NAIROBI, Kenya, April 11- The distance running supremacy battle between Kenya and Ethiopia played out on Sunday in the streets of Paris, Rotterdam and Milan where athletes from the former stamped their authority in style.
Fleet footed Benjamin Kiptoo and Priscah Jeptoo sealed commanding victories at Paris Marathon while in Rotterdam, Wilson Chebet and debutant Philes Ongori scooped the men and women titles although the anticipated world record assault failed to materialise.
Solomon Naibei got into the act in Milan, taking the men’s race but hopes of another Kenyan double were quashed by home runner, Marcella Mancini who won the corresponding women’s run.
Running in sunny and humid conditions and in a two-way battle in Rotterdam, Chebet took broke away from compatriot Vincent Kipruto the final stages to win with a fast 2:05:27 career best, the fastest time in the world this year.
Ongori made her debut over the distance an auspicious one, clocking 2:24:20 to beat Dutchwoman Hilda Kibet, who reached the finish in 2:24:27, also a personal best.
Rotterdam organisers had made a clever move by insuring a possible World record for USD $350,000 (Sh28m), with the hopes for a new World mark in the men’s race living on until the 25th kilometre.
Kipruto, Eliud Kiptanui, Chebet, Gilbert Kirwa and debutant Michael Kipyego as well as Ethiopians Feyisa Lilesa, Getu Feleke and Chele Dechasa – who were penned for the attack on Haile Gebrselassie’s 2:03:59 world record, went out very fast with six pacemakers.
Chebet accelerated around 41km and immediately opened a gap. At the finish on the Coolsingel where tens of thousands of spectators were cheering he came in with 2:05:27 run to become the fastest marathoner of 2011.
In the womens’ race, Kibet lead from the gun, running in a lead group of four with Ongori, Lishan Dula of Bahrain, and Shetaye Bedasa of Ethiopia at 30Km, reached in 1:43:17. At this Dula and Bedasa could not follow and it became a two-woman affair.
The debutante Ongori made her attack in the final kilometre to leave Kibet in her slipstream and closed the triumph in 2:24:20 with Kenyan born Dutchwoman the bridesmaid in a 2:24:27 career best. Kibet is a cousin of former World Half Marathon champion and record holder, Lornah Kiplagat, who also made the switch to Netherlands.
In Paris, Kiptoo sped off from compatriot Bernard Kipyego and Ethiopian Eshetu Wendimu to breast the tape in 2:06:31 with Kipyego coming home in 2:07:16 as Wendimu took the last podium place in 2:07:33.
In the women’s run, a magnificent finish landed Priscah Jeptoo the crown as she sped away from compatriot Agnes Kiprop who came in as the fastest runner in the field to a memorable victory achieved in 2:22:25, the quickest this year for a female runner.
Kiprop (2:24:43) was second as Ethiopia’s Koren Yal 2:26:57 romped home third.
The Kenyan party was extended to the streets of Milan where Naibei won the men’s event in the Milan City marathon on Sunday while Italian Marcella Mancini claimed victory in the women’s event.
In Milan, Naibei won in 2:20:38 with Italian Ruggero Pertile second and countryman Daniel Too in third. In the women’s race, Mancini’s winning time of 2:41:24 was well outside a world-class mark with Kenya’s Monica Kanyata Wangari second and another Italian Stefania Benedetti in third.