London's champions look to the future
Just 24 hours after their commanding victories in the first Virgin London Marathon yesterday, Tsegaye Kebede and Liliya Shobukhova were already setting their sights on future challenges this afternoon.
Kebede became only the second Ethiopian to win the men's race when he stormed home in 2:05:19 on Sunday and today the 23-year-old wasted little time in targeting Haile Gebrselassie's world record.
"This victory was more than I expected," he said. "Fortunately, I made it and in the future I am expecting to get better. I'm still young and have a long way to go.
"I think of Haile as a model because he's the best, the record holder, so that's my aim, to be as good as him. If my health is right I know I can manage anything but my ambition is to go for his record, and I'm sure I can do it."
Gebrselassie's record stands at 2:03:59, and while Kebede is yet to break 2:05, he showed in the second half of yesterday's rainy race that he has the potential get significantly faster.
Kebede's finishing time was only one second outside his personal best, and only nine off the course record set by Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru last year. Yet Kebede believes he could have run under 2:05 but for the sluggish first half and the wet roads that hampered his speed during his long, lonely drive to the line.
Shobukhova also thinks she has more to come. Finishing in 2:22:00 yesterday, she clipped a massive two minutes 24 seconds from the PB she set on her debut when finishing third here last year.
"I believe I have the potential to run sub-2:22 or sub-2:21 every time I compete now, but if I have to run faster to win I believe I can do that."
Shobukhova dominated Sunday's race from the front but still had enough strength to power home over the last 2.195km in six minutes 53 seconds, faster than Paula Radcliffe ran when setting the world record on the same course in 2003. That's hardly surprising, as the 32-year-old Russian is the European record holder over 5000m and has great track speed.
Indeed, although, as Chicago and London champion, she already has an impressive marathon pedigree, Shobukhova has not yet abandoned her track ambitions.
"The next goal for me is to win the 10,000m at the European Championships this summer," she confirmed.
As for the next marathon, Shobukhova believes the Berlin marathon in September will be too soon, so either a title defence in Chicago in October, or a tilt at November's New York race will be her next marathon challenge.
Ultimately, however, her long-term aim is to win the Olympic marathon back in London in 2012.
Not surprisingly, Kebede also has London 2012 in his plans. "I believe the London 2012 marathon is waiting for me, so I am going to be well prepared for that," he said.
Before then, of course, both champions are likely to return to London in 12 months' time to defend their Virgin titles. "It goes without saying that we will invite you back next year," race director Dave Bedford told them. "You are great champions."
Indeed they are.