News & Releases >> Sep 13 2010

Ethiopians determined to end Kenyan dominance in men's race at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Lemi and Asfaw at STWM09
Chala Lemi and Gashaw Melese Asfaw at STWM09

Ethiopians Lemi, Melese, Gelana, Yigeze to lead Ethiopian challenge at STWM2010.

TORONTO. September 13th. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has announced a strong Ethiopian contingent for their event on September 26th, ready to challenge Kenyan male supremacy in the Canadian metropolis. Kenyan men have triumphed for the past 5 years in a row on the flat, fast Toronto Waterfront course. Chala Lemi and Gashaw Melese Asfaw, who were 2nd and 3rd in last year's race, are both confirmed to return. They were passed in the later stages by Kenneth Mungara, who had to run the fastest marathon on Canadian soil to beat them [2:08:32]. They will be joined by Teshome Gelana and Zembaba Yigeze who ran 1st and 2nd in Houston in January.

Teshome Galana
Teshome Galana at Houston 2010

The Ethiopians are determined to turn the tables and secure a men's victory in Toronto, despite the earlier announcement of Mungara's return, and his attempt to make it 3 consecutive victories in his favourite city. Mungara will be joined by countryman Daniel Rono and 4 other Kenyans who have run under 2:10 in the past 12 months. Last September, the youthful 23 year old Lemi finished just 17 seconds back in a PR of 2:08:49. It was his first sub-2:09 performance. Coached by Haji Adilo in Addis, Lemi says his training has gone well: “I'm ready for Toronto, to come back and this year go one better!” However, it is Teshome Gelana who actually goes to the Start line as pre-race favourite at 5-2 odds, following his impressive victory in Houston in January in 2:07:37. Houston was a major breakthrough performance for the 25 year-old Teshome, following a 2:12:03 last Fall in Warsaw and a 2:11:50 in Reims and a 2:13 in Turin, both in 2008. “I changed my coach and started training under Haji Adilo where I found myself in an excellent setting and training with a great competitive group,” said Gelana. “I was in great shape in Houston and it was a great win for me, despite being a late entry. The best part was breaking my teammate, Deriba Merga's, course record. I am ready for Toronto and will race to win.” In Houston, Gelana's training partner, the 26-year old Zimbaba Yigeze, also set a new PR of 2:08:27. He then followed that up very consistently with a 7th place finish in Paris in April in 2:08:48.

“We are very excited about the strength of the Ethiopian men's group this year, and the prospect of a thrilling battle with their Kenyan arch rivals,” said Race Director Alan Brookes. “Hopefully they will push each other to a new Canadian All-comers record. Not only do we have three outstanding young marathoners in Gelana, Lemi and Yigeze, but we have the invaluable experience of Gashaw Melese who really helped make last year's race.”

Lemi and Asfaw at STWM09
Chala Lemi and Gashaw Melese Asfaw at STWM09

When the last pace maker slipped and fell just before 30km in last year's contest, and the pace began to slow, it was Melese who took control and started to push. Lemi went with him. The two worked together until Melese began to slip back after 35k. Mungara then came through to first pick off the fading veteran and then get by Lemi approaching 38k. Melese, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday the day before the race, provides a wealth of international experience at the top level. Besides winning Paris in 2006 in his PR of 2:08:03, he placed 7th in the torrid Beijing Olympic marathon, has finished 6th in Boston both of the last 2 years, and won Shanghai in 2008 and '09.

To claim victory and the special laurel wreath being brought from Marathon, Greece, as part of the 2,500th Anniversary celebrations of marathon, the Ethiopian pack will have to get by Mungara, Rono, Jafred Chirchir (2:09:15, 1st in Milan this Spring), Nixon Machichim (2:09:08, 3rd in Rome in March), David Njagi (2:09:44 1st in Valencia in February), and David Tarus (2:09:24 in Eindhoven last Fall). Daniel Rono was the 2006 champion at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront, then lost a thrilling sprint to the line in 2007 to John Kelai, as Kelai broke the 31-year old, previous Canadian All-comers mark with his 2:09:30 win. Disappointed, Rono went onto run 2:06:58 in Rotterdam, then place 3rd in New York and 2nd at Boston '09.

As a sub-plot, already-announced Canadians Eric Gillis, Reid Coolsaet and Matt Loiselle will provide an important race within the race. Gillis made his marathon debut in Houston running a cautiously impressive 2:13:52. His training partner at Guelph's Speed River Track Club, served notice at last month's Parkersburg Sentinel Half Marathon where he ran 2nd on a very tough, hilly course in 63:47, with Gillis two minutes back in 6th. Both will be aiming for a qualifying time for the London 2012 Olympic marathon, with the standards expected to be published by Athletics Canada on September 23rd, with the qualifying window to begin September 1st, 2010. They are also hoping to come close to Jerome Drayton's 1975 Canadian national record of 2:10:09, with a $35,000 bonus on offer from Scotiabank. The Canadians are likely to be pushed by Mexico's #1 marathoner, Alejandro Suarez. Like Gillis, Suarez represented his country in the 10,000m at the Beijing Olympics. He is also hoping to challenge the 2:10 mark after his 10th place finish in Boston in April in 2:12:33.

For a complete Start List, interested punters are encouraged to go to “STWM2010 Pick the Champions Contest” on the race website. It's free to enter, and you can make as many entries as you like. You simply have to select the top 3 men and women finishers in the correct order. The prize – a trip for two to your favourite Canada Running Series event in 2011, in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal.

There are still some places available to enter the marathon or half marathon. For those unable to travel to Toronto Waterfront, there will be a “live” webcast carried on the race website and also on, beginning at 7h15 on Sunday, September 26th.