Simbu: Tanzania’s brightest prospect in Athletics
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TANZANIA’S long distance runner, Alphonce Simbu crosses the finish line to the men’s full marathon at Mumbai Marathon in January, this year.

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..He wants new personal best at London Marathon

AT 25, the road ahead is ostensibly long and wide for Tanzania’s long distance runner Alphonce Simbu. There is no limit to what this young athletics prodigy can accomplish on the track.

Be a Filbert Bayi, Suleiman Nyambui or a Gidamis Shahanga? Why not! The stature of those names is the true barometer of the task facing the new man on the bloc, Simbu-- the brightest prospect in Tanzania athletics. Some records will always prove so difficult to break or even get close to, but the potential is there for the new athletics prodigy, Simbu, to rewrite the history.

Since such greats Filbert Bayi, Suleiman Nyambui, Gidamis Shahanga and Juma Ikangaa hung up their boots, the country’s athletics has found international podiums an untouchable place. Simbu, a long-distance runner hailing from Singida region, currently residing in Arusha, is apparently defying the odds.

His recent feat has set the nation alight, revoking past memories when Tanzania’s flag rose among nations. The sensation young marathoner has succeeded to write his name among the elite group after racing to full marathon win at the 2017 Mumbai Marathon January, this year, beating tough opponents from marathon dominant nations, Kenya and Ethiopia. Simbu beat first runner-up, Kenyan Joshua Kipkorir by 32 seconds. He clocked 2:9:32 seconds, taking home a 42,000 US Dollars cash prize (about 90m/- ).

That thrilling win confirmed Simbu’s status as the country’s biggest rising star. The Mumbai feat came five months after Simbu’s heroics at the 2016 Rio Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last August. He narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing fifth in the men’s marathon at a time of 2:11:15, a difference of 2:31 minutes from the gold winner and 1:10 minutes behind the bronze medalist. It was the nation’s best finish at the Games.

Simbu improved his time from 2:11:15 in Rio to 2:09:33 at Mumbai Marathon, which enabled him to equal the fastestsecond winning time in the history of the race. He fell 14 seconds short of his personal best.

And, now most Tanzanians will be watching closely when Simbu makes his debut at London Marathon, one of the top six world marathons that form the World Marathon Majors competition with a million prize purse, on April 23.“London is the greatest marathon in the world and I would love to perform well there,” says Simbu, adding “I have been training hard, so hopefully I will be ready. I only pray that I stay fit until the day of the race.

” The Tanzanian young star will be up against a stronger elite line-up who will hit the track on April 23 in the prestigious event, run over a largely flat course on the streets of the British capital. Simbu says the stronger field on parade will spur him to hit a new milestone.

However, he is not overly optimistic, rather realistic, as he says it will not be about making the podium; he will be taking on a personal challenge, and that is beating his previous best time of 2:09:19, set on March last year, in Otsu, Japan.

“I want to go out there and perform well but my ultimate goal is to improve my personal best,” says Simbu, whose personal best falls 6:14 minutes short of the current London Marathon men’s course record of 2:03:05 set by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge last year.

According to the London Marathon elite men runners’ personal bests, Simbu stands at 13rd position, with Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele toping up the list of the world-class contenders.

Bekele, a triple Olympic champion and double world record holder on the track, became the world’s second fastest marathon runner of all time when he won the 2016 Berlin Marathon last September. Biwott, who won the 2015 New York City Marathon, is expected to be Bekele’s main rival in the absence of two-time champion Kipchoge.

Biwott finished runner-up in 2014, fourth in 2015 and second again last year in a personal best time of 2:03:51. The leading pair are among seven men who have run marathons in under 2:06, who will be running in London next month, while the field contains two marathon world champions, three of the top five finishers from last summer’s Olympic Games.

Such is the quality of the line-up. However, as Simbu said, improving personal record should remain his main target come the day. He just needs to turn in another strong performance to enhance his already rising status in the world of marathon. Simbu will be Tanzania’s sole representative at London Marathon.

Such is the low position the country has sunk in at world major athletics events. Nonetheless, Simbu’s outstanding performance at Rio Olympics, followed by Mumbai Marathon win has renewed hopes that the country can still regain her lost glory and pride.

To get back to the top, Tanzania needs to take deliberate efforts to train quality long distance runners, who are in short supply at the moment, says Simbu. Simbu, who was recently recruited by

TPDF, thanks to his virtuoso performance, reveals that it needs a lot of time and resources to prepare a marathon winner and warns that individual runners will hardly make it to the top if they are left to work on their own. “It is difficult to get good results because we don’t have enough long distance runners at the moment.

The nation as whole must take deliberate efforts to prepare her athletes,” he says.

“Long distance running requires proper training and planning. Runners must undergo good training and that involves a lot of financial and material resources. “Individual athletes can hardly manage it without support.

The government, Athletics associations and the general public must support in the training of athletes,” he urges.

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