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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Ethiopians bag double, Tsehay Gemechu sets women’s course record

Defending champions Andamlak Belihu and Tsehay Gemechu produced their personal best to retain the men’s and women’s titles respectively at the 15th Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on Sunday.

other-sports Updated: Oct 20, 2019 23:13 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Gold medal winner Ethiopia's Tsehay Gemechu flanked by compatriots silver medallist Yelamzerf Yehualaw (L) and bronze medallist Zeineba Yimer.
Gold medal winner Ethiopia's Tsehay Gemechu flanked by compatriots silver medallist Yelamzerf Yehualaw (L) and bronze medallist Zeineba Yimer.(PTI)
         

Runners from East African nations, in particular Kenya and Ethiopia, are the main attraction of the road racing circuit across the globe and the Delhi half marathon has been no exception. It was Ethiopia’s day here on Sunday as their runners outsprinted Kenyan rivals to top the field in both the men’s and women’s elite sections.

Andamlak Belihu played a waiting game before sprinting home to victory in the last 200m to win the 21.097km race in 59 minutes 10 seconds and take home the winner’s purse of $27000 (R19 lakh). Ethiopian compatriot Solomon Berihu was a close second at 59:17 ($20,000 - R14.22 lakh). Kenya’s Kibiwott Kandie trailed home at third, clocking 59:33 ($13,000 – R9.24 lakh).

In the women’s race, the battle for supremacy was between two Ethiopians, last year’s winner Tsehay Gemechu and Yelamzerf Yehualaw. The former sprinted home in the final 100m, clocking 1 hour 06 minutes to lower the mark she set in 2018 by 49 seconds and win a record bonus of $10,000 along with the winner’s purse of $27000 (R19 lakh). The top ten finishers in each group are given cash prizes.

In the men’s race, the leading bunch of 10 runners began shrinking as the race reached the 12km mark. At 17km, it was further reduced to three—Kandie, Berihu and Belihu. But the two Ethiopians ran as a team and started pulling away from the Kenyan Kandie. Berihu was slightly ahead but Belihu kept pace, staying at second spot.

However, Berihu couldn’t respond to Belihu’s sprint finish. The winner said: “At about 18km I started to suffer some back pain; that possibly cost me the course record. I’m a bit disappointed I missed out on that, but I got a personal best so I can’t complain too much.”

The Kenyan wasn’t happy after failing to win. “I drifted away from the leading runners in the last 3km and it became a bit difficult to catch them as they began to push hard very early,” he said.

The elite women’s race too boiled down to a sprint finish. Yehualaw did most of the front running and appeared she would go on to win but Gemechu, who is her training partner, came from behind to upset her game plan. Ethiopia’s Zeineba Yimer took the third spot at 1:06:57.

In the Indian men’s category, Srinu Bugatha finished first in 1:04:33 with favourite Suresh Kumar Patel coming in second at 1:04:57. Harshad Mhatre was third with a time of 1:05:12.

The Indian women’s race was won by L Suriya (1:12:49 secs) with Parul Chaudhary (1:13:55) and Chinta Yadav (1:15:28) were second and third respectively.