LONDON – Kenya’s Geoffrey Kirui and Kenya-born Bahraini Rose Chelimo came from behind on Sunday to claim marathon world titles on London’s iconic Tower Bridge.
Kirui ran past tiring Ethiopian Tamirat Tola shortly after the 35-kilometre mark for a convincing victory in the men’s race while Chelimo’s success over former two-time winner Eda Kiplagat of Kenya was a closer affair.
Tola had opened up a small gap but was never able to fully shake off the Boston Marathon-winner Kirui, who caught up again and then made his move with seven kilometres left.
The 24-year-old crossed the line after 42.195km in 2 hours 8 minutes 27 seconds, waving to the fans and high-fiving a few of them on the home stretch. Tola trailed by 1:22 minutes as he salvaged silver, two seconds ahead of Alphonce Simbu of Tanzania.
“This is the best moment of my career, easily,” Kirui said. “I was not expecting to be world champion … I was smart not to follow the Ethiopian. When he tried to take off I knew I had to hit my target at 35k then I started to move.”
Kirui is the first Kenyan winner of the men’s race since Abel Kirui in 2011, and the Kenyans now have a record-extending five titles overall in the event.
On the women’s side, Chelimo split a last leader group of nine, Kiplagat fought back but seemingly made her move too early as Chelimo countered in the closing stages for her biggest career success in 2:27:11 hours.
The 37-year-old Kiplagat trailed by seven seconds for silver, just ahead of American Amy Cragg who had the same time for bronze.
Chelimo is a Boston runner-up from earlier in 2017 and has been competing for Bahrain since last year.
The four other medal events were set for the evening in the Olympic Stadium: the men’s shot put and on the women’s side the 100m, pole vault and completion of the heptathlon.
Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam regained the heptathlon lead in the stadium morning session, entering the concluding 800m with a healthy 172-point lead over German Carolin Schaefer, with Dutch Anouk Vetter another three points behind.
In preliminary action, American title holder Allyson Felix started her bid for a women’s record-extending 10th worlds gold by cruising through her 400m heat.
“I just controlled the race, just wanted to feel comfortable to qualify. I feel good, peaking at the right time,” Felix said.
Also into Monday’s semis is Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas who famously beat Felix for Olympic gold last year by throwing herself across the finish line.
Olympic champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica and title holder Sergey Shubenkov, one of 19 Russians allowed to compete as neutral athletes, advanced into the 110m hurdles semis set for later in the day.
Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie reached Tuesday’s pole vault final as he makes another attempt to get his first world title.
American season leader Evan Jager topped the 3,000m steeplechase heats as he intends to end the 30-year reign in the event by Kenyan and Kenya-born athletes. But the Kenyans will boast four-time world champion Ezekiel Kemboi and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto in Tuesday’s final. -dpa