Cheyech eyes Saitama hattrick, 2020 Olympics slot
Kenya’s Flomena Cheyech Daniel expressed her intention to seal the Saitama International Marathon hattrick as she defended her crown at the Japanese prefecture on Sunday.
Cheyech, who displayed a final great kick to break away from Bahrain’s Shitaye Eshete in the final stretch and win in 2:28:39, said winning the title again next year would take her closer to earning a place in Kenya’s 2020 Olympics line-up.
“I wasn’t in very good shape, so I am very happy to defend my title,” the Commonwealth champion who set a PB of 2:21:22 in Paris earlier this year said.
“As a defending champion, I did not want to lose. I would like to win again next year. That will be a great step to the 2020 Olympics.”
Strong winds resulted in it being the slowest winning time in the history of the event, but it was nonetheless an exciting race as just three seconds separated the top two finishers.
“The final meters were very tough for me because I thought Eshete was stronger,” said Cheyech, who finished fourth at this year’s World Championships, just three seconds shy of a medal.
“My husband ran the last 400 metres alongside me, cheering at the same time, and it really helped,” she added.
Japan’s Kaori Yoshida, who was second two years ago, took off from the start, but she had been reeled in by seven other women by the two-kilometre point, forming a lead pack of eight women.
They went on to pass five kilometres in 17:49, 10 kilometres in 35:28 and 15 kilometres in 53:02.
When Japan’s Reia Iwade surged after 16 kilometres, the lead pack was split into two. The first group included Iwade, Cheyech, Eshete and Ethiopia’s Bekelech Daba, while the chasing trio comprised Yoshida, Britain’s Charlotte Purdue and Philes Ongori.
The lead pack continued to run together for the next 13 kilometres with Iwade doing the most of the leading into the wind before dropping back at 29 kilometres, leaving Cheyech, Eshete and Daba in front.
Eshete surged to the front at 31 kilometres, leaving behind Cheyech and Daba before being caught again by the pair two kilometres later.
Daba lost contact at 37 kilometres, leaving Cheyech and Eshete to duel it out for the final five kilometres. They continued exchanging surges before starting the long sprint to the finish with about 700 metres to go.
Cheyech eventually outsprinted Eshete, winning by three seconds in 2:28:39 to become the first runner to successfully defend their title at the Saitama Marathon.
1 Flomena Cheyech Daniel (KEN) 2:28:39
2 Shitaye Eshete Habtegebrel (BRN) 2:28:42
3 Bekelech Daba (ETH) 2:30:06
4 Charlotte Purdue (GBR) 2:30:34
5 Reia Iwade (JPN) 2:31:10
6 Philes Ongori (KEN) 2:32:00
7 Sinead Diver (AUS) 2:33:00
8 Monika Stefanowicz (POL) 2:38:30
-Material sourced from iaaf.org
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