A pack of four entered the Bird’s Nest together with a vision of the finish line, but it was Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia who separated down the final 100 meters to win the women’s marathon at the Beijing World Championships Sunday. The 25-year-old Dibaba posted a time of 2:27:35, and while the other challengers fell to the ground, she continued sprinting around the track in elation.
“It’s surprising,” Dibaba said through an Amharic translator in the press conference. “After a few problems, I had a strong strategy to best everybody. I believed in myself. I stuck with the program and gave every bit of energy to that strategy.”
A second behind was silver medalist Helah Kiprop of Kenya (2:27:36), Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa of Bahrain (2:27:39) won bronze, and fourth-place Jemima Jelagat Sumgong clocked in at 2:27:42 for Kenya, which continues to lead the medal table in Beijing.
“It was a bit tricky,” Kiprop said. “Everybody was there, everybody was strong. Our tactic from our group (Kenyans) was to plan as a team and win a medal. Not alone, we elevated together. We were trying to push the best. Because of the humidity, it was better for me, sometimes I train in India, and the weather is similar to this.”
As Kiprop mentioned, the Kenyan team was exceptional as always, and two-time reigning world champion Edna Ngeringwony Kiplagat was fifth, a half second behind Sumgong. Kirwa represented her native Kenya until transferring to Bahrain in 2013, and she went on to win the marathon at the Asian Games last year.
“The race was so good, the pace was nice,” Kirwa said. “I tried to push the pace, but everybody was still strong. I was satisfied with the bronze medal.”
Rounding out the top 10 were Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia, Mai Ito of Japan, Tirfi Tsegaye of Ethiopia, and Kim Hye-Song of North Korea. Ito led after the five and 10-kilometer marks, before teammate Risa Shigetomo, who finished 14th, took over at 15. Dibaba was in front at 20, Shigemoto regained the lead at the halfway mark, and Kiplagat led at 30.
Serena Burla of the United States was 10th at 2:31:06, Esther Erb finished 24th in 2:38:15 and Heather Lieberg did not finish. Mayada Al-Sayed of Palestine did finish in third-to-last place, then had to be carted off in a stretcher. The top Chinese was Ding Changqin in 16th.
“I wanted to go out very conservatively,” Erb said. “I finished hard, that was the plan, the last seven K (kilometers) was the race for me. I executed pretty well. I wanted top 20, I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed, I did the best I could. A lot of Chinese people got pictures of me smiling today.”