Shobukhova fails to finish while Keitany is out of the medals as Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana wins Olympic marathon gold
Tiki Gelana became the second Ethiopian woman to take Olympic marathon gold as she won in wet and cool conditions in an Olympic record 2:23:07, breaking clear in the last kilometre.
Meanwhile pre-race favourites Liliya Shobukhova and Mary Keitany – the second and third-fastest women of all-time respectively – had a bad day at the office. Shobukhova pulled up injured while Keitany faded in the closing stages and finished outside of the medals.
It meant that Kenya – despite having greater depth in this event than any other nation – are still yet to win an Olympic gold in the women’s marathon.
A torrential downpour soaked the athletes as they waited on the startline, and it eventually let up a few miles into the race. The rain came back in the closing stages, but despite the conditions the course was lined with thousands of cheering fans to support the athletes.
Priscah Jeptoo, who ran 2:20:14 in London this year and was second at the World Championhips in Daegu, had to settle for another silver medal, five seconds behind the Ethiopian.
As expected, this proved to be a Kenya-Ethiopia affair with possibly a Russian intervention but that didn’t come from 2:18:20 Chicago winner Shobukhova as she dropped out after halfway. Instead the main opposition came from Tatyana Arkhipova (nee Petrova), and it was she who took a surprise bronze.
She had previously been a steeplechaser, finishing fourth in Beijing and taking the silver medal at both the 2006 Europeans and 2007 World Championships, boasting a speedy 9:09:19 PB. Her marathon credentials looked less impressive with a PB of 2:25:01, but she smashed that by more than a minute and a half.
The big favourite was Keitany, a two-time winner at the Virgin London Marathon and the African record-holder, but despite doing much of the work, she ultimately finished outside of the medals.
The first 5km was passed by the leaders in 17:20 with 10 seconds covering 66 runners. That was down to 54 at 10km which was passed in 34:46 and 52 at 15km in 52:10.
Italian record-holder Valeria Straneo officially led at 20km in 1:09:26 and halfway in 1:13:13. That was when the real race began and the Kenyans picked up the pace.
Keitany was ahead at 25km in 1:26:23, which meant that 5km stretch was covered in 16:55. Also in the group at this time were fellow Kenyans Edna Kiplagat and Jeptoo and Ethiopians Gelana, Mare Dibaba and Aselefech Mergia. Four seconds back was US champion Shalene Flanagan.
At 30km Keitany still led at 1:42:44, having covered that 5km in 16:21. Arkhipova had moved up to sixth, nine seconds back, and she was two seconds up on Flanagan as Mergia faded badly to 14th.
Dibaba dropped off at 31km and she was quickly passed by the Russian who caught the lead pack at the 20 mile mark which they passed a fraction inside 1:50. A surge from Keitany saw the Russian drop 10 metres back along with world champion Kiplagat, but Arkhipova responded while Kiplagat dropped back further and it was down to four.
At 35km, the Russian led on 1:59:29 with her only medal challengers Gelana, Keitany and Jeptoo, as they ran a mere 17:15 for that 5km. Kiplagat was four seconds back then a 22 second gap to Dibaba and Flanagan with Albina Mayorova and Jessica Augusto on 2:00:12, and therefore around 150 metres back on the leaders.
Arkhipova briefly dropped back a few metres at 38km around Blackfriars but got back as the quartet passed 40km in 2:16:10. After 2:19 of running, the first one to slow was Keitany and she dropped back and then Gelana kicked in and the Russian faded at 2:20 and it was down to two.
Gelana Gelana – the niece of 2000 Olympic champion Gezahegn Abera – gradually moved away and she had a 10-metre lead as they passed Buckingham Palace at 41.5km. She kicked hard all the way down the Mall and she won in 2:23:07, having covered the second half in less than 70 minutes. The time was four minutes outside the 2:18:58 Ethiopian record she set earlier this year, but today was all about getting gold and was the biggest victory of her career.
Jeptoo was second in 2:23:12 as Arkhipova took bronze in 2:23:29 with Keitany a tired fourth in 2:23:56.
The fastest runner over the final section was Ukranian Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko, who was just 15th at Daegu. She was 23rd at 25km, 18th at 30km, 13th at 35km, sixth at 40km and she finished fifth in a national record 2:24:32.
With four women under 2:24 and 10 under 2:26, it was the highest-standard women’s marathon in Olympic history. And the wettest.
At halfway, the British team’s late replacement Freya Murray was 46th in 74:12, but ended up a solid 44th in 2:32:14 and was the first Briton to finish. Claire Hallisey was 65th at halfway in 1:17:04 and ended up 57th in 2:35:39.
Mara Yamauchi – who finished sixth in Beijing four years ago – didn’t even to get to 10km as she pulled out with a heel injury which she has been carrying for some time.
“I thought about withdrawing but it’s not that bad and I could do the race,” she said. “It wasn’t to be and I need to rest it”
Defending champion Constantina Dita finished 86th in 2:41:34.