Two-time winner Jelena Prokopcuka and 2000 champion Ludmila Petrova will also compete in 40th running on November 1; a champion's bonus of $70,000 will be awarded to any previous winner who claims victory this year
NEW YORK - (September 16, 2009) - Two-time winner and defending champion Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil (2006, 2008) headlines an all-star field of former champions including Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa (2004), Paul Tergat (2005) and Martin Lel of Kenya (2003, 2007), Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia (2005, 2006) and Ludmila Petrova of Russia (2000) in the ING New York City Marathon 2009 on Sunday, November 1, it was announced by New York Road Runners president and CEO and race director Mary Wittenberg.
Also announced was the total guaranteed prize purse of $800,000, the largest in race history and the most awarded in of any of the World Marathon Majors series races. With the announcement of a new champion's bonus of $70,000, any past champion who wins this year will collect a first place prize of $200,000.
"This galaxy of champions will be chasing the largest winner's purse in our history and for several, another spot in our record book," said Wittenberg. "We know already that they have the strength, the speed and the smarts to win on the streets of New York, and the question is whether they can find that magic formula again this year."
Reigning ING New York City Marathon titlist Gomes, 32, made history when he surprised a stellar field, including Tergat and Ramaala, in 2006 and became the first South American winner and a hero in his home country. He repeated his victory last year, finishing in 2:08:43. No man has won consecutive titles in New York since John Kagwe of Kenya won in 1997 and 1998. A third crown would tie Gomes with American running legend Alberto Salazar for the second-most New York City Marathon men's titles. American Bill Rodgers won the race four times, from 1976 to 1979.
"The New York City Marathon was the race that broke me into the ranks of the world class marathons, and training to win for a third time is exciting," said Gomes. "It will be my fourth time in this great marathon, and I believe that I will be ready to defend my title and claim my third victory."
These athletes join previously announced U.S. Olympians Ryan Hall and Brian Sell, who will both be making their ING New York City Marathon debut in the final race of the 2008-09 World Marathon Majors series.
Lel, 31, is a three-time London Marathon winner (2005, 2007, 2008), setting a then-course record of 2:05:15 in 2008. Earlier this year, Lel won his third Lisbon Half-Marathon, after triumphs in 2003 and 2006. Lel will be eager to return to New York after being forced to withdraw from last year's event due to injury. Like Gomes, Lel will be gunning for a third title.
Tergat, 40, is a two-time Olympic medalist and former marathon world record holder; he finished fourth in last year's ING New York City Marathon in 2:13:10. He held the world record in the marathon from 2003 to 2007, with a time of 2:04:55, before it was broken by Haile Gebrselassie. Tergat captured the 2005 crown in the closest finish in race history when he outsprinted Ramaala, the 2004 winner, to win by three tenths of a second.
A four-time Olympian and two-time World Half-Marathon Championships silver medalist, Ramaala, 37, will be competing in his sixth ING New York City Marathon. He captured the marathon title in 2004 with a breakthrough win in 2:09:28, finished second to Tergat in 2005, and finished third in 2007.
Prokopcuka, 33, is a three-time Olympian and will be looking to tie Paula Radcliffe for the second-most New York City Marathons won by a woman. Her most recent marathon was Boston in 2008, where she placed fourth.
Petrova, 41, will be competing in her eighth New York City Marathon after becoming the first Russian woman to win the title, in 2000. She was last year's runner-up and she set a masters (over age 40) world record with her 2:25:43 finish.
In celebration of the 40th running of the New York City Marathon, a group of renowned past champions plan to run the 26.2-mile distance including 1983 winner Rod Dixon of New Zealand, 1988 winner Steve Jones of Great Britain, 1998 winner Franca Fiacconi of Italy, two-time winner Orlando Pizzolato of Italy (1984, 1985) and two-time winner German Silva of Mexico (1994, 1995) who is known for his wrong turn into Central Park in the 26th mile in 1994.
The premier event of New York Road Runners, the ING New York City Marathon attracts many world class professional athletes, not only for the $800,000 in prize money, but before two million cheering spectators and more than 300 million worldwide television viewers. For more information, visit: INGnycmarathon.org.