NEW DELHI, October 14- It was a double celebration for Kenya in the Commonwealth Games marathon as John Kelai and Irene Kosgei won the men’s and women’s races respectively on Thursday.
Kelai clinched gold after fending off the brutal Delhi heat to cross the line in 2:14.35 while Kosgei who tripped over a drinks table early on recovered well to win it in 2:34.32.
Irene Mogake finished behind Kosgei to get silver while Amos Matui claimed the bronze in the men’s race behind Australia’s Michael Shelley who took silver.
In hot and humid conditons, it was Kenya’s first Commonwealth marathon victory in 20 years and rounded off a superb Games for their athletics team.
The big and strong Kelai took control of the race with around 25 minutes to go when he made his move with a subtle increase in pace that took him away from the field.
Looking relaxed and controlled, he built on his lead to comfortably win the race.
The battle for second was far more interesting with Matui, Tanzanian defending champion Samson Ramadhani and Namibian Reinhold Iita switching positions as they battled for position.
But Ramadhani and Iita did too much too soon and they slowed considerably to let Shelley back into contention with two kilometres to go and the fight was then on between him and Matui for silver.
Shelley eventually triumphed with a smart, tactical run.
On the women’s side, the tall Kosgei, the fastest woman this year, and Mogake went shoulder-to-shoulder for much of the race, running as a team and talking to each other, before a charge to the finish.
In a race run in difficult circumstances with hot and humid weather, Kosgei proved the stronger of the two after taking the initiative with two kilometres to go.
For much of the race it looked like Namibia’s Beata Naigambo was destined for bronze but Weightman timed her race well and launched a challenge in the late stages.
She finally broke Naigambo and with a determined look on her face she upped her pace in a late bid to catch the Kenyans but the gap proved too big and she was forced to settle for third.
The race was an emotional affair following the death of 2002 and 2006 champion Kerryn McCann from Australia in December 2008 from breast cancer.