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Tiki Gelana Wins Marathon Gold

By Pat Graham | Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia dodged rivals and rain drops on her way to winning the women’s Olympic marathon on Sunday.

Drenched from head to toe, she soaked up the moment as she crossed the finish line, raising her hands high in the air to celebrate. Gelana navigated the wet streets in an Olympic record time of 2 hours, 23.07 seconds to hold off Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya by five seconds. The previous mark was 2:23.14, set by Naoko Takahashi of Japan in Sydney in 2000.

Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova of Russia captured the bronze in a race that began in heavy rain, saw the sun briefly come out and ended in another downpour.

Typical London weather.

Gelana hardly minded the dreary conditions as she slipped and slid her way to the victory.

“I love running in the rain. I have been doing that since I was a small child,” Gelana said. “I slipped in the middle of the race and my elbow is still injured. But I didn’t feel any pain during the race.”

There were four runners in a bunched pack over the last three miles. But with the finish line around the bend, Gelana made her move, grimacing as she surged to the front. With the rain picking up intensity — going from a light drizzle to a deluge — she kept glancing over her shoulder to see if Jeptoo was gaining ground.

She wasn’t.

No one could catch Gelana as she easily coasted across the line to win the biggest race of her life.

While these were actually favorable running conditions — not too hot — quite a few runners dropped out of the race.

Liliya Shobukhova of Russia — a top contender — stopped halfway through the race with a right leg ailment, while British runner Mara Yamauchi’s day was ended about eight kilometers (five miles) into the competition because of a bruised heel.

Tetyana Filonyuk of Ukraine barely went 100 meters — about as far as Usain Bolt & Co. will sprint later on the track — before calling it a day. There was no reason given for her exit.

Not even the dreary weather could dampen the mood of the crowd, which lined the course holding umbrellas to ward off the rain drops. The country was treated to quite a show on Saturday night, with heptathlete Jessica Ennis, distance runner Mo Farah and long jumper Greg Rutherford all taking gold over at the track.

The British marathoners couldn’t follow up. Their best chance at a medal, Paula Radcliffe — the fastest woman ever in the marathon — didn’t compete because of a foot injury.

Although the marathon traditionally ends inside the Olympic stadium, this one took the runners past some of the biggest landmarks of London: Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, London Bridge, Tower of London and finally right by Buckingham Palace, which was near the finish.

Jeptoo and teammate Mary Keitany were among the runners who stuck by Gelana for most of the race. Keitany was one of the favorites after winning the London Marathon earlier this year. But this course was much different and Keitany faded near the finish.

Still, Jeptoo tried to encourage her teammate, even grabbing Keitany a water bottle late in the race and handing it to her. Keitany finished in fourth place.

Before this race, Gelana’s biggest win was the Rotterdam Marathon in the Netherlands last April, when she finished in 2:18:58 to set a national record.

Tiki Gelana
Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia won the 2012 London women’s marathon Olympic gold,  coming in at 2:23.07

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