Loroupe Ready for Challenge

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Since running the fastest women’s marathon ever, Tegla Loroupe raises expectations every time she runs.

Can she beat the 2 hours, 20 minutes, 47 seconds, she ran in Rotterdam in April? Can she become the first to break the 2:20 barrier? Can she be defeated?

Loroupe’s first test since Rotterdam will come today in the New York City Marathon, where she’s considered the favorite despite the presence of defending champion Franziska Rochat-Moser of Switzerland and 1996 winner Anita Catuna of Romania.

“She’s the best marathoner in the world,” Portugal’s Rosa Mota, the 1988 Olympic champion, said of Loroupe. “She can run 2:20 or under on a fast course.


“But this is a very difficult course. It’s not fast like Berlin or London or Rotterdam. If the weather is good, if she feels good, if the atmosphere is right, it’s possible to break the record, but not likely in New York.”

Loroupe agrees, and she knows from experience. She tried in 1996, but after a record-breaking 1:11:04 for the first half, she was worn out and finished seventh.

“The hills on this course are very tough,” said the 4-foot-11, 83-pound Kenyan, the women’s winner in 1994 and 1995 and the seventh-place finisher again last year.

While Loroupe is No. 1 among the women--four minutes separate her and the second-fastest woman--the men’s race appears wide open.

The field includes the 1-2 finishers from last year, Kenyans John Kagwe and Joseph Chebet, 1996 Olympic gold medalist Josia Thugwane of South Africa, two-time champion German Silva of Mexico and 1997 world champion Abel Anton of Spain.