New record for Jepchirchir but Cheptegei misses out at world half-marathons

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Winner Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya celebrates on the podium after the women’s final run during the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland on 17 October 2020.
Winner Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya celebrates on the podium after the women’s final run during the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland on 17 October 2020.
Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images

Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir lowered her own world record for an all-women's half marathon at the world championships in Gdynia on Saturday but serial record-breaker Joshua Cheptegei missed out on a medal in the men's race.

The 27-year-old Jepchirchir, who also won world half marathon gold in 2016, produced a final sprint to take the women's title in 1hr 5min 16sec.

That bettered the previous best set by Jepchirchir herself in Prague on September 5 of 1hr 5min 34sec.

"It's unbelievable," said Jepchirchir.

"My goal was to win this race. I did not expect that I would beat the world record, but I realised that it could happen when we passed 20km.

"It was a little bit windy, but the course was good for me."

She came home just two seconds clear of Germany's Melat Yisak Kejeta, who smashed the European women-only record to take silver in 1hr 5min 18secs, with Ethiopia's Yalemzerf Yehualaw a further second behind.

On a cold and windy morning, a group of favourites broke away early during the four-lap race but three of them suffered falls to disappear from contention.

Defending champion Netsanet Gudeta's race almost came to an abrupt stop as the leaders took a 90-degree turn on to the seafront, the defending champion taking a fall and losing several seconds to the leaders.

It was a gap she would never close, the Ethiopian slipping farther behind during the third lap.

Turkey's Yasemin Can led a group of seven through 10km in 30mins 47sec after which Jepchirchir began to take control.

The Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh, world record holder in a mixed race (1hr 4min 31sec), then tangled with Joyciline Jepkosgei and both crashed to the ground, leaving Jepchirchir, Kejeta and Yehualaw to battle it out in the final sprint.

Cheptegei disappointment

Jacob Kiplimo took the men's race in a new championship record of 58min 49sec but his Ugandan compatriot Cheptegei, the favourite for the title, could only finish fourth.

Kiplimo, who turns 20 next month, had never raced the 21.1km distance before but he showed nerves of steel as he and the Kenyan Kibiwott Kandie broke away from the leading pack after the 15km mark.

The 2017 world junior cross champion then pushed clear in the last few metres to edge Kandie by five seconds and secure his first major title.

The Ethiopian Amedework Walelegn took bronze, coming in another 14 seconds behind.

Cheptegei finished fourth in 59min 21sec, over half a minute behind Kiplimo, a rare disappointment for an athlete who has lit up a truncated 2020 season.

"I couldn't give more than that," said Cheptegei, who set a world 10,000m record in Valencia just 10 days ago.

"I have been training more for 5 000m and 10 000m so I was not well prepared for it, but I'm very happy - running a sub-60 (minute) is really special for me.

"My body was really going very well but I discovered I still had some fatigue in the legs."

The 24-year-old had only made three outings this year but each time had broken a world record.

In February he claimed the world 5km road record in Monaco. Then, after a period of coronavirus lockdown at home in Uganda, he returned to Monaco and, in his first race back, wiped almost two seconds off Kenenisa Bekele's 16-year-old track world record time over the 5,000m as he clocked 12min 35.36sec.

Earlier this month in Valencia, he smashed Bekele's 10 000m track world record, taking off over six seconds as he clocked 26mins 11sec.

Those efforts may have counted against him as he attempted the half-marathon distance for the first time in competition.

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