World records could be the order of the day at the Antrim Coast Half Marathon as Ethiopia star Yalemzerf Yehualaw confirms spot

World records could be the order of the day at the Antrim Coast Half Marathon with four-time Olympic gold medallist and defending champion Sir Mo Farah set to be joined by Ethiopian distance sensation and second fastest woman of all time Yalemzerf Yehualaw.

Elite race organiser James McIlroy - who himself reached the 800m semi-finals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics - has swooped to sign up Yehualaw for the August 29 showpiece and the athlete's agent has made clear that the opportunity to break the world record of 64 minutes 31 seconds on what is a very fast course is one of the main attractions drawing her there.

The 21-year-old boasts a PB of 64.46 and the Antrim Coast Half Marathon will be one of only four events she will contest this year and the first after the Tokyo Olympics.

Yehualaw's agent Daan van den Berg said: "Yalemzerf will only do two half marathons this year - Istanbul and the Antrim Coast Half - along with two 10,000m before the Olympic Games.

"The Antrim Coast coming three weeks after the Olympics is perfect timing, and we know if the Irish crowd get behind her she can break the world record as last year's race looked brilliant, with 35 out of 62 runners recording personal bests."

Yehualaw finished third at last year's World Championship after leading for most of the race before tripping on the finishing straight mat, and will be joined at the Larne event by Ethiopian team-mates Yitasyish Mekonnen and Tsehay Gemechu.

The African stars will be joined by early confirmed British internationals Jo Pavey, Sam Harrison, Tracy Barlow and Kirsty Longley.

The men's race will be one of the greatest half marathon fields ever assembled in the UK or Ireland. Race organisers have made no secret of attacking the 60-minute barrier and already have a strong international line-up, with four sub-60 runners already confirmed.

Making their first appearance ever in Ireland will be the African quartet of Tesfahun Akalnew (59.22), Victor Kiplangat (59.26), both from Uganda, Abrar Osman (59.47) of Eritrea and up and coming Kenyan Daniel Mateiko, all of whom will be attacking Sir Mo's course record 60.27 from last year.

It is hoped Sir Mo - coached by Larne-born Gary Lough, who is married to distance legend Paula Radcliffe - could be coming to Larne with Olympic gold number five tucked safely away after Tokyo.

posted Saturday March 13th
by Frank Brownlow