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London marathon conqueror Sumgong now targets Olympic gold

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Jemima Sumgong cuts the tape to win the London Marahon/PHOTO-Organisers
Jemima Sumgong cuts the tape to win the London Marahon/PHOTO-Organisers

NAIROBI, April 26 – After her conquest at the 2016 London Marathon, Jemima Sumgong hopes that the national selectors will cast their eyes her way as they pick Kenya’s team to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Sumgong surged to win her first ever major marathon despite a bad fall at the 35km mark in a time of 2:22:58 ahead of defending champion Tegest Tufa. Her previous marathon wins were in the Rotterdam and Las Vegas marathons.

Speaking to Capital Sport after arriving from London early Tuesday morning, Sumgong admitted she is hoping to get an Olympic nod and believes she is capable of bringing a gold medal in the women’s marathon back to the country, one that has eluded Kenya in the history of the Olympics.

“Actually, that is what I am hoping for and it has been my dream. After how I performed in London, I believe I can be able to get a gold medal back home if given an opportunity by the selectors. We have a good team with the likes of Mary (Keitany) and Florence (Kiplagat) I believe we can bring something home,” Sumgong told Capital Sport.

Thrice in a row, Kenya has had near misses on the Olympic gold with veteran Catherine Ndereba winning silver twice in 2008 and 2012, the same fate that befell Priscah Jeptoo in London 2012.  Sumgong however believes she can break the jinx and says she will be waiting for the selection even as she resumes training after a two week-rest.

The 31-year old who has a personal best of 2:20:48 expressed her excitement after winning a marathon major for the first time, having come close with second place finishes in New York and Boston. She disclosed that her tangle and fall at the 35-km mark pushed her to the first place finish saying she became more motivated.

Sumgong clutches on her head after taking a tumble at the 35km mark. She soldiered on to win the race/PHOTO-Organisers
Sumgong clutches on her head after taking a tumble at the 35km mark. She soldiered on to win the race/PHOTO-Organisers

“I didn’t even speak to anyone after that. I was just bruised on my head but I told myself if I catch up with the leaders, they will just see my back at the finish line. I think it was the motivation for me. Suddenly, I got energy and when I caught up with the leading pack and they had not accelerated, I told myself that was my chance,” an excited Sumgong told Capital Sport.

She adds: “I have never won a major marathon race before. All the time I came close and I have come second twice. To be honest, I didn’t even believe I had won at first. However, I am so grateful to God I did,” she added.

Sumgong also reckons it was a tough race with an elite pack of very experienced marathoners and opined the see-saw pace exhibited in the race was because no one wanted to commit and split the field.

“We were all very good marathoners in the race and we were afraid of each other. No one wanted to burst the pace in the fear they would be caught up with later when their energy levels had dropped. That’s why you find the pace was up and down,” she added.

Sumgong’s personal best is five minutes below the World Record set by Briton Paula Radcliffe in the 2013 London marathon and she believes with the right pacing and a strong group of athletes, the record might come under threat soon.

“I had never even thought of it as a matter of fact. But now, I believe we can go for it,” exclaimed Sumgong.

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