Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana won gold in the women’s marathon on the streets of London yesterday, denying the powerful Kenyans their first Olympic crown in a Games record time of 2 hours, 23 minutes, 7 seconds.
Priscah Jeptoo, one of a Kenyan contingent eyeing a medals sweep after last year’s one-two-three at the world championships in South Korea, took the nation’s third consecutive silver in the event, five seconds behind Gelana.
Russia’s Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova collected the bronze in 2:23:29.
Gelana, who ran the second-fastest time of the year in the Rotterdam marathon, took charge of the race in the closing stages and last year’s world silver medalist Jeptoo did not have the strength to match her.
The fancied Mary Keitany, who has won the past two London marathons, was long part of the leading pack, but she slipped off the pace shortly before the 41km mark as the rain returned to drench the flag-waving crowds lining the course.
Gelana, 24, a cousin of Sydney 2000 Olympic men’s marathon winner Gezahegne Abera, said the rainy conditions had suited her perfectly, even though she slipped at one point.
“It was a great race. I really loved it. The rain makes it very interesting,” Gelana said. “As soon as the rain started, I said to myself: ‘Thank God.’ I love running in the rain, I have been doing that since I was a small child.”
She said she was was proud to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Fatuma Roba, who won Ethiopia’s only other women’s marathon gold at the Atlanta Games in 1996.
“Fatuma is my hero. I am extremely happy to share history with her,” she said.
The big names were content to bide their time in the early stages of the race.
Italy’s Valeria Straneo and China’s Zhu Xiaolin led a large group of runners at the halfway point, timing 1:13.13, and soon afterwards Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova, a three-time Chicago marathon winner, dropped out.
By the 25km mark, a group of six runners had edged ahead, with the three Kenyans and three Ethiopians — Mare Dibaba, Gelana and Aselefech Mergia — four seconds clear of the field.
Mergia soon dropped out of the reckoning and as the sun appeared, the race looked set up for a straight shootout between the Kenyans and Ethiopians, but Russia’s Petrova Arkhipova closed the gap on the leading pack and was in the lead at the 35km mark in front of Keitany, Jeptoo and Gelana, with Kiplagat dropping off the pace.
The same four were bunched together at the 40km mark, but Kitany soon fell away, finishing fourth, a full 49 seconds behind the winner. Kiplagat was a disappointing 20th.