26 APR 2011 General News

Merga and Dibaba sweep for Ethiopia in Yangzhou

Deriba Merga takes down a strong field in the RAK Half (Victah Sailer)Deriba Merga takes down a strong field in the RAK Half (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
The Ethiopian favourites did not disappoint in Yangzhou Jianzhen International Half Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Sunday (24).

In the men’s race Ras Al Khaimah winner from this February in 59:24, Deriba Merga, was fastest as expected. The 28-year-old, who placed fourth in Beijing at the Olympic Games Marathon in 2008, emerged as a clear winner in 1:01:10. Merga, who raced in China for the first time in his career, was also fourth in Udine at the 2007 World Half Marathon Championships.

South African Steven Mokoka, 26, took second place in 1:01:42 getting close to his two-year-old personal best of 1:01:26. Mokoka’s best accomplishment is eighth place at the 2009 World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham.

In third place Zimbabwean Wirimayi Juwawo clocked 1:01:47 missing his PB by just nine seconds. Kenyans Jonathan Maiyo and Robert Kirui finished fourth and fifth respectively timed 1:02:28 and 1:02:44. The best Chinese athlete was Zhang Zhongji, who lowered his personal best down to 1:03:35 in seventh place.

Another pre-race favourite Mare Dibaba, also from Ethiopia, easily won the women’s race in a fast 1:09:41. The 21-year-old got close to her season’s best 1:08:57, which brought her third place in Ras Al Khaimah. Dibaba has a curious detail in her past as she represented Azerbaijan for 10 months in 2009 before returning back to Ethiopia. Kenyan Susan Tanui was second with a big personal best 1:11:07 cutting more than four minutes off her previous best.

The best Chinese athlete was in place three as 21-year-old Hao Xiaofan clocked 1:11:43, just outside her 1:11:24 PB from the 2009 edition of this same Half Marathon in Yangzhou. Just 16 years old, Liu Zhuang was fourth in 1:12:31 in her début and another junior, 19-year-old Cao Mojie was fifth in 1:13:23 missing her PB from December 2010 by three seconds. Kenyan Emily Samoei was sixth clocking 1:13:37.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF