Peres Jepchirchir, the 27-year-old two-time half marathon world champion, battled the heat, humidity, and fierce competition
Photos by Giuseppe Cacace/AFP
Sapporo, Japan | AFP – Peres Jepchirchir secured back-to-back women’s Olympic marathon titles for Kenya on Saturday timing 2:27:20.
The 27-year-old two-time half marathon world champion beat compatriot Brigid Kosgei (2:27:36) whilE USA’s Molly Seidel was third (2:27:46).
Jepchirchir succeeds fellow Kenyan Jemima Sumgong who won in 2016 in Rio.
Organizers wary of the hot and humid conditions had announced on the eve of the race the start time had been brought forward an hour to 6 a.m. local time.
However, even with that, many runners failed to last the distance, including Kenya’s world champion Ruth Chepngetich. Other runners crossed the finish line clearly in distress, including Mexico’s Ursula Sanchez.
She staggered over the line and was attended to by a race official.
Two hours into the race the temperature had risen to 30.6°C (87 degrees Fahrenheit) and 62.7 percent humidity.
Jepchirchir and Kosgei had moved up a gear with four kilometers remaining with just a quartet of runners in contention for the medals.
Seidel was the first to be dropped followed by Kenya-born Israeli Lonah Salpeter.
The Israeli had looked set to give her adopted country their first-ever athletics Olympics medal.
However, her hopes of a bronze were brought to a brutal end as she pulled up and retired soon after being dropped, leaving Seidel clear in third spot.
Up ahead Jepchirchir made her decisive move for gold with two kilometers remaining and Kosgei could find no reserves in her tank.
It was the first defeat for Kosgei in five marathons—she won Chicago (2018/19) and London (2019/20)—but she had been struggling for a while in the hot conditions, even resorting to stuffing an ice pack down the front of her running vest.
However, it was all smiles at the finish—a mixture of joy and relief the endurance test was over—as Kosgei embraced the new champion.
© Agence France-Presse