Bai Xue won the women’s marathon to give China its first ever gold medal in the event at the world championships.

On a sunny, warm day, the 20-year-old Bai broke away from Yoshimi Ozaki of Japan in the last 1.2 kilometres to cross the line at the Brandenburg Gate in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 15 seconds.

“This was my first time to take part in the world championships and only my second time to take part in an international marathon,” the Chinese runner said. “When I came here I did not think at all that I could win the gold medal. My only aim was to show a good performance.”

Ozaki took silver in 2:25.25, and Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia picked up the bronze in 2:25.32.

Running in a pack of a dozen athletes for more than half of the race on the winding course through downtown Berlin, Nailiya Yulamanova of Russia finally led a break away group with Bai, Ozaki, Mergia and Zhu Xiaolin of China at about the 30-kilometre mark.

Yulamanova pushed the pace, and Zhu dropped off first. But the Russian couldn’t keep up with the trio of Bai, Ozaki and Mergia as the race wore on, and faded at the 35-kilometre mark. The Russian finished eighth.

With two kilometre to go, Bai ditched her white hat and picked up the pace, and neither Ozaki nor Meriga could keep up down the stretch.

Bai’s win gives China its first gold at the 2009 world championships, and its first ever marathon gold at the worlds. The country’s previous best finish was Zhou Chunxiu’s silver at the 2007 edition.

“I am very happy to win this championships here,” Bai said. “But I think I was also a little bit lucky because many of the top runners were not here today.”

Paula Radcliffe of Britain and teammate Mara Yamauchi were both out injured and Irina Mikitenko of Germany, a two-time winner of the London Marathon, withdrew from the competition following the recent death of her father.

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