Notwithstanding their recent health problems, some top international athletes are keen to give their best in the Airtel Delhi half-marathon on Sunday.

After dealing with disappointment in the London Olympics women’s marathon due to a hamstring injury and finishing 42nd with a time of 2:32.03, two-time winner Aselefech Mergia is back in business.

Aselefech, who made her road running debut in Delhi in 2006 before winning the title in 2008 and 2010, started her training after a two-week break and was confident of returning a good result in her sixth appearance.

“Now my training is normal. I hope the competition will be good,” said the Ethiopian during an interaction on Thursday.

The 27-year-old, who clocked 2:19.31 to set a new course record in the Dubai marathon earlier this year to become the seventh fastest woman over the distance, was eager to better her personal best (67.21 in 2011, Delhi) for the half-marathon at the weekend.

Three other elite women — Helah Kiprop (chest problem), Caroline Kilel (malaria) and Helalia Johannes (hamstring) — are also optimistic in making their comebacks memorable.

Helah, who won the World 10K in Bangalore, has three sub-70 finishes in half-marathon this year, while Caroline, winner of the Boston marathon last year, has a personal best of 68.16 in half-marathon.

“If my body responds well, then I will try my best,” said Caroline of Kenya.

Namibian Helalia, who finished 12t in the Olympics with a timing of 2:26.09, was accorded a warm welcome in her country for her fabulous performance in London. Now, she wants to improve upon her personal best (70.59) in half-marathon. “I cannot say that I will run well on Sunday. I just want to do well and do better than my personal best,” she said.

Kiptoo ready

Promising Chebii Ezekiel Kiptoo, ranked third in IAAF men’s road running, hogged limelight when he set the course record in the Lille half-marathon in France last month with a 59.05.

Kiptoo, who got inspired by his famous training partners (including Sammy Kitwara) to switch from track running to long distance events, has recovered from a bout of typhoid to get ready for the half-marathon.

“If the weather is good, then I can think of setting a course record,” said Kiptoo, brother of top 5000m Kenyan runner Abraham.

For defending champion Lelisa Desisa, who had been training on track for 10,000m in London Olympics, will take part in his first road race of the year here. “If the weather remains good I can break the world record,” said the Ethiopian, who had achieved his personal best (59.39) last year in Delhi.

The race, which will have 10 men with sub-60 times and six women with sub-70 times, is expected to see some stiff competition.

Meanwhile, course record holder Deriba Merga (59.15, 2008) has pulled out of the event in the last minute.

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