Jemima Sumgong, a Kenyan who won the London marathon earlier this year, won the women’s Rio Olympic marathon Sunday by fending off punishing heat and several challenges along the 26.2-mile course through the city’s streets.
Sumgong, 31, crossed the finish line at the Sambrodomo in 2 hours, 24 minutes and four seconds, pumping her right fist in the air. She held off Eunice Kirwa, a native of Kenya who switched allegiances to Bahrain in 2013, and Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia, one of the pre-race favorites. Kirwa’s time was 2:24:13, with Dibaba in at 2:24:30.
Americans Amy Cragg, Shalane Flanagan and Desiree Linden were factors for much of the race, with Flanagan remaining a factor longest of the three. However, none of them could keep up when Sumgong, Kirwa and Dibaba and a few others broke away from the field. Flanagan was sixth at 2:25:26, and Linden seventh at 2:26:08. Cragg finished ninth in 2:28.22.
No U.S. woman has won an Olympic marathon medal since Deena Kastor won bronze at Athens in 2004.
The Rio marathon route began at the Sambodromo, the backdrop of Rio’s famous Carnival parade. It then led runners through the streets of the city before leading taking them to three laps of a loop along the bayfront.
The course took competitors along major thoroughfares and past museums, parks and other local landmarks but it offered little shade on a day that began as warm and became hotter as the race went on. Runners began to show the stress early, as some slowed dramatically.
Hastings, Flangan and Linden stuck together in a pack, not far behind the leaders for the early part of the race. Linden, a native of Chula Vista, took the lead at about the eight-kilometer mark but a group of about a dozen other runners was close on her heels. Linden wore her trademark sunglasses but didn’t wear a hat; some runners chose to wear visors or caps. Hastings and Flanagan were part of that pack, along with several Kenyans and Ethiopians.
Cragg and Flanagan ran together for much of the Olympic marathon trials race in Los Angeles in February, though Cragg separated herself from the pack and waited anxiously while a struggling Flangan kept hold of third place and a berth on the Olympic team. Runners from several countries seemed to cluster together on Sunday to help each other.
Linden was the leader at the 14-kilometer mark, or about one-third of the way through. Flanagan and Hastings weren’t far behind.
At 15 kilometers, Rose Chelimo—a native of Kenya who now represents Bahrain—was in the lead, with Visiline Jepkesho of Kenya right behind and Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia third. Cragg, Flanagan and Linden were 12th, 13th and 14th in the quickly changing standings. Chelimo’s time at that point was 51:43, reflecting the growing impact of the heat in slowing the pace. Tigist[cq] Tufa of Ethiopia, the 2015 London marathon champion, dropped out after about 18 kilometers.
The leaders changed at the 20-kilometer mark. Jepkesho was in front, followed by Tirfi Tsegaye of Ethiopia and Eunice Kirwa of Bahrain. Flanagan was ninth, Cragg 10th and Linden 13th. Linden resisted following other runners’ surges and maintained a smooth rhythm.
At the halfway point, Volha Mazuronak of Belarus—a former racewalker--was the leader with a time of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 56 seconds. A pack of about eight runners was close behind her, with the three Americans among them.
At the 25-kilometer mark, Cragg and Flanagan were near the front, at 1:26:08, but Linden had dropped about 30 seconds off the lead. Chelimo was leading.
But at the 30-kilometer mark, Linden had pulled within about 13 seconds of the front. Flanagan, Linden and Cragg were clustered together. Tsegaye was the leader at 30K, at 1:43:21.
Flanagan held on closest as the runners headed into the last 10 kilometers, part of a pack of seven. Linden was about 15 to 20 seconds back at that stage, and Cragg was well behind.
With seven kilometers to go Flanagan dropped back and Linden also fell too far behind to get into medal contention.
LA time -- OmRiyadat