Mon, Aug 24, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Bai becomes China’s first female marathon champ

REUTERS , BERLIN

Australia’s Steven Hooker competes in the pole vault final of the IAAF World Championships in Berlin on Saturday. Hooker won gold with a vault of 5.90m.

PHOTO: AFP

Bai Xue became China’s first female marathon world champion after she raced into the lead 3km from the end to take gold under the Brandenburg Gate yesterday.

Cheered on by tens of thousands of fans who lined the streets of central Berlin, 20-year-old Bai won with a time of 2 hours, 25 minutes, 15 seconds — just ahead of Japan’s Yoshimi Ozaki, with Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia earning bronze.

The runners began cautiously, with the temperature around 25ºC on a sunny morning in Berlin, before Rwandan Epiphanie Nyirabarame took the lead early on.

With world record holder Paula Radcliffe pulling out days before the start, and Germany’s London marathon winner Irina Mikitenko withdrawing following the death of her father, the race was wide open.

The pack, including the three medalists, quickly left the Rwandan behind as the runners meandered through the boulevards of Berlin and just after the halfway mark the fight was on.

Ozaki and Bai dropped Mergia with 3km to go before Bai proved too strong at the final stretch.

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