Kirui: This is the best moment of my career

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Aug 06, 2017
  • Geoffrey Tanui, the gold medal winner in the men’s marathon poses with Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola and Alphonce Felix Simbu of Tanzania. (Photo Courtesy IAAF)

"This is the best moment of my career, easily.”

This was the immeadite reaction of Geoffrey Kirui who won the 2017 world men’s marathon title – becoming Kenya’s fifth champion in the event.

He won a testing duel with Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola over the four-loop course where he finished in 2:08:27.

“I am so happy to win the world title because it is my first time at these championships. This was the best course and the best crowd I have seen at a marathon."

"I was not expecting to be world champion. I feared the Ethiopian because he had such a fast time, so I just followed my plan to 35k and then felt my body to see how I was doing. Good for me it responded well."

I was smart not to follow the Ethiopian. When he tried to take off I knew I had to hit my target at 35k then I started to move. "Winning this title has been my goal for so long. Now my goal will be to repeat it."

As a result, the 2017 Boston marathon winner extended his country’s record as the most successful nation in the history of this event at the IAAF Championships.

Tanzanian Alphonce Simbu was also understandably jubilant. "I am very, very happy,” he said. “This was my focus. I thank God because he protected me, gave me power and strength. I think Tanzanians are over the moon now because this is a great day for us.

"It was a difficult race because everybody is fighting for this. The course has ups and downs and a lot of curves, it is not an easy one. I thought I could catch Kipketer after 35km.

Stayed in the first group

From the start I stayed in the first group, but when Tola, Kirui and Kipketer got away I felt that their pace was too fast for me. But you cannot know if you do not catch up with one of them later because a marathon race is very difficult.”

Ethiopia have only won this race once – through Gezahegne Abera at Edmonton in 2001.

But as the race reached its three-quarters point it looked as if Tola, Rio 2016 10,000m bronze medallist and fastest in the field thanks to the 2:04:11 he recorded in winning this year’s Dubai marathon, was going to double that record.

At the 30km mark, the leading pair of Tola and Kirui were 23 seconds clear of Kipketer, with the third Kenyan, Daniel Wanjiru, London marathon winner here, 46 seconds adrift.

The Ethiopian then opened up a lead of around 20 metres, and Kirui’s demeanour seemed to indicate that the decisive moment had occurred.

Not so. The pace was clearly telling on the leader, who betrayed his tiredness as he twice failed to pick up a water bottle from a drinks stop before managing on a third attempt.

Kirui, who had appeared to be wilting a few minutes earlier, renewed his challenge as the race reached the point where human frailty and strength reveal themselves in dramatic fashion.

Such is the enduring fascination of the marathon event… Kirui led Tola by a stride as they passed under the railway bridge for the fourth and final time.

As they emerged, he had a decisive lead of around 20 metres, and never faltered from that point on.

Tola, the Rio 10,000m bronze medallist and fastest in the field thanks to the 2:04:11 he recorded in winning this year’s Dubai marathon, required medical treatment after struggling home in 2:09:49, just two seconds ahead of Tanzania’s Simbu, who clocked 2:09:41.

Home runner Callum Hawkins finished strongly for fourth place in a personal best of 2:10:17.

Kenya’s Gideon Kipketer, who seemed set for bronze for much of the race, was fifth in 2:10:56, a place ahead of Italy’s Daniele Meucci, given the same time, a personal best.

Eritrea’s 2015 champion Ghirmay Ghebrselaasie was not here to defend his title, but his nation’s hopes were ably carried by Yohanes Ghebregergis, who was seventh in 2:12:07, one place above Wanjiru, who clocked 2:12:16.

Kenya struggled

The success in marathon was not replicated in the steeplechase campaign where Kenya struggled. In Beijing in 2015, Kenyan athletes won all three heats as they went ahead and swept the medals table.

Only one of the Kenyan quartet – Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto – made it through to the final in the automatic qualifying spot.

Kipruto, 22 looked strong on the final lap and won the third heat in 8:23.80. He droped out of last month’s race at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne because of an ankle injury.

Eritrea’s world under-20 silver medallist Yemane Haileselassie led the second heat through 1000m in 2:50.23 from Morocco’s Hicham Sigueni. But it was Evan Jager, an Olympic silver medallist who won this heat on 8:20.36.

Defending champion Ezekiel Kemboi was the fastest non automatic qualifier after clocking 8:20.61

The first heat had seen another Kenyan – two-time Diamond Trophy winner Jairus Birech – only make the final in a non-automatic qualifying spot in fifth (8:23.84) as he was run out of the top thee on the final lap in the first heat after falling at the penultimate water jump.

Morocco’s Soufiane Elbakkali – the third fastest in the world this year – won the first heat in 8:22.60 from three-time Olympic medallist and twice world medallist Mahiedine of Ethiopia and Ethiopian Getnet Wale.

Behind Kipruto in heat three, USA’s Stanley Kibenei took second in 8:24.19, while Canada’s Mathew Hughes was rewarded for pushing the pace on the closing few laps by holding on for the third automatic qualifying spot in 8:24.79, just over half a second ahead of Ethiopia’s Tesfae Deriba (8:25.33), who secured his place in the final as a non automatic qalifier in fourth.

Kenya’s 2007 gold medallist Brimin Kipruto failed to make the final after finishing only seventh in heat three.