Eritrean teen wins first gold in Beijing

Eritrean teenager Ghirmay Ghebreslassie won the first gold medal at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing when he sprinted away from the field to win the men's marathon title on Saturday.

Lesotho's Tsepo Ramonene Mathibelle led the race for a large part of the first 36km, before the 19-year-old Ghebreslassie took over the lead and hung on for the duration of the race at the Bird's Nest stadium, despite pressure from Ethiopian Yemane Tsegay.

Ghebreslassie, competing in just his fourth marathon, became the youngest ever winner of the event after clocking a time of 2hr 12min 27sec, ahead of  Tsegay (2:13:07) and Uganda's Munyo Solomon Mutai (2:13:29).

Ghebreslassie is only the second Eritrean to win a medal at the World Championships after Tadesse Zersenay, who won the silver medal in the 10,000m at the 2009 event in Berlin.

"Although I do not have much experience, I will work to make another special history in Rio," Ghebreslassie said of his next target.

"The weather was very nice for me. Since childhood I grew up in similar weather conditions.

"I had decided to try to leave any group by the 34km mark," he said of his pre-race strategy.

Mongolia's Ser-Od Bat-Ochir took the lead for the first few minutes of the race before Bahrain's Ethiopian-born Shumi Dechasa took over at the front of the peloton until approximately the 10km mark.

After the leader reached the 10km mark in 31:51, Uganda's defending champion Stephen Kiprotich led the chasing pack a few seconds further behind.

Around the 15km mark, Ethiopian trio of Lelisa Desisa, Tsegay and Berhanu Lemi, Ugandans Kiprotich, Mutai and Jackson Kiprop, as well as Dennis Kimetto and his Kenyan compatriots Wilson Kipsang and Mark Korir, broke away from the pack, while Eritrean duo Ghebreslassie and Amanuel Mesel and Italian Daniele Meucci were close behind.

By the 20km mark, the 2014 European marathon champion Meucci was in the lead of the race with a time of 1:03:23, while his Italian team-mate Rugero Pertile provided him with company at the head of the pack.

Around the 25km mark, the pack had absorbed the Italian pair again and Lesotho's Mathibelle proceeded to sprint away from the field and opened up a 25-second lead.

While Mathibelle seemed destined to win a medal having retained the lead until the 36km mark, the sprinting Ghebreslassie, Tsegay and Mutai had too strong a kick for the Lesothan over the final kilometres.

The leading trio were neck-and-neck as they approached the iconic Bird's Nest stadium, before Ghebreslassie's final kick saw him take over the lead for the final time with 100m left.

"Not only was it hot, it was windy," lamented Tsegay, who also complained of stomach cramps from 38km. 

"It was a very difficult race with all the star athletes competing."

Comments