Eritrean teenager wins first title of the 2015 IAAF World Championships
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie has a near famous name but few thought he was a likely champion and he wasn’t mentioned in the official IAAF men’s marathon preview or the Athletics Weekly one.
That wasn’t really surprising. Now aged just 19, he ran 2:09:18 aged 18 at Chicago and improved to 2:07:47 in Hamburg in April. His 10,000m PB of 28:33.37 was set as a 16-year-old. There is speculation over his age but he did finish seventh in the junior race at the World Cross Country Championships in 2013.
However, a superb last 5km on Saturday saw him win easily in a hot Beijing in a time of 2:12:27, 40 seconds clear of 2:04:48 performer Yemane Tsegay from Ethiopia.
Much of the pre-race speculation was on the performances of world record-holder Dennis Kimetto and 2:03:33 runner Wilson Kipsang but neither finished and the only Kenyan to make the line in the stadium was Mark Korir, who was a lowly 22nd in 2:21:19, over 15 minutes down on his PB 2:05:49.
The race had started slowly with one of the 10km fun runners leading the way as a bemused championships field watched on.
The first 5km took a pedestrian 16:06 and 61 of the 67 starters were in touch. The 10km saw a slight raising in pace with Morpeth Harrier Ser-Od Bat-Ochir of Mongolia responsible for a slight acceleration for those bemoaning the lack of British interest in the event.
Seven seconds covered the first 37 at this stage as Shumi Dechasa was officially ahead in 31:51
The approximate 2:15 tempo was maintained through 15km with Dechasa ahead in 47:48, and while 37 were still there, including all the big names, the spread was now 10 seconds.
By the time the race had reached an hour, the pace had picked up so the pack was down to 22. European champion Daniele Meucci was ahead at 20km in 63:23, two seconds clear of team-mate Ruggero Pertile. That split at 15:35 was the quickest of the race and the first serious acceleration to sub-5-minute miling.
After easing back at the drinks station, Meucci then went again and at 25km he was ahead on 79:16, two seconds up on Pertile with Dechasa third and now only 21 athletes were now in the fight for medals.
By 30km though it was the turn of Tsepo Mathibelle of Lesotho to forge clear and he had a 13 second lead on 1:35:02 with Pertile a clear second on 1:35:15. The lead group numbered 16 and Ghebreslassie was the last of these in 1:35:25.
The muscular Lesothan, who resembled a boxer more than a marathoner, was still 10 seconds clear at 35km in 1:50:38 but the Eritrean had moved up 15 places, having covered that section in a brisk 15:21, with Tsegay up to third and Ugandan Munyo Solomon Mutai a second back in third and then a nine second gap to Lelisa Desisa and world and Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich. All the big name Kenyans had disappeared.
Ghebreseslassie was quickly past a fading Mathibelle as was Tsegay, and though looking relaxed compared to a grimacing Ethiopian, he was caught and the battle for gold was back to a two-way battle.
That was only temporary though and as the clock passed two hours, the Eritrean went again and having covered the previous 5km in a vicious 14:53, he was now 12 seconds clear on 2:05:41 and going away to an easy victory.
Mutai was now an isolated third, 27 seconds behind Tsegay, but almost a minute clear of a fading Dechasa.
The order stayed the same with the top three in the last 2km though Pertile got back up to fourth to be top European with Meucci eighth.
Kiprotich finished sixth and with Jackson Kiprop tenth (and Mutai third), Uganda can claim to be the top nation.
Mathibelle eventually finished 14th in 2:17:17 and Bat-Ochir 38th in 2:32:09.
The organisation at the finish confused athletes and many runners continued through the line and some even made it to the back straight, 200m past the line, before being stopped.