London Marathon winner claims Kenya’s first ever gold in the event at the Games, as Britons Alyson Dixon and Sonia Samuels get top 30 spots
Jemima Sumgong is a strong competitor. At April’s London Marathon she recovered from a heavy fall to take the title and on the streets of Rio on Sunday she battled hot conditions, tight turns and a top field to claim Kenya’s very first women’s Olympic marathon gold.
Having formed part of the lead group throughout, the 31-year-old saved enough for a final surge which saw her pull clear ahead of Bahrain’s Eunice Kirwa and Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba in the last couple of kilometres. Clocking 2:24:04, Sumgong won Kenya’s first gold of the 2016 Games to beat Kirwa by nine seconds, with world champion Dibaba a further 17 seconds back.
With her win, Sumgong went one better than Kenya’s past three consecutive silvers claimed by Catherine Ndereba in 2004 and 2008 and Priscah Jeptoo in 2012 in this event, recording splits of 72:57 and 71:07 on her way to victory.
“I am very grateful,” said the winner, who had been left disappointed after her fourth place finish at last year’s World Championships.
“I had prepared that I would move out at kilometre 35 and my body was responding very well,” she added. “It was very hot but everybody had to get through the heat. I had to control my body and listen to my body very carefully.”
On bouncing back after Beijing, she said: “I was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to win a medal or make it on the podium, but I knew one time, one day, I’d be somewhere. I’m so happy, I feel extremely proud. I can’t even explain what I’m feeling.”
Dibaba was followed over the line by Tirfi Tsegaye in 2:24:47 but their fellow Ethiopian Tigist Tufa, who won the 2015 London Marathon and had been among the favourites, started to hobble at around 18km and after slowing to a walk was forced to drop out.
Dibaba, who could have become the second female after Portugal’s Rosa Mota to win both world and Olympic marathon titles, later explained how she had suffered stomach ache in the closing stages so dropped back.
Volha Mazuronak of Belarus was fifth in 2:24:48, while the US trio were all in the top 10 – Shalane Flanagan clocking 2:25:26 for sixth, Desiree Linden 2:26:08 for seventh and Amy Cragg 2:28:25 for ninth.
Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack recorded splits of 75:23 and 75:59 to move from 40th at halfway to 20th in a PB of 2:31:22, while Britain’s Alyson Dixon and Sonia Samuels both secured top 30 spots. Dixon ran splits of 76:23 and 77:48 to move from 50th at halfway to 28th, while Samuels’ splits were 76:23 and 78:13 to take her from 51st at the halfway point to 30th at the finish.