Lonyangata returns to Shanghai in quest to reclaim marathon gold
Former Shanghai Marathon champion Paul Lonyangata says he is back to his best after he dropped out of the World Marathon Championships with an injury.
Lonyangata returns to China on Sunday in hunt for his title, which he won in 2015.
"I was unlucky in Doha and my body suffered because of the heat and the humidity. I have recovered though and am looking forward to trying and reclaiming my title back," Lonyangata told Xinhua in Nairobi on Saturday.
"I love running in China. It has very good fans and they cheer you along the way. Shanghai has a hard course and with top athletes on parade, I need to be in best shape to challenge for the honors," he added.
Lonyangata is among the main favorites in the men's race. The 26-year-old Kenyan set his best time of 2:06:10 when winning the 2017 Paris Marathon, the first of two victories in the French capital.
He set the Shanghai course record of 2:07:14 in 2015 and has a season's best of 2:07:29, set when finishing third in Paris in May.
"My training has gone smooth and I feel I need one win to end the season on a high. I am ready for the challenge in Shanghai," Lonyangata added.
He will be up against compatriots 2011 world silver medalist Vincent Kipruto and Ernest Ngeno, a 2:06:41 performer who finished second in Shanghai two years ago.
However, for Kipsang Kipkemoi, it will be his debut race in China. The 29-year-old Kenyan clocked his personal best time of 2:08:26 in Seville in 2017 and came close to that in April when he finished second in Madrid with 2:08:58.
Sunday's race will be his fourth marathon of the year as he has also competed in Mumbai and Cape Town but didn't better 2:10:00 on either occasion.
Bahrain's Hassan El Abbassi, 35, who set his marathon best time of 2:04:43 in Valencia last year, is the 2014 Asian Games 10,000m champion and 2018 Asian Games marathon silver medalist.
More recently he finished seventh in the marathon at the World Championships in Doha in 2:11:44 but is still in pursuit of his first international marathon title.
In the women's race, defending champion Yebrgual Melese will be the athlete to beat having won comfortably last year, taking more than a minute off the course record with 2:20:36.
A past winner of the Houston and Prague marathons, Melese set a best time of 2:19:36 when finishing third in Dubai last year, but her form in 2019 hasn't been quite so good.
The 29-year-old finished 11th in Tokyo in March in 2:31:40 but last month clocked a promising 1:09:02 at the Lisbon Half Marathon.
Fellow Ethiopian Waganesh Mekasha is another title contender. The Ethiopian contingent also includes Fantu Jimma, a 32-year-old with a best time of 2:26:14 set four years ago in Xiamen.
It will be Jimma's fourth marathon of the year, having won in Wuhan in 2:28:25 and finished third in Xiamen and Lanzhou. She was also victorious at the Changzhou West Taihu Lake Half Marathon last month.