Athletics: Tergat heads world-class field for Manchester

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The Independent Online

Paul Tergat and Benita Johnson are scheduled to join a record 16,000 competitors in the Great Manchester Run on 23 May.

Paul Tergat and Benita Johnson are scheduled to join a record 16,000 competitors in the Great Manchester Run on 23 May.

Tergat, the world marathon record-holder, is returning to defend the title he won last year, with his fellow Kenyan Sammy Kipketer expected to be his main rival.

Johnson, Australia's first winner at the recent World Cross Country Championships, will take on the defending women's champion, Berhane Adere.

The organisers remain confident that Tergat, who was last week forced out of the London Marathon with a calf injury, will be fit for the event. The race spokesman, David Hart, said: "Paul's manager, Federico Rosa, has told us there should be no problem with the injury and I know the athlete himself is very eager to return."

The head-to-head between the Africans sees Kipketer return to the venue where he won the Commonwealth 5,000 metres gold medal in 2002. "Obviously we are all delighted Paul will be back, and of course it's great to have Sammy come and challenge him," Hart said.

The running boom is set to continue at the Manchester venue where 12,000 competed in 2003, and Hart added: "To say we are ecstatic with the race entry would be an understatement."

The International Association of Athletics Federations, the sport's governing body, is considering a schedule change for all major competitions - including the 2008 Olympics - to make them more attractive to television coverage.

During a meeting in Athens, about 70 international broadcasters proposed that the IAAF shorten the current four-hour long competition sessions held in the evenings. The sessions would last two and a half hours, while all preliminaries would be pushed up to the morning hours which generally tend to have a smaller audience.

"Of course this will be considered by the IAAF," the organisation's general secretary, Istvan Gyulai, said. "It's not a very quick decision."

The IAAF gains a significant portion of its revenue from TV contracts. Gyulai said officials will also have to discuss the change with athletes, sponsors and others involved in the competitions.

Although a lot of consultation will be undertaken before a decision is reached, the new timetable could be used at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan, and the Beijing Olympics the following year.

"I cannot predict the decision," Gyulai said. "We are discussing ... we are reflecting."