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Posted: May 20, 2016:  

Athletics: 10 Athletes to Watch in the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon

As an IAAF Gold Label Race, the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon attracts high-caliber athletes from around the world to compete. For some athletes in this year’s race, it is a last opportunity to qualify for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio. As many as seven runners from several countries are eyeing Ottawa as the flat, fast course they need to secure an Olympics berth.

Here are 10 athletes to watch for on May 29, 2016:


Koren Jelela ETHIOPIA
Jelela (sometimes known as Koren Yal) equaled the Canadian All Comer’s marathon record of 2:22:43 when she won the 2011 Toronto Marathon. Last October, she finished third in Frankfurt (2:23:52) marking her return to competition following maternity leave. Jelela represented Ethiopia at three successive IAAF World Cross Country Championships between 2007 and 2009 with her best performance a 14th place in 2008. Now 29 years old, she is one of six children born to farmers in the Shewa region.

Aberu Mekuria ETHIOPIA
Returning to Ottawa as the defending champion, this 32 year old is intent on beating the personal best time of 2:25:30 she set here a year ago. Tigist Tufa’s 2014 course record of 2:24:31 is also well within her reach. Mekuria won the 2015 Hengshui (China) 2012 Eindhoven and 2011 Cologne marathons. Born in Bekoji, the famed "Town of Runners" she has lived in Addis Ababa since 2009.

Sultan Haydar TURKEY
Sporting a best marathon time of 2:24:44 (2015 Dubai), Haydar will be a handful for the favoured Ethiopians in Ottawa. Haydar was herself born in Ethiopia - her birth name is Chaltu Girma Meshesha - and represented her native country at the 2005 African Jr. Championships before switching allegiance to Turkey in 2008. She won the 2009 European Cross Country title and has gone on to represent Turkey at the 2012 London Olympics and at the 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow. Haydar will celebrate her 29th birthday on May 23rd.

Isabella Ochichi KENYA
Though her personal best marathon time is a modest 2:29:45 (Honolulu 2015), Ottawa 2016 could witness a major breakthrough. Ochichi, 35, is an incredibly experienced athlete. She took the 2004 Olympic 5000m silver medal and twice represented Kenya at the IAAF World Championships at 5000m. In 2006 she won the Commonwealth Games 5000m gold. She has prepared well for Ottawa running 1:09:03 for the Prague Half Marathon last month. Through her developmental years she suffered bouts of malaria most recently in June 2015.

Sechale Dalasa ETHIOPIA
At 24 years of age Dalasa has accomplished much in her marathoning career. Her best time of 2:26:27 was set at the 2012 Shanghai Marathon the same year she was contemplating a career as a 3000m steeplechaser. Three years ago she beat the existing Ottawa course record with a time of 2:27:31 but finished 3rd. Dalasa will be very competitive this year.


Sefir celebrates his 28th birthday on May 28. He ran a personal best 2:04:50 at the 2012 Dubai Marathon, which earned him a coveted place on the Ethiopian Olympic team. Twice he wore the Ethiopian vest at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships finishing 12th in 2011. After a couple of fallow years, he won the 2016 Barcelona Marathon in 2:09:31 on March 13th. Sefir finished 3rd at the 2011 Ottawa Marathon.

Girmay Birhanu ETHIOPIA
A year ago Birhanu won Ottawa despite arriving less than 48 hours before the race owing to a visa problem. It was also his fourth marathon in seven months. Just seven weeks earlier he won Daegu in 2:07:26. He finished 3rd in a personal best of 2:05:49 (2014 Dubai). He has since slowed down his rate of marathoning but ran 2:11:05 in Houston, January 17, 2016. A member of the Ethiopian Defence Forces Sports Club, the 29 year old is provided with accommodation and a modest salary in Addis in addition to his prize money winnings.

Felix Keny KENYA
This 30-year-old Kenyan sports a personal best of 2:07:14 (2013 Valencia), which was a Spanish All Comers’ record at the time. In 2015 he won the Gunsan Saemangeum International (Korea) Marathon in 2:09:05. Earlier this year (March 13th), he ran the Rabat International Marathon, a race not known for its fast times, where he managed only 2:16:36 for 7th place. He and his wife Joyce are the parents of a daughter, Princess Marceline Chepchumba.

Gebretsadik Abraha ETHIOPIA
Just 23 years old Abraha has a personal best of 2:06:21(2012 Amsterdam). He competed in Canada at the 2010 IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton where he was 2nd in the 10,000m. Last month, he finished 5th in the Paris Marathon in 2:08:18 a good indication of fitness. If he has recovered adequately he is a potential threat to win Ottawa.

Shura Kitata ETHIOPIA
Kitata was quite a discovery in 2015 when he debuted at the Shanghai Marathon with a time of 2:08:53 at the age of 19. In January of this year he finished 2nd in the Xiaman Marathon (China) with a time of 2:10:20, just two seconds behind the winner, 2011 World Championship silver medalist Vincent Kipruto of Kenya. There were less than two months between these two races. Presumably, he will be a force if he prepares properly for Ottawa.

Updated: May 20, 2016

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