Xue Bai of China celebrates her Marathon victory at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin (Getty Images) © Copyright
The 20-year-old prodigy from Heilongjiang Province captured a commanding victory, reaching the finish line at the Brandenburg Gate in 2:25:15 to collect the first gold medal of these championships for China and the first ever for the nation in the event.
Astoundingly, today’s was the 11th Marathon in Bai’s career and the fifth since the Beijing Olympics where she competed in the 10,000m and finished 21st. She ran her first 42.2Km contest when she was just 14, clocking 2:37:07. She has a personal best of 2:23:27 from last year when she finished second to teenager Yingying Zhang in Xiamen. Her performance today was her second fastest, but certainly her biggest.
Bai duked it out with Yoshimi Ozaki of Japan and Ethiopian Aselefech Mergia since about the 34 kilometre point before leaving the pair well behind with a move that neither could respond too. Ozaki held on for second in 2:25:25 while Mergia took bronze in 2:25:32.
With a conservative tempo dictating the quick morning tour of the German capital – temperatures at the start were 19 C and rose to 23 by the finish - a fairly sizable chunk of the 71 starters remained in contention during the early going. More than 40 ran together through the first five kilometres (17:42), 30 at 10Km (35:03), 25 at 15Km (52:10), and more than 20 five kilometres later.
The next six kilometres produced the biggest change, with just a dozen women in contention at the 30Km (1:44:33) checkpoint, a group that was whittled down to just four at about 1:46 into the race: Bai, Ozaki, Mergia and Russian Nailya Yulamanova, who was leading and pushing the pace.
But it became clear that the 28-year-old Russian, with a 2:26:30 best from her victory earlier this year in Rotterdam, was letting her ambitions get the better of her as she was the first to fall off the pace just a few ticks after the race clock the struck two hours.
The remaining trio forged on, taking turns with the lead until Mergia, the runner-up at this year’s Paris marathon, was the next to fall back just beyond the 40Km post. A kilometre later Bai pounced to take the lead and the win.
Behind the trio, Yulamanova’s troubles continued. She faded badly over the final two kilometres and eventually reached the line finishing eighth in 2:27:08. Chinese Zhou Chunxiu, the silver medallist two years ago, and Zhu Xiaolin rallied to finish fourth and fifth in 2:25:39 and 2:26:08 respectively.
Portugal’s Maris Barros finished well to take sixth in 2:26:50, ahead of Japanese No. 2 Yuri Kano (2:26:57).
American Kara Goucher, among the strong pre-race medal contenders, was with the leaders for the first 28 kilometres before fading back to eventually finish 10th in 2:27:48.
Kenyans, who were defending their World Cup crown, suffered from the outset. Julia Mumbi was the highest finisher but a distant 12th in 2:28:59.
With three finishers in the top five, China dominated the World Cup race with a combined time of 7:17:02. Japan was second (7:22:15) with Russia (7:24:42) taking the bronze.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
- Xue Bai of China celebrates her Marathon victory at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Xue Bai of China crosses the finish line at the Brandenburg gate in the centre of Berlin to win the IAAF World Championship Marathon title (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia takes the bronze in the women's Marathon at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics (Getty Images) © Copyright
- China's Xue Bai celebrates her IAAF World Championship win in the women's Marathon (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Xue Bai of China celebrates with her team mate Xiaolin Zhu after the women's Marathon in Berlin (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Yoshimi Ozaki of Japan crosses the finish line to take the silver medal in the women's Marathon at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin (Getty Images) © Copyright