NAIROBI, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's Morris Gachaga hopes his return to the southern Chinese city of Xiamen on January 5 will add to his name a marathon title.
Gachaga, 24, last competed in China back in 2016 where he was fourth at the Yangzhou Half Marathon clocking one hour and 46 seconds. But it will be a new challenge as he takes on his fourth marathon, hoping to end the Ethiopian dominance on Sunday.
"I feel strong in having trained well and with focus. My target is to win and I know that I face strong opponents but it is down to how one is prepared on the race day and that is what I hope will play to my favor," said Gachaga here on Tuesday.
This year, Gachaga has raced in two marathons in Paris, where he was fourth clocking 2:07:46 and in Amsterdam where he settled for the seventh spot after taking 2:06:24, which currently stands as his personal best.
"I want to improve on my time," said Gachaga. "However, it is the win that I am interested in it more. It will improve my profile if I can secure the title in Xiamen."
Gachaga leads a four-man team from Kenya, which also has Kennedy Cheborbor with the fastest time of 2:06:59, Rueben Kerio (2:07:00) and Robert Kwambai (2:07:00).
Ethiopia's Tola Shura, who was second in last year's London Marathon in 2:04:49, is quickest of eight sub-2:08 performers set for the Xiamen Marathon. His compatriots Dejene Debela, who was second in Chicago in 2019 and Birhan Tesfaye are also among the lead contenders.
Ethiopia's Yebrqual Melese Arage, who has a best time of 2:19:36 from last year, is fastest on the women's side. Compatriot Afera Berha lines up having set clocked 2:22:41 in winning in Dongying, China, this year, and Belarus's European champion Volha Mazuronak will be looking to put up a fight.
With a focus on athlete hitting the Tokyo Olympic qualifying time, the race in Xiamen hopes to produce some of the fastest time as the new 2020 season starts.