Geoffrey Kirui delivers Kenya’s first gold in London


Kenya's Geoffrey Kipkorir Kirui (L) and Ethiopia's Tamirat Tola lead the men's marathon athletics event ...
Kenya's Geoffrey Kipkorir Kirui (L) and Ethiopia's Tamirat Tola lead the men's marathon athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in central London on August 6, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK

Geoffrey Kirui struck Kenya’s first gold medal at the IAAF World Athletics championships in London, edging an enthralling battle with Ethiopian Tamirat Tola to clock home in 2:08:27 on Sunday.

The former Boston marathon winner thus extended Kenya’s record as the most successful nation in the history of this event at the global track and field competition, finishing 1 minute 22 seconds ahead of Tola.

Tanzania’s Alphonse Simbu settled for the least podium finish, just two seconds adrift of Tola in 2:09.41.

Home runner Callum Hawkins finished with a personal best of  of 2:10.17 as Gideon Kipketer, who seemed set for bronze for much of the race before slipping behind completed the top five in 2:10.56.

Tola, the Olympics 10,000m bronze who was the fastest in the field with his season’s best (SB) of 2:04.11, led the field through the halfway point in 1:05.28, accompanied by Kirui and Kipketer, as Wanjiru followed them a couple of seconds behind.

After an hour and a half, at the 30km mark, the leading pair of Tola and Kirui were 23 seconds clear of Kipketer, and the third Kenyan, Wanjiru, was 46 seconds adrift.

Tola took charge of the race again and opened a gap of around 20m over his Kenyan rival Kirui. Kirui looked like he was destined to settle for a silver with the pace being projected to a finishing time of around 2hr 10min.

Kirui was not done with the Ethiopian as he emerged from under the railway bridge for the fourth and final time, the Kenyan now commanding a clear lead, with Tola trailing him by 20 metres, and not looking as if he had any push to alter the order.

The race was not kind to Kipketer, who now found himself chasing Simbu, for the bronze medal. Kirui was just 20 minutes away from gold, looking increasingly stronger in the men’s marathon. But the former leader Tola was suffering at second place with Simbu looking fresh.

At the homestretch Kirui looked buoyant, giving the thumbs up to the fans gathered in front of him, making a water stop as he approached St Paul’s for the fourth and final time.

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