NAIROBI, Kenya, April 16- Kenya completed the double sweep at the Boston Marathon on Monday as Wesley Korir and Sharon Cherop soared to the men’s and women titles in the 116th edition of the oldest marathon.
In what turned out to be a bad day for titleholders Geoffrey Mutai and Caroline Kilel, Korir and Cherop led podium shut outs in the both races in contrasting fashion to throw the Kenyan London Olympics marathon selection wide open.
Korir arrived at the tape in 2:12:40 with Levy Matebo (2:13:06) and Bernard Kipyego seven seconds adrift sealing the podium places with Cherop, who finished third here last year, taking her event in 2:31:50 in the race competed under intense heat as Jemimah Chelagat (2:31:53) and Georgina Rono (2:33:09) joined her among the medals.
The men’s race witnessed the overwhelming favourite, Mutai who won last year in the jaw-dropping 2:03:02 succumb from what organisers said were cramps as he withdrew in the 30km mark.
At that point, Mathew Kisorio, the eighth finisher at the New York Marathon last year, had opened up the lead with Levy Matebo in hot pursuit. Matebo then took over at Heart Break Hill before Korir, a biology major, caught up with the leader and ran him down for the finish.
“Being able to win the Boston is an amazing experience for me. To me, running Boston Marathon is an Olympic event I do not care what comes up after this after I won here today,” Korir told organisers after his epic win.
“I did not know that I would catch up with them. When they took, I knew the heat was too hot and I knew I would cramp up with the heat so I decided I would run with conservative pace to see whether I would catch up with them,” he added after winning $150,000 (Sh12.3m) top prize.
The new Boston king and graduate from University of Louisville, 29, pledged to fund an educational foundation back home.
In the women’s race, Cherop employed her familiarity of the course to split the field with defending champion, Kilel, Chelagat, Rono and New York titleholder, Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia giving spirited chase.
Kilel tangled with a water volunteer in the closing stages knocking her out of the stride as Cherop, Chelagat who won the Masai Mara Marathon last year, Rono and Dado went in the clear.
Another surge from Cherop saw the Ethiopian cut from the picture and as they came to the last 2km, Rono had also fallen off the pace to leave another gripping finish to the women’s race in the cards for the fifth successive time at the event.
With 800m to go, the Daegu bronze winner injected the decisive break that saw her establish what looked like a healthy lead but Chelagat pulled close as they charged for the tape but the more experienced runner took the victory, a first Marathon Majors win.
“I had an injury while training for this race three weeks ago and I was not sure I would be this strong but in the end of the day, I felt comfortable running in the heat,” the new champion told organisers after the race.
Cherop, one of the six Olympics probables in the women’s team is now set to nail down a place when the final squad is announced on April 30 but for Mutai and Kilel, their London dreams dissipated in the heat in front of the watching Athletics Kenya (AK) boss Isaiah Kiplagat.
1. Wesley Korir (KEN) 2hr 12min 40sec, 2. Levy Matebo (KEN) 2:13:06, 3. Bernard Kipyego (KEN) 2:13:13, 4. Jason Hartmann (USA) 2:14:31, 5. Wilson Chebet (KEN) 2:14:56, 6. Laban Korir (KEN) 2:15:29, 7. Michel Butter (NED) 2:16:38, 8. David Barmasai (KEN) 2:17:16, 9. Hideaki Tamura (JPN) 2:18:15, 10. Mathew Kisorio (KEN) 2:18:15
1. Sharon Cherop (KEN) 2:31:50, 2. Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (KEN) 2:31:52, 3. Georgina Rono (KEN) 2:33:09, 4. Firehiwot Dado (ETH) 2:34:56, 5. Diana Sigei (KEN) 2:35:40, 6. Rita Jeptoo (KEN) 2:35:53, 7. Mayumi Fujita (JPN) 2:39:11, 8. Nadezdha Leonteva (RUS) 2:40:40, 9. Svetlana Pretot (FRA) 2:40:50, 10. Sheri Piers (USA) 2:41:55
– Additional information from AFP