With a full strength team, Kenya was hopeful of repeating their 2014 medal sweep in the women’s race at the IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships Cardiff 2016.
But two of the Ethiopian women who finished behind the Kenyan quintet in Copenhagen two years ago – Netsanet Gudeta and Genet Yalew – were keen to make it on to the podium this time.
All five Kenyans – Pascalia Kipkoech, Cynthia Limo, Mary Wacera, Peres Jepchirchir and Gladys Chesire – were part of a large lead group of 14 athletes to go through 5km in 16:31.
By 10km, reached in 32:34, the lead group had been halved as Gudeta and Yalew were the only athletes keeping the Kenyan quintet company.
The third five-kilometre section, covered in 15:40, was the quickest of the race, but Kipkoech was the only athlete to drop away from the leading pack as six women were still in contention.
But the group began to disintegrate during the final five kilometres as Chesir drifted back, followed by Yalew. Gudeta had the sole responsibility of disrupting a potential Kenyan sweep, but the Ethiopian had to surrender after an hour of running as she too lost contact with the leaders.
For the final mile or two it was clear that Kenya would once again sweep the medals. Bronze was decided when Wacera began to fade at about 20km, leaving Limo and Jepchirchir to battle for the gold and silver medals.
Limo was the first of the leading pair to make a move, opening up a few metres on her compatriot with just a couple of minutes left to run. But the move wasn’t decisive.
Jepchirchir closed the gap on Limo in the final stages and then kicked for home as she negotiated the last turn with the finish gantry in sight. With the rain pouring down, she sprinted towards the line and stopped the clock at 1:07:31.
“The race was not bad,” said the 22-year-old. “The course was good but I struggled a bit climbing the hill.”
Limo, the world leader, had to settle for second place in 1:07:34 while Wacera completed the Kenyan sweep by finishing third in 1:07:54. Before 2014, no country had secured all of the medals in the women’s race at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, but Kenya has now pulled off the feat twice in a row.
And for the second successive edition, Gudeta was the best non-Kenyan finisher. She was sixth in Copenhagen and fourth in Cardiff, clocking 1:08:01. Yalew was fifth in 1:08:15.
Chesir, Kipkoech and Dehininet Demsew finished sixth, seventh and eighth respectively, ensuring that Kenyan and Ethiopian women filled the top eight places. Peru’s Gladys Tejeda set a South American record of 1:10:14 in ninth place.
For the sixth time in the past eight editions, Kenya took team gold. Their aggregate time of 3:22:59 is the second-fastest in the history of the championships. Ethiopia, team winners in the past two Olympic years, was second this time round. And for the ninth successive edition, Japan took team bronze.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF