FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tadese Admits to Debut Nerves
LONDON, April 22, 2009 -- Zersenay Tadese admits to feeling nervous before
he makes his much-anticipated marathon debut in London on Sunday (26
Tadese is a double world half marathon champion and became a national hero
when he won the Olympic 10,000m bronze medal in Athens in 2004, the first
Olympic medal for Eritrea in any sport. He also won the World Cross Country
Championships in 2007 beating the great Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele in the
blistering heat of Mombasa.
But at 09.45 on Sunday when he sets off from the start line of the Flora
London Marathon in Greenwich he knows he'll be dipping his toes in
uncharted waters. "I really don't know how I'll feel," he says. "I am
running the marathon for the first time, so yes, I am a bit nervous.
"But I am happy with my preparation. I have trained well and we'll see how
I do. I will try my best."
With a best half marathon time of 58:59, much is expected of Tadese's first
outing over the full marathon distance. Indeed, some have described him as
"one of the most exciting debutants on the marathon scene for many years".
Known as a fierce racer, he can certainly be expected to track the big race
favourites such as the three-time London champion Martin Lel, the Olympic
champion Sammy Wanjiru and the Olympic silver and bronze medallists, Jaouad
Gharib of Morocco and Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia.
With the pacemakers taking them to 20 miles at world record pace, it will
certainly be a baptism of fire for the Eritrean. "This is a fast pace but
for me, it's my first time so I really don't know what to expect," he says.
"I am used to the 10,000m and half marathon so we will see how I feel. It
will be a big change but I have been training hard, doing a lot of miles,
so I am prepared."
Indeed, Tadese admits to having "a plan", although he declines to reveal
any details. The fastest ever debut marathon stands at 2:05:50 run by the
Kenyan Evans Rutto in Chicago in 2003 and Tadese hints that he has that
record in mind.
"I want to run fast but I think we will see on Sunday," he says. "I hope to
run around 2:05:00 to 2:06:00, but we will see."
As a former national road cycling champion, he is no stranger to racing
over long miles and hard work, and he's been picking up marathon advice
from his compatriot Yonas Kifle, the Eritrean record holder who was seventh
in London last year.
The only blip in his preparation, he suggests, came just after the World
Cross Country Championships in Jordan at the end of March where he came
third, turning out for his country to boost an otherwise weakened team.
Afterwards, he caught a virus and was sick for three or four days.
"All the athletes had it," he says. "Now I'm OK though and in good
condition again. If I hadn't gone to run there would have been no problem
but it will be OK."
Tadese has almost single-handedly driven athletics up the popularity
ratings in Eritrea, and the sport is now topped only by football (Tadese is
an Arsenal fan). If he wins on Sunday, it could spark something like a
World Cup celebration in South America.
"Even now they are all waiting for Sunday to see the race on TV," he says.
"If I win there will be big celebrations with many people, even children
will be at the airport for me."
Good reason to conquer those first-race nerves then.