TOKYO: Kenya’s Michael Kipyego tore up the script to win the Tokyo Marathon with former world record holder Haile Gebrselassie left floundering in fourth position yesterday.
The former 3000m steeplechase specialist Kipyego clocked a winning time of 2’07:37 in chilly conditions for his first marathon victory.
Gebrselassie broke away from last year’s winner Hailu Mekonnen before the 36km mark but Kipyego powered past the fading Ethiopian with around four kilometres to go.
The result leaves Gebrselassie’s Olympic hopes in doubt after three Ethiopians ran below two 2’05:00 in the Dubai Marathon last month.
Gebrselassie finished in a disappointing time of 2’08:17 after targeting a sub-2’05:00 run to boost his chances of securing a spot on the Ethiopia team for this year’s London Olympics.
The 38–year–old twice Olympic and four–time 10,000m gold medallist, however, vowed to fight on.
“I could run another marathon in two weeks,” a defiant Gebrselassie told reporters. “I felt fantastic for the first 30km but then I had some problems at the end of the race.
“The last 5km was the worst I’ve ever run,” added the Ethiopian, who lost his world record to Kenyan Patrick Makau (2’03:38) five months ago in Berlin.
Gebrselassie’s previous record stood at 2’03:59.
He has had his struggles in recent marathons, failing to finish the 2010 New York City Marathon and pulling out of Tokyo last year after injuring himself in training.
Japan’s Arata Fujiwara boosted his chances of making his country’s Olympic squad by finishing runner-up in 2’07:48 after passing Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich in the final stretch.
Kipyego could hardly believe he had stolen the thunder of the man dubbed the “Emperor”.
“Today I won but you can never compare anyone with Haile,” the 28–year–old Kipyego added. “He’s the king of the marathon. I salute him.”
In the women’s race, Atsede Habtamu of Ethiopia overtook front-running Eri Okubo of Japan after passing the 39km mark to win in 2’25:28.
Her compatriot, Yeshi Esayias, was second in 2’26:00, followed by Helena Loshanyang Kirop of Kenya in 2’26:02. Okubo finished fourth place in 2’26:08. – Agencies