Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein to Test Olympic Fitness at NYC Half-Marathon

07/09/2008 - 13:04

RitzenheinMarathonTrials07.jpg July 9, 2008 press release (New York, NY) —American Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein will return to New York for the NYC Half-Marathon Presented by NIKE on Sunday, July 27, in his final tune-up race for the Olympic Games marathon, it was announced today by New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg. Ritzenhein headlines a stellar group of Americans entered, including USA Half-Marathon champion James Carney and rising distance star Fasil Bizuneh on the men’s side, and U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Women’s Marathon fourth-place finisher Zoila Gómez and four-time Olympian Colleen De Reuck on the women’s side. Athletes will be vying for a prize purse of more than $70,000, with the male and female winners each receiving $10,000.

“Dathan elevates every race he runs in,” Wittenberg said. “As we continue to build the stature of the NYC Half-Marathon Presented by NIKE, it’s a coup to add Dathan to what we expect to be a robust professional field. In an Olympic year with a race that has an international field, it will be fun for New Yorkers to cheer for the red, white, and blue.”

Ritzenhein, 25, of Eugene , OR , punched his ticket to Beijing with a spectacular performance at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Men’s Marathon in Central Park , finishing in second place last November. He continued his success into the 2008 Olympic year with an early-season victory at the USA Cross Country Championships in February; however, injuries have slowed Ritzenhein since then. Lingering soreness in his foot forced him to withdraw from two New York races: the Central Park Challenge in March and the Healthy Kidney 10K in May.

Ritzenhein, a two-time Olympian, was cleared to resume full training at the beginning of June. As a part of his buildup to the Olympic marathon on August 24, he competed in the 10,000-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field on Friday in Eugene , finishing eighth.

“I am excited to return to the Big Apple for the New York City Half-Marathon presented by NIKE,” Ritzenhein said. “Each NYRR event I have contested, whether cross county, road, or the marathon, has provided fantastic competition and thrilling races. The Half should serve as an excellent final test, in terms of both the elite field and weather conditions, before the Olympic Games marathon in Beijing.”

Along with Ritzenhein, two top American men are coming off strong 10,000-meter performances this past weekend in Eugene . Both Carney and Bizuneh challenged for a spot on the Olympic team at various points in the race; however, neither was able to crack the top three. Carney made a strong bid for third in the race’s second half, but eventually finished sixth. After running near the lead through the first 5000 meters, Bizuneh finished 15th.

Carney, 30, of Boulder, CO , captured the USA Half-Marathon title in January and was fourth in the Central Park Challenge in March. Bizuneh, 28, of Flagstaff , AZ —still looking for a breakthrough victory—has notched eight top-five finishes in USA championship races in the last two years. Also included in the field will be Fernando Cabada, 26, of Boulder, CO , who set the American record in the 25K in 2005.

On the women’s side, Gómez, 29, of Alamosa, CO , set a personal best by more than a minute and a half at the women’s marathon trials in April, just missing a spot on the Olympic team with her fourth-place finish. In addition to her professional running career, the Mexican-born Gómez spends much of her time working with underserved kids in her community. De Reuck, 44, of Boulder, CO , was the 2004 Olympic Trials women’s marathon champion. An injury kept the South African native, who became a U.S. citizen in 2000, from competing in the 2008 marathon trials.

In its third year, the NYC Half-Marathon Presented by NIKE continues to attract the world’s leading professional athletes, in addition to a sold-out field of more than 10,000 recreational runners from around the world. More than 19,000 people applied to run in the race. On a course designed to celebrate New York City , the NYC Half-Marathon Presented by NIKE will take runners on a loop through Central Park, down Seventh Avenue through Times Square , across 42nd Street , and along the expansive West Side Highway to Battery Park in the heart of the city’s financial district, finishing with a view of the Statue of Liberty.

New York Road Runners is working in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office, City of New York Parks & Recreation, the New York City Sports Commission, the New York City Police Department, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Sanitation, the New York City Fire Department, and all the other city agencies that help throughout the year to produce its world-class events.

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