The rain frightened most of the marathoners, but not Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia, who enjoyed it to win the gold with an Olympic record time of 2 hours 23 minutes and 7 seconds.
“The rain makes it very interesting. As soon as the rain started, I said to myself, ‘Thank God’. I love running in the rain. I have been doing that since I was a small child.
“I slipped in the middle of the race and my elbow is still injured. But I didn’t feel any pain during the race,” said Tiki, who had won the Rotterdam marathon this season with a faster time of 2:18.58.
“I was confident before the race that I could win it. I have been saving my energy for this. It really paid off. I don’t know what to say, I am speechless,” she said.
She became the second Ethiopian woman to win the marathon in the Olympics, after Fatuma Roba did so in Atlanta in 1996.
“Fatuma is my hero. I am extremely happy to share history with her. This gold medal is a gift for all Ethiopians,” said Tiki. “She is my idol. I have been following her story since I was a child.
“Unfortunately, I still haven’t met her. I would love to meet her. She is my inspiration and it is a great pleasure to share history with her,” she said.
“Winning a gold in the marathon is very special for me. Marathon is my life. We Ethiopians think marathon is our national sport. So this gold medal has a great value in Ethiopia,” she said.
Tiki Gelana said that she would not be swayed to compete in track and field. “I will stick with the marathon. There are a lot of great track and field athletes in Ethiopia. I will continue as a marathon runner,” she said.
Though the Sydney marathon champion Gezhagne Abera is believed to be her uncle, Tiki clarified that he was just a good friend and one of her heroes.
“He always encourages me, gives me advice and support as much as he can. He is a great guy and legend,” she said.
The silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya did not like the rain one bit. “In the rain it is difficult because muscles contract,” Priscah said.
“Marathon racing is good because when you run well you have money to invest when you retire. Also you have something to put away for your children. So it is good for us,” she said.
Bronze medallist Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova of Russia, a former steeplechase silver medallist in the World championship, could not believe that she could beat the Africans to the medal.
“The steeplechase really helped me increase my speed, and today it also helped me jump over the puddles,” she laughed.
“I have been waiting for this medal for a long time. I have been training and doing everything I could to get this medal. This is much more important for me than the steeplechase medals,” Arkhipova said.
Tatyana Arkhipova struggled to keep pace initially but once she caught up with the leaders, she held on to them to land a medal.
The result: 1. Tiki Gelana (Eth) 2:23:07, 2. Priscah Jeptoo (Ken) 2:23:12, 3. Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova (Rus) 2:23:29.