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Baldini receives Beijing boost – “I know what I have to do”
Tuesday 20 November 2007
Stefano Baldini boosted his confidence with his fourth place at the ING New York City Marathon on 4 November ending a difficult year in which the reigning Olympic and European marathon champion struggled to find his best form.
After completing the third marathon of a remarkable 2006 season in New York where he finished sixth, he began 2007 with a bout of flu. Then he was then forced to drop out of the London Marathon and later during the spring he decided not to take part at the World Championships in Osaka and the World Road Running Championships in Udine to concentrate his efforts on defending his Olympic Games title in Beijing.
His fourth place in the New York was therefore an important come-back for the 36-year-old in his build-up showing that the man from the northern Italian town of Castelnovo di Sotto is at his best in races without pacemakers.
“The New York race went exactly as the rest of the season,” said Baldini. “It was a ‘catch-up’ race. The race was very difficult right from the early part run on the Verrazzano Bridge. I was not able to change the pace but at the end of the race I emerged again in a man against man contest without pacemakers although it was not my best day.”
Baldini remained with the leading group until the race reached First Avenue where the race traditionally reaches its crucial stage. After being dropped to tenth place, Baldini managed to move up again to finish fourth in 2:11:58.
“The final time is not extraordinary but I showed my best quality to “read” the race and to resist until the end even when I was running short of energy in the final kilometres. I did not respond to the attacks but I preferred to follow my own pace.”
“Many runners who ran strongly faded in the Central Park and I managed to catch up positions. There is much work to do before Beijing but I approach the preparation for my title defence with a different spirit. Before New York I was wondering if I would have been able to return to my best form. Now I have found the response to what I was looking for.”
“New York gave me the motivation and the awareness that I can battle at the same level with the Africans in Beijing. My only problem is that my feet are not as reactive as in the past. This means that I have to spend a lot of energy when I have to change the pace. I have to work on my running mechanics to be competitive. I know perfectly what I have to do.”
Baldini will face most of his international rivals of New York in the Chinese capital inclusing World record holder Haile Gebrselassie who ran a sensational 2:04:26 in Berlin at the end of September.
“I think that Beijing will be a different race. At the moment Martin Lel is the strongest marathon runner in the world. He ran the best race of his life in New York. I cannot afford to run at his pace at the moment but I think that the hot and humid weather of Beijing will reduce the gap between me and the African runners.”
“What will make Beijing similar to New York will be the battle men against men without pacemakers. The race without pacers made New York more spectacular and more wide-open until the end.”
Baldini has already planned his 2008 season. “My training schedule will be similar to that I used in the past which proved to be winning. I am planning a spring marathon that could be again London. I will run more sparingly next year than in the past because I need these months to prepare the base to reach my best form in Beijing.”
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF