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Keflezighi captures New York title

NEW YORK, November 2- Meb Keflezighi became the first US man in more than two decades to win the New York City Marathon on Sunday, while Derartu Tulu ended Paula Radcliffe's two-year grip on the women's title.MEB_KEFLEZHIGI_Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, earned his first major marathon with a time of 2hr 09min 15sec.

The 34-year-old athlete, who was born in Eritrea and became a US citizen in 1998, pointed to the "USA" on his singlet as he approached the finish line, eliciting cheers from the crowd as he became the first American man to win since 1982.

"The USA gave me all the opportunities there is in education, sports and lifestyle," he said. "To be able to represent the USA is a big thing for me."

Keflezighi pulled away from four-time Boston Marathon champion Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya at the 23-mile mark. Cheruiyot was second in 2:09:56 and Morocco’s Jaouad Gharib third in 2:10:25.

Alberto Salazar was the last US man to win the New York title, capturing three straight from 1980-82.

Keflezighi’s victory capped his comeback from a stress fracture in his hip, which was diagnosed after his disappointing performance in the US Olympic trials in New York two years ago.

That setback in 2007 was made even worse by the death that day of his friend Ryan Shay, who collapsed and died during the race.

On Sunday, an emotional Keflezighi said his tears were in memory of Shay.

Ethiopia’s Tulu pulled away in the final mile to beat Russian Ludmila Petrova, winning in 2hr 28min 52sec.

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Petrova, 41, finished second for the second year in a row, in 2:29:00, and France’s Christelle Daunay was third in 2:29:16.

Two-time defending champion Radcliffe of Britain was fourth.

Radcliffe, the world record-holder, faded from the lead group at the 22 mile mark, and clutched her left leg as if in pain after finishing in 2:29:27.

Radcliffe, who had won three of the last five New York titles, said she had tendinitis in her knee.

Radcliffe, 35, has had a difficult year, undergoing bunion surgery on her foot which caused her to miss the London Marathon.

She did not run competitively for almost 10 months because of an assortment of injuries and the surgery but had hoped all her health problems were behind her.

Tulu, 37, won Olympic 10,000m gold in 1992 and 2000, and took bronze at the 2004 Athens Games.

She also captured World Championship gold at 10,000m in 2001 – the same year she finished third in the London Marathon.

She improved on her previous best New York City Marathon finish – a third place in her only previous appearance in 2005.

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Tulu decided to enter the race after a strong performance at a half-marathon in Philadelphia on September 20.

"I did not come here necessarily expecting to win," she said, "but I did expect to be a strong competitor."

The Ethiopian demonstrated her speed as she surged past Petrova heading into Central Park and cruised through the final 300 yards.

"In the last 5K, I knew I could win the race," Tulu said.

Radcliffe, meanwhile, was struggling.

Radcliffe said that she had felt a "twinge" in her left hamstring in training two weeks ago and had battled tendinitis since.

By the halfway point of the race, she said, it was a major factor.

"It felt great, then at 11 miles, it just went," Radcliffe said. "For the last miles I was just thinking just hang in there as long as I could. Just try to stay with them."

Radcliffe didn’t talk much about the injury prior to the race, so when her early pace was slow the other contenders cautiously stuck close by her.

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The winning women’s time was the slowest since 1990, when Poland’s Wanda Panfil won in 2:30:45.

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