Commonwealth Games

Two marathon golds for Kenya

2010-10-14 08:58
Kenya's John Ekiru Kelai, right, hugs compatriot Amos Tirop Matui (AP)

New Delhi - John Kelai and Irene Kosgei scored a golden marathon double on Thursday to ensure Kenya ended the Commonwealth Games as the top athletics nation for the first time ever.

The big and strong Kelai took control of the men's race with around 25 minutes to go when he made his move with a subtle increase in pace that took him away from the field.

Looking relaxed and controlled, he built on his lead to comfortably win in 2:14.35 ahead of Australia's Michael Shelley and another Kenyan, Amos Matui.

In a race run in difficult circumstances with hot and humid weather, Kosgei was also crowned champion, claiming Kenya's first-ever Commonwealth Games women's marathon title.

She crossed the line in 2:34.32, some 11 seconds ahead of her compatriot Irene Mogake with Australia's Lisa Weightman taking bronze.

It was a remarkable recovery by Kosgei who fell heavily at a drinks table in the early part of the race, but got up and carried on.

The victories left Kenya with 11 gold medals, 10 silver and eight bronze from the track and field, ahead of traditional athletics power Australia which finished with 11 gold, six silver and three bronze.

Kelai's win was the first for a Kenyan man at the Commonwealth Games in 20 years.

"I'm so humbled to win here, it is an honour," said Kelai.

"This is for my country, the people, the coaches and officials. All of us are going to celebrate. When you can win at this level you know you have reached your peak."

The battle for second was enthralling with Matui, Tanzanian defending champion Samson Ramadhani and Namibian Reinhold Iita switching positions as they jostled for position.

But Ramadhani and Iita did too much too soon and slowed considerably to let Shelley back into contention with two kilometres to go and the fight was then on between him and Matui for silver.

Shelley eventually triumphed with a smart, tactical run in only his second ever marathon.

"I'm probably a bit smarter running it this time than last time, so I'm very happy with the result," he said.

"I just tried to maintain a steady pace the whole way."

The tall Kosgei, the fastest woman this year, and Mogake went shoulder-to-shoulder for much of their race, running as a team and talking to each other, before a charge to the finish.

Kosgei proved the stronger of the two after taking the initiative with two kilometres to go.

"Thank you so much," she said afterwards. "I am so proud."

For much of the race it looked like Namibia's Beata Naigambo was destined for bronze but Weightman timed her race well and launched a challenge in the late stages.

She finally broke Naigambo and with a determined look on her face she upped her pace in a late bid to catch the Kenyans but the gap proved too big and she was forced to settle for third.

"It's excellent. I did try for gold but I'm happy with bronze," said the Australian.

"I'm still learning, this is only my fifth marathon. The Kenyans work together so unless you understand them you just have to follow the play and see what happens."

The race was an emotional affair for Weightman following the death of 2002 and 2006 champion Kerryn McCann from Australia in December 2008 from breast cancer.

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