Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Two Indian runners chosen for Thailand World Mountain & Trail Running Championships

Kieren D’Souza and Sampath Kumar Subramanian have been chosen to represent India at the World Mountain & Trail Running Championships (WMTRC) to be held at Chiang Mai, Thailand from November 3 to 6, 2022.

They will be representing the country in the category of short trail run of 40 kilometres, a list issued by WMTRC said.

The runners were required to have participated in a trail or mountain running event of 40 km length and elevation gain of 2,777 meters. They should also have an ITRA performance index of 650 in marathon or 50 km distance race, a circular from Athletic Federation of India (AFI) said.

The selection process was carried out by the Ultrarunning Committee of AFI.

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Controversy after Iranian sport climber competes without a hijab

Iranian sport climber, Elnaz Rekabi, returned home to a hero’s welcome, news reports of October 19 said.

According to BBC, her family met her at the airport, where she was hugged and given flowers. Social media videos showed a large crowd at the airport, the Guardian said.

It was on October 18 that Rekabi, reported in the media to be potentially in danger for competing at the Asian Championships in Seoul without wearing a hijab, posted an apology on her Instagram account for “ getting everybody worried.’’ She informed that she was flying home.

 “ Due to bad timing, and the unanticipated call for me to climb the wall, my head covering inadvertently came off,’’ BBC reported, quoting Rekabi’s Instagram post. The post further said that the 33-year-old was on her way back to Iran along with her team and as per earlier decided schedule.

The BBC report on the sport climber quoted the broadcaster’s Persian service correspondent saying that the language used in the Instagram post appeared to many as though it had been written under duress. In the past, Iranian women who competed abroad without wearing a headscarf had faced pressure from authorities to issue a similar apology, the correspondent noted. On October 17, citing a source, the BBC had said that Rekabi’s passport and mobile phone had been confiscated and she had left her hotel in Seoul two days before her scheduled departure.

The whole climbing incident happened against the backdrop of widespread protests in Iran over the demise of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16, after she was arrested three days earlier by the country’s morality police for wearing her hijab improperly. The absence of the headscarf on Rekabi was praised by those protesting against Iran’s dress code. According to the Guardian, supporters of the protests on social media described Rekabi as a “ hero’’ and posted images of her climbing up the letters of the protest slogan: “ woman, life, freedom.’’

In a tweet on October 18, Iran’s embassy in Seoul said, “ Ms. Elnaz Rekabi, departed from Seoul to Iran, early morning of October 18, 2022, along with the other members of the Team. The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in South Korea strongly denies all the fake, false news and disinformation regarding Ms. Elnaz Rekabi.’’

South Korea’s foreign affairs ministry confirmed to CNN that all members of the Iranian team, including Rekabi, had left South Korea after attending the sport event.

The Asian Championships was held under the aegis of the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC), the apex body for the sport. On October 18, an IFSC official statement (available on its website) said, “ The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) is fully aware of the news regarding Iranian athlete Elnaz Rekabi. There is a lot of information in the public sphere regarding Ms Rekabi and as an organisation we have been trying to establish the facts. We have also been in contact with Ms Rekabi and the Iranian Climbing Federation. Our understanding is that she is returning to Iran, and we will continue to monitor the situation as it develops on her arrival. It is important to stress that athletes’ safety is paramount for us and we support any efforts to keep a valued member of our community safe in this situation. The IFSC fully support the rights of athletes, their choices, and expression of free speech.’’

In 2016 and 2017 two editions of the IFSC Bouldering World Cup were held in Navi Mumbai, India. Elnaz Rekabi was a participant in the 2017 edition. Despite injury, she made it to the semi-final and put up a good fight. As per details available on the IFSC website, after the whole competition (spanning qualification round to final), she had placed 19th among women in a field of 34, at Navi Mumbai. That year in Navi Mumbai, the winner among women was Shauna Coxsey of Great Britain.

Abhilash Tomy (This photo was downloaded from Abhilash’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose)

Abhilash Tomy moves up to third position in 2022 GGR

More than 40 days since commencement of voyage and with still many thousands of kilometres left to cover and months to go before the targeted solo nonstop circumnavigation is achieved, Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy has improved his position to third overall in the in the 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR).

The number of currently active participants has whittled down to 13; when the race kicked off, there were 16. Damien Guillou (France) returned for repairs while Edward Walentynowicz (Canada), Guy deBoer (USA) and Mark Sinclair (Australia) are out of the race.

As of October 16, the leading edge of the fleet of sail boats was in the western Atlantic essaying an extended arc to the east, towards the waters off the coast of southern Africa. This manoeuvre has been attributed to weather conditions. “ The first five entrants will converge towards Trindade over the weekend, but they cannot turn left to Cape Town, blocked by strong easterly winds. To try would take them into headwinds for a slow and painful 2600-mile crossing to Cape Town. On paper, the best route to Cape Town for centuries has been to go South of the South Atlantic high and shoot downwind towards the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean.

“ That’s on paper though…  The centre of the current High lay today around 10°W 40°S, a whole 1200 miles south of Trindade Island and will be pushed East leaving a trail of light winds behind. Meanwhile a low-pressure system will push North mid next week. In short, it’s a mess with unstable winds and difficult predictions for the sailors.

“ To get to the bottom of the high and ensure downwind conditions, sailors would have to push South to the roaring 40’s, another 1200-nautical mile, or an extra 10 ten days. Weather information will be vital. Weather fax maps (should they get one off the coast of Brazil), barometric pressure and wind direction can help to make their critical decision on when to turn left. Even then, they have no guarantee of finding the conditions they are looking for,’’ an update from October 13, said on the event website. It may be recalled in this context that part of the challenge at GGR is that the level of electronics on the boats (including communications technology) is pegged to what was allowed for participants in the first GGR of 1968-1969.

The update said of Abhilash that he “ has consistently posted the best performance all week, including several best 24-hour distances, and taking the absolute 7-day distance fleet record, gaining 210 miles over Simon!’’ Simon Curwen of UK is the race leader at present. At the time of the above-mentioned update, only three boats from the 13 were still in the northern hemisphere. The rest had crossed the equator.

Abhilash, a former naval officer, is the first Indian to do a solo nonstop circumnavigation. He achieved the distinction in 2013. He was a participant in the 2018 GGR but had to retire from the race after he suffered serious injury in a severe storm in the southern Indian Ocean that also damaged his boat.

The winners of the international elite men’s race at the 2022 Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon (This photo was downloaded from the Twitter handle of the event and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

2022 Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon / Ethiopia’s Chala Regasa, Kenya’s Irene Cheptai win

Ethiopian runner Chala Regasa and Kenya’s Irene Cheptai emerged winners at the Vedanta Delhi Half Marathon 2022 held on October 16, 2022.

Regasa finished the half marathon for men in one hour and 30 seconds, as per provisional results.

In the international elite men’s race, Felix Kipkoech of Kenya finished in 1:00:33 to take the second place and Boki Diriba of Ethiopia finished in 1:00:34 to take the third place.

In the international elite women’s race, Dawit Seyaum of Ethiopia finished in second position with timing of 1:08:02 and Stella Chesang of Uganda finished in third position with timing of 1:08:11.

Among Indian athletes, Avinash Sable and Sanjivani Jadhav were winners in their respective gender categories. Sable finished in 1:03:58 and Jadhav in 1:17:53.

This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of the Chicago Marathon and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

2022 Chicago Marathon / Chepngetich, Kipruto emerge winners

Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya narrowly fell short of breaking the women’s world record as she successfully defended her title at the 2022 Chicago Marathon, held October 9.

The 28-year-old who established a significant lead over the rest of the field, crossed the finish line in two hours, 14 minutes and 18 seconds.

The women’s world record of 2:14:04 was set by Brigid Kosgei of Kenya at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. Chepngetich’s time this year was the second fastest in history for women.

Taking second place among women at the 2022 edition of the Chicago Marathon was Emily Sisson of the US; she covered the distance in 2:18:29. Third place went to Vivian Kiplagat of Kenya (2:20:52). The time registered by Sisson was a new American record; it improved on the previous record of Keira D’Amato (set at the 2022 Houston Marathon) by 43 seconds.

In the men’s race, first place was secured by Benson Kipruto of Kenya. He crossed the finish line in 2:04:24 followed by Seifu Tura of Ethiopia (2:04:49) and John Korir of Kenya (2:05:01).  In 2021, Kipruto had won the year’s Boston Marathon in 2:09:51. Kipruto’s brother Dickson Chumba had won the Chicago Marathon in 2015.

The 2022 Chicago Marathon also saw 77-year-old Geena Little of Great Britain become the oldest runner to complete all the World Marathon Majors. News reports said she finished the race in Chicago in 4:37:15. In the preceding two weeks she had run the marathon majors in London and Berlin. According to the reports, the race in Chicago was Little’s 602nd marathon.   

2022 London Marathon: the lead pack from the men’s race (Photo: courtesy Sunil Chainani)

Yehualaw, Kipruto take top honours at 2022 London Marathon

Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Kenya’s Amos Kipruto emerged winners at the 2022 TCS London Marathon held on October 2.

The Ethiopian athlete won the women’s race with a timing of two hours, 17 minutes and 26 seconds, despite suffering a fall.

In its report on the event, CNN said, “ With six miles left, Yalemzerf Yehualaw’s race seemed to have been ruined after the Ethiopian was left sprawled on the road after stumbling over a speed bump. The incident caused her to lose time over her rivals and later she admitted the faceplant “hurt.” But it didn’t stop the 23-year-old from making history on Sunday as she eventually crossed the line first to become the youngest winner of the London Marathon.’’ According to the report, hers was the third fastest time ever in the women’s race.

Yehualaw had run her first competitive marathon only in April. That month, running in windy conditions, she had completed the Hamburg Marathon in 2:17:23, breaking the Ethiopian record and installing her sixth on the world all-time list.

This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of the event and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

Wikipedia’s page on the athlete said that earlier in August 2021, Yehualaw had completed the Antrim Coast Half Marathon in Northern Ireland in 63:44, a new world record and the first instance of a woman covering the distance in under 64 minutes. But it wasn’t ratified because the course was 54 metres short. Thereafter in October, 2021, she clocked a legal 63:51 at the Valencia Half Marathon, placing her second just behind compatriot Letesenbet Gidey, who established a new world record.

In London, Kipruto won the men’s race in 2:04:39. Second place in the marathon went to Leul Gebresilase from Ethiopia. He finished the race in 2:05:12, followed seven seconds later by Bashir Abdi of Belgium, who picked up the third spot. In the women’s race finishing behind Yehualaw was Joyciline Jepkosgei from Kenya with a timing of 2:18:07. In third position was Alemu Megertu. The Ethiopian athlete finished in 2:18:32.

Interestingly, until the 35 kilometre-mark, the lead pack in the men’s race included Ethiopian long distance great Kenenisa Bekele. In its report, Runner’s World noted that Bekele had been the first to fade as the pack slowly broke up towards the concluding stage. But the 40-year-old authored a new record. Bekele finished fifth with timing of 2:05:53, an improvement on the previous masters record of 2:06:25 held by Ayad Lamdassem of Spain.

Over 40,000 runners participated in the 2022 edition of London Marathon.

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)