Despite heavy rain and slow splits for the first half of Sunday's London Olympic women's marathon, a fierce four-way battle over the final miles pushed Ethiopia's Tiki Gelana to an Olympic record victory in 2:23:07, five seconds ahead of Kenya's Priscah Jeptoo.
The two runners were visibly straining in the final half-mile, with the effort etched on both of their faces. The five-second difference was the smallest between first and second in Olympic women's marathon history—and it meant that Kenya has still never won gold in this race. Tiki blew a kiss into the air just before she crossed the finish line,
The bronze went to the surprising Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova, a 9:09 steeplechaser from Russia, in 2:23:29. The favored Mary Keitany of Kenya was fourth in 2:23:56.
The weather, on a course with a plethora of sharp turns and a slick cobblestone section, kept the early pace down, and the “lead pack” at mile ten still contained 28 runners. But Tiki covered the second half of the race in 1:09:55.
"As soon as the rain started, I said to myself, 'Thank God. I love running in the rain,' " Tiki, 24, said. "I have been doing that since I was a small child. I slipped in the middle of the race, and my elbow is still sore. But I didn't feel any pain during the race."
At mile 18, the marathon had been looking like a Kenya-Ethiopia duet meet, with the six athletes from those two countries spread out across the road in the lead.
The winner, Tiki, was in the group at the front halfway through the race. That group broke away as the miles passed, and with less than two miles to go it was Tiki and Jeptoo.
"I was confident before the race that I could win it," Tiki said.
Tiki is the Ethiopian national record holder, having run a 2:18:58 in Rotterdam in April.
Flanagan, China's Zhu Xiaolin, and Portugal's Jessica Augosto, whose turnover was the most brisk, were staying close. Soon after, Aselefech Mergia lost contact with the lead group. But then, alas, so did everyone except a tenacious Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova of Russia. Before mile 20, Flanagan was well back in seventh.
She became the second Ethiopian to win the Olympic women's marathon. Fatuma Roba won the gold in 1996. "This gold medal is a gift for all Ethiopians," Tiki said.
Born in October 23, 1987, in the famous Bekoji, Tiki first major competition was the 2005 Great Ethiopian Run where she finished fourth. She then competed in the 3000, 5000, 10000 meters races and has also participated in the 10 and 30 kilometers outdoor competitions. She then started competing in half marathon and marathon races.
“Fatuma was my role model and ever since I was a child I always wanted to be like her,” Tiki said.
(Compiled By Tewodros Kebkab)