10K champ Passarello denied title defence

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 November, 2009, 12:00am

There are no privileges attached to being the defending champion of the Hong Kong 10K Challenge, as Stefano Passarello has discovered.

Passarello won the road race in convincing style last year but is fuming about not making the start line today because his application was received by the Hong Kong Amateur Athletics Association after the entry list was full.

The race has lost not only its men's champion and its women's champion, Li Suet-fei, but its sponsor of 11 years, Nike.

'I've called and e-mailed the HKAAA many times over the past couple of weeks but they've ignored my messages,' said Italian Passarello.

One leading runner said it had long been a tradition in international road racing to invite the men's and women's champions back to defend their titles, but the HKAAA did not follow that practice.

Li will not defend her title, as she moved to Chicago.

Last year's runner-up, Gi Ka-man, will start as hot favourite today, assuming that Thomas Kiprotich does not steal his thunder.

First staged at Tai Mei Tuk on New Year's Day in 1998, the popular event has been sponsored by Nike for the past 11 years and attracts fields of 5,000. A Nike official said the company had decided to step back from the title sponsorship, but it would provide T-shirts for all finishers.