Nanning, ChinaAfter an epic battle over the final two kilometres, Wilson Kiprop of Kenya upset Zersenay Tadese to take the men’s title at the IAAF / SINOPEC World Half Marathon Championships in Nanning, China, today (16).
Kiprop’s victory in 1:00:07 was the first for Kenya at these championships since 2004, and more significantly put an end to Tadese’s reign at this event after four consecutive wins.
“It’s very great to win, to beat a four-time world champion,” said the 23-year-old Kiprop, whose breakout 2010 season also included the African 10,000m title at home in Nairobi. “It’s very, great.”
The knockout blow didn’t come until the final 100 metres when Kiprop, running upright and looking forward, forged past Tadese, who appeared sluggish in the waning stages after running at or near the front since the outset.
When he was passed for good a few strides from the finish Tadese came to a near-complete halt and hobbled across the finish in 1:00:11 reportedly injured.
Sammy Kitwara and Silas Kipruto finished third and fourth in 1:00:22 and 1:01:03 respectively, to secure Kenya’s fifth straight men’s team title.
“The team was very strong,” Kiprop said. “This is the first win for Kenya in a very long time. And I’m very very happy for that.”
Gaining confidence through the race, Kiprop remains patient
With each of Kenya’s entrants having clocked under 60 minutes this year, the team battle was never in doubt. Even the run for the individual crown looked like a rerun of the past few editions with Tadese running confidently at the front. At least for a little while.
Kiprop, who made his Marathon debut in Prague in May where he clocked 2:09:09, had run just one Half Marathon prior to Nanning, an impressive 59:39 debut in Lille just one month ago. But he was the picture of experience today as he, along with teammates Kitwara and Kipruto, kept the pressure on Tadese from behind.
Unlike the women’s race, the men’s contest was a bit more packed for the first half, with 15 men reaching the first five kilometres in 14:30. With Tadese at the front, about a dozen were still in contention at 10k, reached in 28:49. The pace was considerably slower than in each of Tadese’s previous victories, but still well within reach of sub-one-hour territory.
Some six minutes later, the field was reduced to seven, and six minutes later a half dozen remained. By 15-k (42:49) only four were left – Tadese, Kipruto, Kitwara and Kiprop, who, running virtually side-by-side, had built a seven second cushion on Eritrean Samuel Tsegay and 12 on Kenyan Titus Masai. Moses Mosop, the fastest in the field this year, was 37 seconds behind the leaders at this point and well out of contention.
With 48 minutes on the clock and the conditions – 22 C and 65 percent humidity – taking their toll, Kipruto was the next to be left behind, leaving the podium positions all but decided as the remaining trio passed the Nanning International Convention and Expo Centre. Two minutes later, it was just Tadese, still pushing at the front, and Kiprop, who was carefully eying his adversary’s every move.
In their final approach towards the finish in the city’s large central Wuxiang Square, it was Kiprop who was gaining confidence with every stride. Looking strong, the Kenyan began challenging the Eritrean, briefly moving to the front 53 minutes into the race. Tadese responded with his own surge, one Kiprop matched. Continuing to trade the lead over the final kilometre, Kiprop made his final surge with just over 100 metres to go.
“Before then, I was not yet confident because I knew it would be a fight in the last two hundred metres, so I was just holding on,” Kiprop said. “In the last 100 metres I saw that I was strong and I was able to run away.”
After Kitwara and Kipruto followed, Tsegay was next across the line, finishing fifth in 1:01:03 a season’s best, with Masai sixth in 1:01:24.
Eritrea, led by Tadese and Tsegay, took team silver for the sixth straight year. Lelisa Desisa and Birhanu Bekele crossed the line together in 1:01:28 to finish seventh and eighth, securing the second straight team bronze for Ethiopia. For the 29-year-old Bekele, it was career best.
Japan, led by Tomoya Onishi’s ninth place showing, finished fourth, more than three minutes ahead of South Africa.
A total prize money purse of $245,000 (122,500 each for the men's and women's races) was on offer, paid to the first six finishers. with $30,000 going to the individual winners. Teams were gunning for a $15,000 first place prize.
The next World Half-Marathon Championships will be held in the Kavarna, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea coast, in 2012.
>>Click here for full results<<
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF