rotterdam with a time of 2:06:21. The Amsterdam Marathon has always attracted a strong group of elite runners and the 2018 race will be no different.
Bekele, a multiple world and Olympic champion announced last week that he will skip the big city marathons to compete in Amsterdam, which is an IAAF Gold Label road race. The Ethiopian distance runner owns the second-fastest marathon performance in history on a record-eligible course, having clocked a national record of 2:03:03 to win the 2016 Berlin Marathon.
His time is just six seconds shy of Dennis Kimetto's world record (2:02:57). Bekele, who will be contesting his first marathon on Dutch soil, will be up against Cherono and a horde of other top Kenyan and Ethiopian road racers.
"Kenenisa Bekele is one of the world's best long-distance runners," said race director Cees Pronk. "We are incredibly proud that Bekele will be lining up at the start on Oct 21. Bekele decided to run in Amsterdam because he has experienced the expert organization of the event and knows first-hand that the athletes always come first."
However, while Bekele might be focused on the world record, Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge might just make his work harder if he is successful in his bid to beat that time in Berlin in September.