Sunday, March 22, 2009

From Tokyo to Rome, Kenyans rule the roost

Salim Kipsang of Kenya  crosses the finish line to win the race. Photos/REUTERS

Salim Kipsang of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the race. Photos/REUTERS 

TOKYO

Kenya’s Salim Kipsang won the Tokyo Marathon in a time of two hours, 10 minutes and 27 seconds on Sunday, despite having to turn back to retrieve his drink at the 35-kilometre mark, losing his rhythm and crucial seconds in this vital stage of the race.

In the opening spring marathon races, Kenya also scooped the 15th Rome Marathon title when Benjamin Kiptoo Kolum set a course record when he surged to victory in two hours, seven minutes and 17 seconds.

He broke away from the pack after two thirds of the race and crossed the finish line near the Colosseum beating the previous course record of 2:08.02.

Paul Kiprop Kirui coasted in second on a pleasant spring day with Kenyans filling every position in the top 10.

Ethiopia’s Firehiwot Dado also coped best with the cobbles on the Eternal City’s famous streets to take the women’s title in a relatively slow time of 2:27.09.

In Tokyo, Kipsang surged at 36-kilometre mark and left Sammy Korir and Kensuke Takahashi behind.

He had bizarrely stumbled and dropped his bottle at the 35km aid station and had to stop to retrieve the bottle.

However, not only did he come back strongly to catch Korir and Takahashi, but Kipsang also made a strong surge of his own and won the convincingly.

“I am happy after winning this great race,” said Kipsang after the race.

He won the prize money of 11 million yen. This is the first time official prize money was awarded in the marathon race (other than World Championships) in Japan.

The time was slow because the race was marred with strong wind, especially in the closing stage of the course.

A marathon debutant, Kazuhiro Maeda, finished second in 2:11:01 and was thus automatically selected to the Japanese marathon team for the World Championships in Berlin.

Kensuke Takahashi finished third in 2:11:25, while Sammy Korir was fourth in 2:11:57 and Kenta Oshima fifth in 2:12:54.

Mizuho Nasukawa, who left Shitaye Gemechu and Yukari Saharu just before the 40km mark, won the women’s race with 2:25:38.

It was more than four minutes off the previous personal best for Nasukawa who is coached by Yoshio Koide, the man who trained Naoko Takahashi to the Olympic gold in Athens.

Recovered well

However, since Tokyo Marathon is not a World Championships qualifying race for Japanese women, she won’t be going to Berlin.

Yukari Sahaku finished second in 2:28:55. She improved her personal best by nearly three minutes.

Sahaku is also coached by Koide.

Another favourite Reiko Tosa, fell at fiv kilometres but recovered well and was third in her final marathon of her career with 2:29:19.

Rounding up the top five, Russian Alevtina Biktimirova finished fourth in 2:29:33 and Gemechu was fifth in 2:29:59. The best Kenyan was Pamela Chepchumba who finished ninth in 2:32:40.

A field of 35,000 athletes and fun runners pounded Tokyo’s streets with the country’s iconic cherry blossoms bursting into bloom along parts of the course to mark the arrival of spring. (Reuters and EME News)

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