She had a heavy fall at a drinks station early in the race. But despite running with a bleeding knee, Irene Jerotich Kosgei went on to make history at the Commonwealth Games here on Thursday.
The 36-year-old became the first Kenyan to win the women's marathon in the Games' history. Her triumphant run came in 2 hrs, 34 mins and 32 secs.
Kosgei's teammate Irene Mogake who gave her company almost all through the 42.195-km event, took the silver while Australian Lisa Weightman got the bronze.
Kenya top in athletics
With John Kelai comfortably taking the men's title, it turned out to be a very happy day for Kenya, which also pipped Australia and finished top of the medals table in athletics with 11 golds, 10 silvers and 8 bronzes (Australia 11-6-3).
Kelai went on his knees and lifted his hands up in prayer soon after the victory which came in 2:14.35 secs. “I feel great. I am so humbled to win here,” said the 33-year-old. “I feel on top of the world. When you can win at this level, you know you have reached your peak.”
Kenya had not won a Commonwealth Games men's marathon in 20 years before Delhi but India has been a happy hunting ground for Kelai, a two-time winner of the Mumbai Marathon (2007, 2008) and this morning, he made his decisive break, moving away from his teammate Amos Matui with about 10km remaining.
“I saw my friend slowing down a bit. I was relaxed and I knew I could push the race,” said Kelai, who had a personal best 2:09, run in 2005.
While Kelai ran comfortably to the finish, there was a good fight for the next spot.
Australian Michael Shelly, who had weaved his way through the 23-man crowd after being in 13th spot at the 10-km mark, made a smart tactical move with just 2km to go and overtook Amos Matui for the silver with the Kenyan taking the bronze.
India's Ram Singh Yadav (2:21.24s) and Bining Lynkhoi (2:23.01) finished eighth and ninth respectively.
There was more drama in the women's section. Namibian Beata Naigambo, who had run into Kosgei which resulted in her fall at the drinks station, appeared to have an argument with the Kenyan for nearly a minute during the race.
But Kosgei regained her composure impressively and came back to the leading pack. She and her teammate Irene Mogake chatted away and traded leads a few times but with about 5 km to go, Kosgei went ahead and hung on.
The Kenyans had appeared set to take all the women's medals midway through the race but Australian Lisa Weightman, who stayed steady in the last few miles despite a surprising surging-and-dropping run, opened up the field and then bravely went on to take the bronze.
The lone Indian in the women's field, Preethi Lakshmi Rao, finished 11th in 3:08.14 secs.
Keywords: Commonwealth Games