Stephen Kibiwot winning the Paris Half Marathon (Getty Images/AFP) © Copyright
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Kibiwot, Cheruyiot take Paris Half-Marathon titles

Paris, FranceNo less than 20,000 runners took part to the 16th edition of Paris Half-Marathon on Sunday morning, starting on Esplanade du Château de Vincennes for a 21,097 kilometer loop around Park Floral. Kenya completed a double with surprising winners Stephen Kibiwot (61:04), fastest in the last kilometer of a tactical race, and Linah Cheruyiot (69:46), who dominated Latvian star Jelena Prokopcuka.

Women’s race favourite Jelena Prokopcuka chose Paris for her first Half-Marathon since 2005 and her National Record of 68:11. Winner in Paris in 2003, the 31-years-old established herself in the meantime as one of the most prominent Marathon runner with two wins in at the ING New York City Marathon (2005 and 2006). Paris remains a special city for the Latvian, as it was her debut place at the event in 2002. Preparing for a win in Boston Marathon on 21 April, after two consecutive second places, she couldn’t respond to the aggressive running style of Linah Cheruiyot.

For her third participation in at the Paris Half-Marathon, the experienced Kenyan, 35, stayed in the pack until the half-way, where she used several pace changes and acceleration bursts to get rid of her rivals. Cheruiyot crossed the finish line in 69:46, just nine second short off the race’s record held by last years’s winner Alina Tecuta (ROM), her first sub 70 minutes clocking since 2002 when she set her personal best of 68:54. She will try a Parisian double as she is now the favorite for Paris Marathon on 6 April. Prokopcuka was a distant second in 70:02, while Ethiopian Genet Getaneh was 3rd in 70:42.

A group of Kenyans led the men’s race into a fast pace, headed by Wilson Chebet, who reached the third kilometre in 8:40. Chebet, one of the main contenders for the victory with the fastest personal best of the field (60:13) and two second places at the event this year (in Granollers and Barcelona), was accompanied by fellow countrymen Jackson Kirwa, John Kales, Stephen Kibiwot, Jacob Yator and Ethiopian Gudisa Shentema.

A strong wind prevented any attack as the stable pack turned the race into a tactical one and went through 5km in 14:28, 10km in 28:58, 15km in 43:23 and 20km in 58:05. It wasn’t until the last kilometre that the fight for places started. Yator, winner over Chebet in Barcelona had strong arguments for the victory, but no one could match Kibiwot’s tremendous finish. In spite of unfavorable weather conditions, Kibiwot, 28, broke his personal best by 9 second to win in 61:04. A few metres behind, the second place contest looked like a sprint race. Shentema dipped into the line just before Yator, with Chebet a close fourth.

These runners will face each other anew during the Paris Marathon for its 32th edition, except Kibiwot who will compete in Torino on 13 April, a Marathon he won in 2006.

Pierre Jean Vazel for the IAAF

Leading Results -

Men:
 1. Stephen Kibiwot (KEN) 61:04
 2. Gudisa Shentema (ETH) 61:09
 3. Jacob Yator (KEN) 61:09
 4. Wilson Chebet (KEN) 61:10
 5. John Kales (KEN) 61:12
 6. Jackson Kirwa (KEN) 61:14
 7. Samson Barmao (KEN) 61:25
 8. Abdi Kidane Gemechu (ETH) 61:58
 9. Elijah Sang (KEN) 62:07
10. James Theury (FRA) 63:14
 
Women:
 1. Linah Cheruiyot (KEN) 69:45
 2. Jelena Prokopcuka (LAT) 70:01
 3. Genet Getaneh (ETH) 70:41
 4. Beatrice Omwanza (KEN) 73:38
 5. Joan Aiyabei (KEN) 74:00
 6. Maja Neuenschwander (SUI) 76:32
 7. Leopoldina Silveira (POR) 77:17
 8. Nathalie Vasseur (FRA) 77:19
 9. Catherine Wilding (GBR) 80:09
10. Odile Tissier (FRA) 85:16