World Half Marathon in New Delhi tomorrow

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> India will once again come under international spotlight when New Delhi hosts the elite IAAF World Half Marathon Championships here tomorrow.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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New Delhi:

The 13th IAAF World Half Marathon would be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here tomorrow. After Anju Bobby George put India on the world athletics map last year by winning a bronze medal in Paris, India will once again come under international spotlight when New Delhi hosts the elite IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. Two new individual champions will be crowned in this 13th edition of the prestigious championships as the capital becomes the first Asian city to hold the event with a record number of 64 countries taking part. With women's marathon world record holder and defending champion Paula Radcliffe of Britain and Kenyan Martin Kel, who won the men's race in last year's championships held in Portugal absent, the focus will be on veteran Irish star Sonia O'Sullivan and China's Sun Yingjee, who finished sixth in 10,000 metres in Athens Olympics. Amid all these big names, the Indians may only end up as also rans but would be aiming to put up a decent show on home turf led by 19-year-old Mukesh Yadav. The Allahabadi is a fine road-runner and has a personal best of 1:08.30 in half marathon clocked in the JRD Tata Half Marathon in July this year. Other runners in the Indian men's team are Mohan Chandra Kapri, P Nagender Rao, Raj Kumar, Sandeep Kumar, R B Subba and Ajit Singh. In the women's section, Pushpa Devi of Delhi will lead the challenge. Pushpa ran in the last World Championship where she clocked her personal best of 1:22:09. Pashotleima Devi, Sarita Marwade, Geeta Rani, Sarabjit Kaur and Jayanti Negi make up the rest of the women's team. It will be the first time in many years that a high profile event is being staged here after the Asian Games in 1982. It would also be the first of many international events that the city is bidding for, including the World Athletic Championships, before hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2010. The team winners in the last edition were Tanzania (men) and Russia (women) but the Kenyans, seven times men's champion and four times women's winners, would be looking to set the record straight tomorrow in the Championships which will be contested on a two-loop course beginning and finishing at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Though the best in the business would be absent, some of the other top class endurance runners will scorch the course through Raj Path for the big purse with the majestic India Gate, Delhi Golf Club and Delhi High Court providing the backdrop. The individual winners will take home USD 30,000 while the purse reduces to 15,000 to 7,000 to 3,000 for the top six finishers. In the team competition, where five athletes can start with three scores taken into account, the winners will take home USD 15,000 with the sixth place finishers getting USD 3,000. The attendance at Delhi is the best ever in the Championships which was first held in Tyneside, England in 1992. The previous best participation was in Brussels in 2002 when 60 nations took part. (PTI)