Peres Jepchirchir and Brigit Kosgei, two world record holders, have given Kenya a double in the slowest women’s Olympic marathon in history, which ended in 2:27:20 for the winner and which had the Peruvian Gladys Tejeda as the best Latin American, in 27th place.
Kosgei crossed the finish line 16 seconds after her partner, and the American anthropologist Molly Seidel climbed with them to the podium as third with a time of 2:27:46, after having contributed to the final selection of the race.
The Peruvian Tejeda rounded off a great performance by finishing with a time of 2:34:21, her best mark of the season, in a very commendable 27th place.
It was the slowest of the ten women’s marathon that have been contested in the Olympic Games, marked by the heat and humidity, which forced the organizers to advance the start one hour (6.00 in the morning).
Jepchirchir, two-time world half marathon champion and world record holder for this distance with 1h05: 16, had a brilliant Olympic debut after having won, last December, the Valencia marathon with 2h17: 16, the best world record of 2020.
The temperature at the time of the start was 26 degrees with 78 percent humidity, and it was rising to 30 degrees when the first runners reached the finish line.
None of the Rio 2016 medalists, Kenyan Jemima Jelagat, Bahraini Eunice Kirwa and Ethiopian Mare Dibaba, were at the start. The three Kenyans started as favorites: Kosgei, world record holder with 2h14: 04; Jepchirchir, the queen of the half marathon, and Ruth Chepngetich, current world marathon champion.
Japan, a country that loves this race, pinned its hopes on Mao Ichiyama, who finished eighth with 2h30: 13.
By km 5 the world champion passed with a partial of 18:02 in front of thirty runners.
The half marathon was covered in 1h15: 14, with Jepchirchir leading a group reduced to a dozen with a strong African predominance. Peruvian Gladys Tejeda was already the first Latin American, 14 seconds behind the first. Spanish Marta Galimany was in 35th place, 55 seconds behind.
The advance party consisted of the three Kenyans, Dereje, the Americans Molly Seidel and Sally Kipyego, the German Melat Yisak Kejeta, the Japanese Mao Ichiyama, the Bahraini Eunice Chumba and the Namibian Helalia Johannes.
At km 30 Seidel, a downhill skier, was the only white runner at the top and acted unapologetically against the African women. His work reduced the group to eight and began to hurt even the world champion, Chepngetich, who went into crisis at that point in the race and had to stop.
Kosgei had not run a marathon since his fourth London win in October at 2:18:58, and Tokyo was his debut in a major championship.
At km 35 the world record holder was accompanied by Jepchirchir, Seidel, the Israeli Lonah Salpeter and the Bahraini Eunice Chumba, although this yielded in the next. Except for the American, all born in Kenya.
When the two Kenyans started shooting in 38, they accused Seidel and especially Salpeter, who had to stop to breathe. The gold and silver medals were to be decided in a heads-up between Kosgei and Jepchirchir, but, without waiting for the sprint, the Valencia heroine attacked in 39 with her powerful stride and left the smaller Kosgei behind.
Roza Derehe saved the Ethiopian honor with fourth place (2:28:38).