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Posted: February 23, 2009  :

(RWire) Athletics: Top Contenders Announced for 2009 Boston Marathon

2008 Chicago winners, Olympians and additional talent to challenge defending champions

BOSTON - (February 19, 2009) - John Hancock Financial has announced that the top contenders for the 2009 Boston Marathon include an elite group of Olympians, top Americans and international marathon winners. These athletes will challenge four-time race champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot of Kenya and defending women's champion Dire Tune of Ethiopia at the 113th running of the storied race on Monday, April 20.

The top male contenders include 2008 Chicago Marathon champion Evans Cheruiyot of Kenya, Olympian and 2009 Houston winner Deriba Merga of Ethiopia, and top American and Olympian Ryan Hall.

Evans Cheruiyot ran to a 2 hour, 6 minute, 25 second victory at an unseasonably hot Chicago last fall and in 2007 won the Milan City Marathon in his debut, while Merga shattered the 20-year-old Houston course record by more than two minutes this January, and last August, he placed fourth at the Beijing Olympic Marathon.

Hall's efforts last year included a 2:06:17 run in London and a tenth place at the Olympic Marathon. The Team Running USA athlete is the U.S. half-marathoner record holder (59:43) and currently the fastest U.S. marathoner (#2 all-time).

Added to John Hancock's professional team and chasing the trio are Daniel Rono of Kenya, with seven top three finishes in international marathons, including third in New York City last year; Robert Kiprono (Cheruiyot) of Kenya, who debuted last year with a 2:07:21 course record in Frankfurt and Gashaw Asfaw of Ethiopia, who was first in Shanghai, seventh at the Olympic Marathon and fourth in Boston 2008.

U.S. Olympian Brian Sell will also challenge, as will countryman Jason Lehmkuhle. Sell, a Hansons-Brooks team member, has experience in Boston, having finished fourth in 2006, and Team USA Minnesota's Lehmkuhle brings potential with a fifth at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Additional men returning with experience are 2004 Boston champion Timothy Cherigat and 2007 third place finisher Stephen Kiogora, both of Kenya. Newcomers on the tough point-to-point course include 2008 JoongAng Seoul Marathon winner Solomon Molla of Ethiopia, Lee Troop of Australia and debut marathoner Abebe Dinkesa of Ethiopia.

In the women's race, reigning champion Dire Tune of Ethiopia will face 2008 Chicago and 2007 Boston champion Lidiya Grigoryeva of Russia, as well as her countrywomen Galina Bogolomova, the Russian national record holder (2:20:47), and Olympic steeplechaser and World Championships silver medalist Tatyana Petrova.

Also in contention for the win are 2009 Dubai winner Bezunesh Bekele of Ethiopia, seasoned marathoner and Olympian Salina Kosgei of Kenya, and leading American Kara Goucher. In New York City this past fall, Goucher ran the fastest U.S. debut of all-time recording a 2:25:53 over the challenging course. The 2007 World Championships 10,000m bronze medalist also competed in the 5000 and 10,000 meters at the Beijing Olympic Games, finishing ninth and tenth respectively.

Chasing these women will be Helena Kirop of Kenya, third in Berlin the past two years; Atsede Habtamu of Ethiopia, runner-up in her debut in Dubai this year; Alice Timbilili of Kenya and two-time U.S. Olympian Elva Dryer.

John Hancock, now in its 24th year as the major sponsor of the Boston Marathon, will announce its complete international professional team in March.

For more race information, also visit:

Ryan Lamppa, Running USA Media Director
(805) 696-6232; Fax = (805) 659-0016

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