Edna Kiplagat recovered from a fall late in the race Saturday to lead a Kenyan sweep in the women’s marathon on the opening day of the athletics world championships.
The New York Marathon champion won the race in 2 hours, 28 minutes, 43 seconds to claim the first gold medal of the competition.
As she entered the second-to-last water station, Kiplagat crossed in front of team-mate Sharon Cherop, tripped and fell to the ground. The mishap allowed Priscah Jeptoo to pull even with her team-mates before Kiplagat pulled away with three kilometres left.
“I was a little shocked,” Kiplagat said of the fall. “What was in my mind was I wasn’t sure if I was going to pick up the pace again but later on I realized I could and was very happy.”
Cherop finished 17 seconds behind in 2-29-00 for silver and Jeptoo took third in 2-29-14.
Kiplagat, Cherop and Jeptoo broke away from the pack at the 32-kilometre mark to make it a four-woman race along with Bezunesh Bekele of Ethiopia, who finished fourth.
“After 32 kilometres I tried to run in the front,” Kiplagat said. “When I looked up two times, I saw the group was not running so fast so I tried to push more and felt I was going to win the race.”
Azusa Nojiri of Japan led for much of the first half but faded after the 20-kilometre mark. It was a disappointing result for Japan, which had expected to medal in the event. The best Japan could manage was a fifth-place finish by Yukiko Akaba.
The women’s marathon was run on a multi-lap loop course in downtown Daegu. The temperature was 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit) at the start of the race with high humidity.
Kiplagat, who was third at the London Marathon with a personal best of 2-20-48, was running in her first world championships.
She said she hoped her winning performance in Daegu will result in selection for next year’s London Olympics.
“I hope if everything goes well and my country chooses me, I would be happy to go,” Kiplagat said.
It was Kenya’s third sweep of the podium at the world championships but the first in marathon. Kenya swept the men’s steeplechase in 1997 and 2007.
“I saw Edna move in front after 30 kilometers so I decided to follow her and fight for my country,” Cherop said. “We are happy to be 1-2-3 and it is a great victory for Kenya.”