Kenyan glory, but SA fades

2008-08-25 00:00

The South Africans finished well down the field as Kenyan Sammy Wanjiru swept to victory in the marathon on the last day of the Beijing Olympics.

Wanjiru made it a full house of Olympic titles in middle distance and long distance races for Kenya's men as he ended their title drought in the event and broke the long-standing Olympic record as well.

The 21-year-old timed 2hours 6minutes 32seconds, breaking the 24-year-old Olympic record set by Carlos Lopes.

He beat Morocco's two-time world champion Jaouad Gharib (2:07,16) for the gold while Tsegay Kebede of Ethiopia took the bronze.

"In Kenya, we have many medals, but I'm glad to have this one," said Wanjiru, who learnt to run the marathon when he left for school in Japan aged 15.

"It feels good to make history hereÉ for Kenya and win the gold," added Wanjiru, who is keen to break the world record next year.

South African's Hendrik Ramaala and Norman Dlomo both faded badly to finish well down the field.

Ramaala fell off the pace, dropping from 11th into the 20s and going through half-way in 65:21. He slowed further in the last quarter to finish in 2:22,43, losing three positions in the final 2.195km to finish 44th.

"They tried to destroy the opposition and I was first," said Ramaala, "For me it was a medal or nothing and once I saw I wasn't getting a medal I panicked and my mind started playing games".

The Johannesburg athlete, who won the New York marathon in 2004, continued, "I seem to be fine for city marathons, but the championships are different. I trained for a sub 2:08, I never did enough speed training or the 10 km speed for a 2:06: it was totally unexpected".

Dlomo initially went with the group and moved from 19th to fifteenth at halfway before reversing the progression to finish 53rd in 2:24:48.

"The pace in the beginning was too fast; I thought I could make top ten but they just kept pushing. Winning a championship with a top 2:10 is no longer possible. I expected under 2:10, but not 2:06. I decided to drop back and run my race.

I knew I couldn't get a medal but thought perhaps a PB was possible," said Dlomo, who is a dominant force on the South African circuit where he is constantly a front runner.

With both South Africans feeling drained on the day, there has to be some questions as to the validity of flying so far in the days up to the marathon, and whether training in a low humidity, high temperature venue on the Asian continent would not have been better preparation.

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