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Record Australian marathoners in Moscow
John Salvado
15:24 AEST Tue May 21 2013

Eleven years after last representing his country at the world junior titles, Shawn Forrest will be part of a record nine-strong Australian marathon contingent at the world athletics championships in Moscow.

Forrest, who turns 30 a month before the start of the August 10-18 championships, was among six distance runners and five walkers added to the team on Tuesday.

But Australia's top finishers at last year's London Olympics, Michael Shelley and Lisa Weightman, will be non-starters in Moscow after deciding to shift their focus to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Forrest and London Olympians Martin Dent and Jeff Hunt join trials winner Scott Westcott in the men's marathon, while evergreen Benita Willis, Jess Trengove and Nikki Chapple were selected along with Jane Fardell and Lauren Shelley, who went 1-2 in last year's trial.

The US-based Forrest's selection is a reward for perseverance.

The Victorian was a volunteer at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where he carried Ethiopian superstar Haile Gebrselassie's basket before his epic victory in the 10,000m.

Two years later, Forrest represented Australia in the 1500m and 5000m at the world junior championships in Jamaica.

He then moved to the United States, studying at the University of Arkansas while continuing his distance running career.

Forrest hooked up with Australian Nic Bideau's training squad in Europe in 2009, before making his marathon debut two years later on a a steaming hot day in Chicago.

A personal best of two hours 14 minutes and 37 seconds in only his second marathon in January last year in Houston eventually proved enough to earn him a long-coveted berth in the world championships squad.

"He was fourth there in what could have been an Olympic qualifying time for London but the Australian selectors had made it 2:12 so he didn't get picked," Bideau told AAP.

"He was really disillusioned and then had hamstring problems all of last year.

"He finally got that sorted out and was going to run a marathon in England in April.

"But he married an American girl and is trying to get a US visa and was told he couldn't travel so he had to pull out.

"So I told him to call AA and nominate for selection for Moscow and see what happened and they've picked him."

Bideau said Willis was still undecided whether to compete at August's world titles.

"She hasn't really been training, so she still has to figure out if she's actually going to do it or not," said Bideau.

"I think she will, but she hadn't even nominated so it's a bit of an odd one."

With the schedule for the Moscow world titles precluding the male walkers from doubling up, London Olympic silver medallist Jared Tallent, Luke Adams and Chris Erickson all decided to contest the 50km race.

That left vacancies in the 20km race which were filled by Dane Bird-Smith and Rhydian Cowley.

Trials winner Tanya Holliday, London Olympian Regan Lamble and Jess Rothwell will contest the women's 20km walk.

The Australian squad for the Moscow world titles now numbers 35, with other athletes having until late July to force their way onto the team.


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