Former marathon world champion, and current marathon world record holder, Paula Radcliffe believes world records could fall at Friday’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.
“I think it’s going to be a very quick race,” she said yesterday in Dubai. “They’ve made the start an hour earlier – or half an hour earlier than last year – so the conditions will be cooler and more conducive to running fast. It’s a very fast course, very flat, everything is tailored towards that.”
Radcliffe believes fast times are one of the reasons the world’s elite marathon runners head to Dubai.
“I think the athletes come here ready to race” she said. “This is a race that they know is known for fast times, so they come here expecting that and prepared to go out and commit to it.
“It is important because a lot of places they’ll go to and they’ll talk about “Yeah I want to run fast” but they are just there to win the race. Here they do want to come and run fast.”
The three time winner of both the London and New York marathons said the key to breaking the records was the first half of the race.
“It is all about how quick they go in the first half,” she said. “If you go too fast you can overcook it. If you get that right then you can run very fast here.
“It’s 2hours 2 min 57secs (the men’s WR). I think if they went out not too fast, not too fast is fast, but like 61 and a half or something like that and then tried to come back quicker then I think that it is possible.
“We don’t want the wind to get up too much, which is why they are starting it earlier, (but) when it is a long out and back stretch, the risk is that if the wind gets up that can cause havoc. I think if it doesn’t get up till later in the morning then (the time) could be very very quick.”
The reigning men’s champion Tamirat Tola, who ran a personal best of 2:04:11 last year, is expecting another fast race tomorrow.
“If we work together I have the chance to run another personal best,” said Tola. The world record is currently held by Kenya Dennis Kimetto set in Berlin in 2014.
“From what I have learnt so far, the course is flat and fast to achieve a world-record time. But no one has run on it to really know,” continued Tola.
“I hope to do my best, and I can’t say if the best will be enough to establish a new world record. It’s something yet to be achieved and we’ll see what happens on the race day.”
But it could be in the fiercely contested women’s race where Radcliffe’s own world record of 2:15:25, set in London in 2003, could be most at risk.
“On the women’s side you have (Worknesh) Degefa,” noted Radcliffe. “But it’s also going to be Mare Dibaba and (Aselefech) Mergia who are in very good shape and also (Gelete) Burka could run and could surprise a few people.”
But they have plenty of work to do to catch Radcliffe. Mergia’s personal best is 2:19:31 (set in Dubai in 2012), Dibaba’s 2:19:52 (China 2015), Degefa 2:22:36 (Dubai last year) and Burka 2:26:03 (Houston 2014).
Radcliffe now puts the Dubai marathon right up with the top in the world, although she feels that Dubai should become a member of the Marathon majors – Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City.
“Definitely in terms of the course, (it’s right up there). If people want to run a fast race Dubai is up there alongside Berlin, possibly Chicago.
“In terms of the history, the lure of the marathon majors, it could do with joining those majors. To be able to actually have that history of the people who have gone before winning the race makes New York, London, Boston a special place. Dubai is getting there but it needs to be patient.”
British athletics legend Paula Radcliffe has declared that the war on doping “is not won” and called for sterner action to be imposed immediately on countries where alleged systemic doping of athletes is still occurring.
“I don’t think it’s any secret of the levels of doping that have been uncovered in the likes of Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey, Morocco, East Africa,” said Radcliffe, who is in the UAE for the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Friday.
“The levels of violations are starting to come through, but it wasn’t shown to be systemic as it was, and as state controlled as it was in Russia – that’s why the actions that have been taken against Russia have been like that.
“But I think if it’s above a certain number then that country has to take responsibility, take ownership of it and do something to try and help the fight and move forward and show that its not something that is tolerated in their country and it won’t be accepted and tolerated within our sport.”
The 2005 marathon world champion and gold medalist at the 2002 Commonwealth games in Manchester says that the actions of these countries and athletes have “tainted” the sport.
“It’s something that I feel has tainted a sport that I love very much” said the 44-year-old, “and I think by association the credibility of the athletes who work very hard day in day out is tainted by that minority.
“And unfortunately it’s a minority that’s too big but it is a minority and it’s something we need to do more (to stamp out). I’d like to do more to give back to protect those clean athletes to protect the sport.”
Radcliffe, who now resides in Monaco, said she felt sympathy for clean Russian athletes, who have also been banned from the upcoming Winter Games in South Korea.
“Any athlete would have sympathy for athletes in that position,” she said. “It’s very unfair that any clean athlete would be put in a situation where they’re not able to take part (in the games). Unfortunately because of the severity of the infractions that were taken part in by the Russians (that has been the result).
“But we have to underline that there are other countries that are probably getting close to that (level of doping), there are other people that elsewhere in the world that are cheating like that – they need to be punished in the same way and they need to be got after. In the same way.
“We have to underline that it won’t be accepted in our sport and we have to make the deterrents greater and that means for Russia at the moment, that there was so much evidence of the state backed system and the systemic doping system that was going on, the manipulation and the undermining of the rules of our sport, the dis-respect for the other athletes and our sport – this was the step that had to be taken.”
While the Russian doping scandal is now, finally, accepted as fact, the IOC and other bodies, including FIFA, are half-hearted at best in action. Sport is broken, as is anti-doping. And you should have zero confidence it will change.— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) January 23, 2018
Radcliffe called for greater financial sanctions on countries found to be cheating.
“As I say there are other countries that need to have the same sanctions imposed and I’d like to see more of a financial sanction imposed on all cheats, so they pay back more to our sport and that goes into the anti-doping budget.
“And when federations surpass a certain number of doping (violations), or when it’s shown to be systemic as it was in Russia, then fines are paid before they are able to come back and compete.
“The battle against doping is definitely not won – it’s moving forward but I think it needs a lot greater investment.
“It needs a lot better education and the deterrents need to be bigger so that when, unfortunately, there is always going to be that incentive to dope, we have to make it harder and harder for them to get away with it and work harder to protect the majority of the athletes who are the clean athletes because they have a right to be protected and to be able to compete on a fair and level playing field.
“Not to suffer because of the action of other people around them.”
It’s been nearly two decades, but JK Rowling continues to mesmerise millions of youngsters all over the world through the magical universe of Harry Potter.
The impact of this fictional world was so profound that it had nearly every teenager waiting for their acceptance letter into the world of wizards. Although fans will never be a part of that world, they’ve got the next best thing in the non- magical or ‘Muggle’ version of the wizardly sport – Quidditch.
The sport is not only real, but is actually going pro in the United States of America. The Earth-bound version is a mixed gender contact sport with a unique blend of elements from rugby, dodgeball and tag.
A Quidditch team consists of seven athletes with one ‘seeker’, one ‘keeper’, three ‘chasers’, and two ‘beaters’.
Kyle Epsteen, 34, plays keeper for the Lost Boys Quidditch club in Los Angeles, California, and got involved with Quidditch five years ago.
With a background in wrestling and baseball, moving to Quidditch was not only easy, but a great way to apply all the techniques he learnt from other sports.
“Quidditch is a very progres- sive sport and United States Quid- ditch (USQ) welcomes people of all identities into our league. There is no discrimination against players and the sport is truly breaking barriers,” he said.
The sport was initially played with brooms but with broom bris- tles proving uncomfortable, they were then replaced with PVC pipes.
The rules of the game are revised constantly and at first sight, the sport may look a little disorganised, but once you understand the rules Quidditch is both fun to watch and challenging to play.
Participants play with a vol- leyball called the ‘quaffle’, three dodgeballs that act as the ‘bludg- ers’, and the golden snitch, which is basically a velcro tail attached to the shorts of a runner.
Unlike the Harry Potter fran- chise, the golden snitch is worth 30 points instead of a 100 and is attached to the back of a neutral player who is dressed in a yellow uniform and uses any means to avoid capture.
It is the seeker’s job to catch the runner. The three chasers are supposed to score goals with the quaffle that is worth 10 points if they pass it through the hoops.
They advance the ball down the field by running with it, passing it to team-mates or kicking it. Each team has a keeper who defends the goal hoops.
Two beaters use dodgeballs called bludg- ers to disrupt the flow of the game by knocking out other players with them.
Any player hit by a bludger is out of play until they touch their own goalposts and then they can get back in the game. The snitch is worth 30 points and the game ends once it is caught.
If the score is tied after the snitch catch, the game goes to overtime.
Players who commit fouls face different penalties depending on the severity of the offence.
If while running a player drops his broom, it results in a back-to- hoops foul where the player must pick up the pipe and run to the goal- post before he or she is allowed to get back in the game.
The penalty is the same for being knocked out by a bludger.
A yellow card means a player must spend one minute in the penalty box.
A red card means a player is barred for the rest of the game.
Quidditch is all set to take its place in the world of professional sports with the Gulf region also on the radar.
They are also attempting to move away from the Harry Potter genre to avoid any copyrights infringement.
For more information on the sport, log on to www.usquidditch.org