Stefano Baldini the Olympic gold medallist has joined what is already a star-studded field for next year's Flora London Marathon on April 23. The entry of the 34-year-old Italian - twice runner-up in the London event - was announced this morning along with those of two-times world champion Jaouad Gharib and Khalid Khannouchi.
Gharib of Morocco successfully defended his world title in August while Khannouchi the former world recordholder from the United States, won the London race three years ago. The pair join Paul Tergat the reigning world record-holder and his fellow Kenyan's Evans Rutto and Martin Lel winner of the race for the past two years.
Felix Limo who took the Chicago title in October makes up the African nation's contingent in a field which also boasts Haile Gebrselassie, the world's greatest-ever distance runner. “I am certain this is the strongest men’s field we have ever seen in London. It will be a bookies nightmare," said Dave Bedford the race director. "This race will go down as a true classic.”
Gebrselassie winner of last October's Amsterdam Marathon, pulled out of this April's meeting when not fully fit after an achilles operation and the clash between him and Tergat will be eagerly awaited.
But Khannouchi himself now fighting back from injury, beat both of them when setting his world record in their epic confrontation three years ago. Bedford totally justifying the strength of next year's field revealed South African Hendrick Ramaala the former New York title holder and runner-up this year when beaten by Tergat, is also taking part.
Shigeru Aburaya Japan's Olympic fifth-placer is joined by countryman Tsuyoshi Ogata the World Championships bronze medallist, while Shami Mubarak Hassan of Qatar the World half marathon runner-up, will be aiming to add to his marathon success in Venice.
Christopher Isegwe from Tanzania runner-up behind Gharib in Helsinki, completes the stellar list of overseas entries while Jon Brown the two-times Olympic fourth finisher carries British hopes. DAVID MARTIN