Ambesa Tolosa of Ethiopia celebrates his Paris Marathon win (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 4 April 2004 – Paris, France

Tolosa and Kosgei shine in Paris Marathon

Paris, FranceAmbesa Tolosa of Ethiopia with a new personal best of 2:08:56 was crowned the men’s champion at the 28th Paris Marathon held this morning. Kenya's Salina Kosgei made a victorious debut at the distance (2:24:32) to win the women’s title.

Fast opening pace

While it was clear from the beginning that victory would fall in the hands of an African, Ambesa Tolosa who was running his ninth marathon, had remained for a long time in the shadow of his Kenyan opponents. His best performance of 2:10:11 set in Amsterdam in 2002 didn't seem to leave him much chance today, but quite a few runners were taken-in by the fast pace which was set from the start.

The first 5 kilometres were covered in 14:43 and the 10km in 29:39, eventhough Raymond Kipkoech was the only one in the race to have run a marathon below 2:07.before.

Brazil's Marilson dos Santos, the recent winner of the Sao Paulo Corrida, was actually the only non-African to cling to the leading pack. The halfway was reached in 1:03:25. At this point, France’s Smail Sghyr was 1:20 behind the lead. The gap had more than doubled 10 kilometres further, and Sghyr finally withdrew around the 35th kilometre.

At around 25km it seems that Raymond Kipkoech attempted to open a gap on the field but was rapidly caught by the others.

Therefore there were still about seven athletes together at 30km (1:31:06),  Raymond Kipkoech, Paul Biwott, Robert Cheruiyot, Jacob Losian for Kenya, Ambesa Tolosa and Gashaw Melese for Ethiopia, as well as dos Santos.

Tolosa’s slight acceleration is too much for Kipkoech

Melese was the first one to get dropped (but he eventually managed to regather his strength to clinch an eventual fourth place), Losian followed and then dos Santos around 35km also was left behind. Then Biwott had to stop for 5-10 seconds to relieve a cramp.

With 4km to go a move from pre-race favourite Raymond Kipkoech was expected but he couldn't respond to a slight acceleration by Tolosa who was left alone to win - in 2:08:56 - his second marathon, six years after Sapporo in August 1998.

“The race was very easy with good weather and a nice course,” commented the winner after the finish. “I was 19th at the last World Championships and I now hope that this victory will now allow me to compete at the Olympic Games, but I don't know if my performance will be good enough.”

Women's race – Fast start is no bar to Kosgei’s successful debut

The women's race which started half-an-hour in front of the men’s race last year, began at the same time this year.

The best women rapidly found themselves in two different groups of runners as Salina Kosgei (KEN) the Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion was the only one to follow the suicidal pace set by Ethiopian Asha Gigi. Hungary's Beata Raconkzai led the second group which also included France's Corinne Raux and Russia's Larisa Zyusko.

The first 10 kilometres were covered in 32:59, and the first half in 1:10:22, actually much quicker than Kosgei's (1:11:16) and Gigi's (1:10:42) personal best for the distance! The second group followed four minutes later.

Knowing that Gigi had never run below 2:30, it was certain that she would fade sooner or later, and she duly lost 6 seconds to Kosgei between the 31st and 32nd kilometre and another 13 seconds in the following kilometres.

A finish with style from Kosgei

From then on Kosgei only had to hold true to ensure victory, but instead she carried on with panache to set 2:24:32 for victory. This was the third best time for a woman on this course behind Maarlen Renders' 2:23:05 and 2:23:43, which were achieved in 2002 and 2000 respectively.

Behind Kosgei, Gigi didn't completely breakdown, though she seemed on the brink of it for a while. She even managed somehow to recover and crossed the finish line in 2:26:05, almost five minutes better than her previous PB.

France's Corinne Raux, a World champion at the Duathlon's short distance event in 2002,  also lowered her previous best by more than 8 minutes to clock 2:29:19 for third place, an Olympic qualification mark.

“I'm surprised by my victory but it wasn't an easy race at all,” said Kosgei, a mother of two. “In the end, I was just trying hard to make it until the next kilometre. Before the race I figured I could run around 2:30. I didn't notice that we went so fast through half-marathon. Maybe it's better because I may have been scared if I had known about it. I was precisely fearing about starting too fast".

Carole Fuchs for the IAAF 

Results

Men

1. Ambesa Tolosa   ETH  2:08:56
2. Raymond Kipkoech  KEN  2:10:08
3. Paul Biwott   KEN  2:10:30
4. Gashaw Melese  ETH  2:10:36
5. Robert Cheruiyot  KEN  2:10:38
6 .Marilson dos Santos BRA 2:12:22
7. Jacob Losian  KEN  2:12:35
8. Hakim Bagy  FRA 2:13:12
9. Said Belhout   ALG 2:13:37
10. Henry Tarus   KEN 2:13:55

Women

1. Salina Kosgei   KEN  2:24:32
2. Asha Gigi   ETH  2:26:05
3. Corinne Raux   FRA  2:29:19
4. Larisa Zyusko  RUS 2:29:30
5. Olga Rovpotina  RUS 2:29:56
6. Beata Rakonczai   HUN 2:30:36
7. Béatrice Ros   ESP 2:30:43
8. Yunilesh Bekele  ETH  2:35:54
9. Nilli Abramski   ISR 2:36:36
10. Judit Nagy   HUN 2:38:51