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My Rival is Lee Bong-joo

Posted May. 19, 2004 22:08,   


“Lee Bong-joo is the favorite.”

Marathon world record holder Paul Tergat (Kenya) picked Lee as his strongest competitor to compete for the laurel crown in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

In an interview after he made an on-the-spot survey with Nike, his sponsoring company, on May 19, Tergat said, “The Athens course, with its high temperature, humidity and continual hills is very similar to the course of the Boston Marathon. Lee, who was strong in Boston, could be my strongest opponent.”

Lee won Boston Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes and 43 seconds in 2001. The temperature at that event was 10 degrees Celsius.

Tergat also mentioned, “Kenya has produced the best marathoners, but has never captured a gold medal in the Olympics. I hope that I can win a gold medal for Kenya,” adding, “This marathon will be more of a severe mental battle than ever before.”

Tergat is the best active marathoner and won the Berlin Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 4 minutes and 55 seconds last September to break the 2 hours and 5 minute mark, which had been considered the limit of human marathon running. He marked 2 hours, 8 minutes and 15 seconds at the 2001 London Marathon and set the new world record in his 5th challenge, the 2003 Berlin Marathon.

Being acknowledged as the favorite for Athens, Tergat pointed out some athletes, who are strong in climates of high temperature and humidity, from Korea, Japan and Spain as his rivals in the beginning of this year, but it’s the first time that he mentioned a specific runner.

Surveying the Athens course right after he finished the Paris World Athlete Championship in August of last year, Lee said, “The course is a most difficult one which has more hills to run than the Boston course. Mental power will be the key to victory.”

Having gone through high-altitude training in Kunming, China from last month for this reason, Lee is scheduled to move to Kangwon province after returning to Korea on May 24 to focus on hill training by this July.

Meanwhile, mentioning, “The Athens Olympics will be my final appearance in the Olympics,” Tergat will prepare for the race against Lee through high-altitude training in Kenya up to the Olympics.

--Marathon course of Athens and Boston

According to Samsung Electronics Coach, Baek Seung-do, who experienced the course by joining the marathon event of Athens World Athletic Championship in 1997, the course is not easy as its uphill is unceasing and marathoners are likely to be exhausted over its 30km. The athletic team of Samsung Electronics analyzes that even completing the course is questionable because the altitude differentiation is almost 250m, its uphill keeps going from the starting point to the point of 32km, the temperature will likely be above 35 degrees Celsius, and the humidity is 70 percent.

The course of Boston also has a lot of hills and there are uphill stretches at the end of course similar to Athens, but the characteristics of the course are slightly different. In contrast to Athens, Boston course has downhill and level ground until the 20km point. Also, a slow uphill begins at the 26km point and the notorious “Heartbreak Hill” starts from the 32km point to give spurt marathoners the advantage. The altitude differentiation is about 150m. With April’s abnormally high temperature over the last two years, Boston experienced rising and falling temperatures within a range of 30 degrees, but the average temperature was below 20 degrees during the marathon.

Sang-Ho Kim hyangsan@donga.com