The withdrawal of two time winner and course record holder Zerzenay Tadesse leaves Yigrem Demelash, the Ethiopian World Junior 10,000m champion amongst the top contenders in a topclass field lining up for the 57th edition of the Sao Silvestre in Luanda Angola on New Years Eve.

The defending Champion who was also a winner in 2004, ran an impressive 27 minutes 44 seconds setting a new standard for the race, which is run in hot and humid conditions. Last year the thermometer registered 27 degrees with over 65% humidity.

Together with countryman Atsedu Tesfaye, who was second last year in 27:47, Demelash present a formidable challenge for the event, which has been held every year since its inception in 1954, with the exception of 1961.

Demelash broke through the Kenyan domination to take the gold medal in Barcelona and has a 10,000m track best of 26 minutes 57.56 seconds set in Brussels.  The 18-year-old has gained stature in recent events and looks to have what it takes to continue the tradition that has seen Ethiopians win 19 of the last 33 races.

Berhanu Guirma was the first Ethiopian to take the honours in 1979 while Haile Gebreselassie was last to add his name to the winners list in 2010.

Amongst Demelash’s challengers will be the 2011 Great Ethiopian Run winner, Mosinet Geremew, who has a road best of 27:36, some 18 seconds faster than Demelash.

Kenyan Edwin Kipyego, the winner of the British – Nike 10km race is amongst the score of runners who have personal bests below 28 minutes. That grouping includesanother junior, Tesfaye Cheru Tesema, who holds the world junior record of 4 minutes 56.25 seconds for the 2000m. However Tesema could well have his sights more focused on Wednesday’s track meeting than Monday evening’s 10km road race.

His ability over the shorter distance may make him more suited to the 1500m or 3000m events, which every elite athlete competing in the 10km road race is expected to compete in on 2 January. A motivating factor is a 50% reduction of the road race prize for any runner who fails to compete in the track events.

This quintet of stars will not however have everything his own way as there are a total of 22 Kenyan and 22 Ethiopians in the elite field keen to gain their piece of the action in an event that rewards the winner with US$15000 and provides prize money down to twentieth place in the men and 15th in the women.  In total there is over US$145000 of prize money making this one of the most lucrative 10km events on the continent.

In the absence of defending champion Embet Mengistu, who recorded 32:23 for 40th place overall, Magdalene Mukunzi, Joan Chelimo Melly, and Eunice Chumba, look to lead the Kenyan challenge whilst 5000m and 10000m 2011 African Gold medalist Sule Gedo, and Hiwot Yemer, who placed 7th in 2011 and claims a 14:49.36 for 5000m will head the Ethiopians.

Mukunzi’s 31;49 in the Glasgow 10km is amongst the fastest in the field and with a useful Dublin marathon under her belt she should have the strength to handle the 60 metre climb and drop in the first half of the course.

Portugal’s running legend Rosa Mota arrived as patron of the race this morning, and will participate in the family run tomorrow morning that kick off a day of celebration with the 10km event going under starters orders at 17:00.

With close to 1000 entries for this high profile event and a course that with the exception of a 600m long incline lends itself to fast times the race will be tightly competed. However Luka Lokobe Kanda is guaranteed to be celebrating no matter what the outcome of the race.

The Kenyan who won the Rome marathon in 2:08:04, and has a half marathon best of 61 minutes one second, when the clock strikes midnight he will be celebrating not only the New year, but his 30th birthday.


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