Bekele and Williams all set for the big night
Shanghai (September 16) -- Ethiopia’s long distance champion Kenenisa Bekele and women‘s world sprint title holder, Lauryn Williams, are both ready to make a huge impression in their first appearance on Chinese soil in Saturday night‘s Shanghai Golden Grand Prix.
Bekele, the diminutive Ethiopian who has was named 2005 IAAF Athlete of the Year for the second time last week, said he was ready to run a good race in the men’s 3,000 metres.
The Athens Olympic 10,000 metres gold medallist is competing in Shanghai less than three weeks after setting the track on fire by breaking his own world record in his pet event.
“China is a big and very interesting country. I want to show all the people here that I can run. I hope I can run a fast time. My form is still quite good. I am going to try my hardest,’’ said Bekele, the Athens Olympic silver medallist in the 5,000 metres.
The Ethiopian won the gold medal in the 10,000 metres at last month’s World Championships in Helsinki where he stunned his opposition with a brilliant last 200 metre burst.
“I am very happy to be here. This is my first time here. I hope I can run a good time with all the other athletes, but it won’t be easy to win. I arrived only last night after a 13 hour flight. I still feel fit and good.‘’
Last month, Bekele showed why he is one of the world’s premier long distance runners when he broke his own world record in the 10,000 metres in 26:17:53 set in Brussels, Belgium. That broke his previous record of 26:20.31 set in 1998, which at the time, replaced compatriot Haile Gebrselassie's former record at 26:22.75 .
Bekele was looking forward to competing in China, saying the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix was definitely a big event. “I am happy to be competing in this event. Shanghai probably has this event for another three or four years. They also have the Beijing Olympics. All the top athletes will be back here again for that as well.’’
Bekele will compete against a world class field that will include younger brother, Tariku Bekele, who has made leaps and bounds and has emerged as one his strongest rivals.
“I am happy that my brother is competing with me. He was a good pacemaker before and now he has improved as a runner and he wants to be the best too. I will have to be on the look out for him as well,’’ said the elder Bekele, who returned to prominence after suffering the tragic loss of his fiance, Alem Techale, in an apparent heart attack in January.
Bekele won his second straight Athlete of the Year award thanks to his outstanding World Cross Country Championship short and long race double in March. It was the fourth time Bekele had achieved the World Cross double in his career.
“My opposition is strong and I will have to compete against them. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I have no injuries. I am a bit tired after setting a new world record in the 10,000 metres last month.‘’
Meanwhile, American Lauryn Williams was also ready to run a big race in the women’s 100 metres tonight as the raging favourite in the event.
The 22-year-old sprinter from Miami, Florida believes she‘s the sports future, saying the legendary Marion Jones was well past her prime.
“I think I have already stepped out of the shadow of Marion Jones. We haven’t heard her [Jones] name very often this year and I respect her a lot. But I want to be Lauryn Williams and I don’t want to be compared with Gail Devers or Jones or anybody else,’’ said the five-foot-two inch Williams.
“I want to be my own athlete and I want people to remember me for who I am,’’ she said.
The world champion added: “I think youth is on our side. We are all brand new and very young and I think we are going to take over [from Jones] because we got a lot of years in track and field. Hopefully, the things we do in the years to come will shed a better light on track and field.’’
Williams is coming off one of her best seasons which was highlighted by her gold medal at the World Championships.
The Athens Olympic silver medallist added: “I think I had more dominant years before but of course, I ran my personal best [in Helsinki] so I am not angry at all and to win the World Championship was my main goal and I have accomplished that. I have done very good things this year but my goal is probably to be more dominant.’’
Williams said she was going to run her best tonight as she faces a top class field that will include Russia’s Yuliya Nesterenko, the Olympic gold medallist, the Bahamas’ Chandra Sturrup and Brazil’s Lucimar Moura, plus China’s Shu Yan and Liu Li.