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November 2, 2008

Nick Bitel

Irina Mikitenko

Mary Wittenberg


MARY WITTENBERG: Good afternoon. Thank you so much for being here in New York and I look forward to talking with all of you about New York shortly. But I stand here at this moment representing the five marathons in the World Marathon Majors. On behalf of the five, I have an update for all of you on the results of the 2007-2008 World Marathon Majors.
First of all, each of us and our organizations congratulate Irina Mikitenko and Gete Wami on their absolutely stellar and impressive performances in the 2007-2008 series. Both athletes displayed tremendous talent, tremendous determination and tremendous will in their super performances throughout the two years, and they obviously have given us quite a dramatic run for the titles, so we congratulate both athletes.
Under the rules of the series, Gete and Irina have achieved the same number of points at the end of the series, and each have beaten each other in head-to-head competitions. As a result, the way the rules work is the title and the champion was determined by a vote of the five organizations and five race directors.
On behalf of the five, we are quite pleased to congratulate, to her First World Marathon Major Series title, as the champion of 2007 and 2008 World Marathon Major Series, of Germany, Irina Mikitenko.
MARY WITTENBERG: In reaching this unanimous decision, the directors cited several factors. Among the factors cited was the fact that Irina, number one, achieved her points in a fewer number of races; and number two, in looking across the scoring races for each athlete, Irina's average time was faster. So we congratulate you, Irina. She's obviously here to answer questions and as well will be here tomorrow morning where we will have a luncheon that will celebrate both champions Martin Lel and Irina. Thank you.
RICHARD FINN: We're going to have a quick comment by Irina, translated here, and then we'll open it up to questions to any of the five representatives from the races for our champion.
IRINA MIKITENKO: A dream came true for me. It was always my goal to run a nice race, a nice marathon. I have run three marathons now, and it was a good year, good two years, and I'm very pleased that the race director decided that I'm the winner of the World Marathon Majors 2007-2008 series.
I promise that next year I will try to do my best to do good races, as well.

Q. These seem reasonable tiebreakers. Why could they have not been done at the beginning to avoid a vote?
MARY WITTENBERG: This was the first series, and we talked about extensively in time and thought that it was a reasonable approach to take the approach we did, especially when you think about the essence of our individual competitions and what we're encouraging across races is head-to-head competition and victories. And we just decided that going one level tiebreaker would be significant enough and we'd see what happens. We'd see what happens, and now we're continuing, as we are across the series and across what we do, to reevaluate and see what might make sense next time.
Certainly on the agenda is to change the rules away from a vote of the five. We'd always rather see it come down to the playing field, but this was, I think, probably a reasonable way to go this time, and now we'll review the rules and decide what we do next time.

Q. Where did you watch the race?
IRINA MIKITENKO: I was outside with my family in the bleachers and was watching it on the screen, and it was very exciting. I was happy, glad to be here in New York.

Q. Were you nervous during the race?
IRINA MIKITENKO: Of course I was nervous. It's much easier to run a marathon than to watch it (laughter).
MARY WITTENBERG: I would also add, when we looked at this, we also ran -- in coming up with a points structure and coming up with the entire rules around the series, we ran our rules against all the different models we considered against the past, and I think going back some 20 years if I remember correctly, or 15 years, we thought the odds would be extremely low of having a tie. And I think you have to ask the athletes about this, but I think what we've seen is perhaps that will also change the way they're running as a result of the series.

Q. I just wondered who Irina's agent is.
IRINA MIKITENKO: We always did it ourselves, so me and my husband.

Q. Knowing how good a record both Gete and Catherine had in the marathons, when you were traveling here, did you really think that there was much of a chance of you coming back with a half million dollars?
IRINA MIKITENKO: Not at all. They felt strong, and I know that they felt strong, and they came here to do their best. And if they wouldn't think they could be winning, they wouldn't have come here. And I have respect to both of them. They can still look at their achievement from that, and I'm obviously sorry for them, but it's sports, and we'll see what happens next year. It's going to continue.

Q. Sorry, that doesn't answer the question. The question was did you think that you had a chance? How much of a chance did you think you would have?
IRINA MIKITENKO: It was not a big chance because they were strong coming here.

Q. I'd like to ask the directors if there was any consideration in their meeting of declaring a tie.
MARY WITTENBERG: We talked about whether a tie was an option. A long time ago before we got to this point and had decided that wherever possible that should be avoided, because again, the essence of our competition is about the race to the finish, and unless the photograph shows Gete tied, there's not a tie. So that thought that was important.
When we went around the room and gave the factors for our decision, it was clear everybody had a winner.

Q. Did you talk to Paula directly? Are you going to send her champagne?
IRINA MIKITENKO: I know that Paula would be strong coming into New York, and when she races, it's almost sure of it she will win. She's a very strong person. From the beginning I thought that she would have a good chance to win, so everything in the marathon can happen, and of course, she did a good job here, and you never know in a race.

Q. To the race directors, any thought of changing the mix, changing the way the thing is set up to that things like ties -- maybe bring it down to one year? Any change that you are thinking about? This is two cycles, the men have been decided before the last race both times.
NICK BITEL: We're looking at the rules all the time, and the next rules meeting is in December, and that's certainly one of the factors we're going to be looking at that at that particular time.

Q. And if it happens it'll happen before London?
NICK BITEL: If it happens then. We've got to get the current cycle finished, my personal view, and get that cycle over, any changes to come into force in the next cycle rather than coming in. I don't think it's fair to the athletes who put out those great performances to change it before them.

Q. I presume that given that there was a decision, how did Gete take it?
MARY WITTENBERG: We've related the decision to Gete's agent, and they are talking to Gete. She's now still in the midst of her marathon processing, so they will relate it to her when they talk to her.

Q. I just wonder, is it fair to say that no matter what decision you make, it won't be a vote next time?
MARY WITTENBERG: No, we have to make a decision.
NICK BITEL: I think it's very unlikely that that will get into a situation where there will be a vote because the more metrics that you put in, the more unlikely a vote becomes necessary.

Q. So it will be more than the one tiebreaker?
NICK BITEL: Correct.
MARY WITTENBERG: In fact, one of the reasons we went the way we went, we talked extensively at the time about trying to avoid complicated rules. You want to have a simple series for the fans, a simple series for the media, and now perhaps it's two years later, there's that much better of a foundation to build on and alter the rules and get into a little bit more detail and less complicated a structure.

Q. You have two kids. Are they going to get bigger Christmas presents?
IRINA MIKITENKO: I just heard about it half an hour ago that I won the jackpot, and it's very hard to determine what I'm going to do in like half an hour. But I will find things and ways to spend the money (laughter).
RICHARD FINN: Just a reminder, before we finish up this news conference, we will present both Irina and Martin Lel, our men's champion, with their checks, a trophy, tomorrow at 12:00 noon at the Boat House, World Marathon Majors series Luncheon at the Boat House. There are several representatives from all the races here, so if you would like an invite, please find us. We'd love to have you join us, and if there's any other final questions.
Thank you.

End of FastScripts

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