Tomescu improving with age like fine wine

BEIJING Sun Aug 17, 2008 12:42am EDT

Constantina Tomescu of Romania holds her national flag after winning the women's marathon of the athletics competition during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in the National Stadium August 17, 2008. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Constantina Tomescu of Romania holds her national flag after winning the women's marathon of the athletics competition during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in the National Stadium August 17, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

BEIJING (Reuters) - Marathon runners, like fine wines, usually improve with age and Romania's new Olympic champion Constantina Tomescu proved the point on Sunday.

The 38-year-old became the oldest Olympic women's marathon winner by eight years and believes her age worked to her advantage.

"The experience of age helped me," she told reporters. "I have raced a lot before, I know a lot about running."

Her age may also have also lulled the field into thinking she was not a serious contender and the pack let the Colorado-based runner go when she jumped ahead midway through the race and built a decisive 90-second lead.

"I said (to myself,) what happened, why are they not coming?" Tomescu said. "Maybe they thought I wouldn't finish in the top three."

Kenyan silver medalist Catherine Ndereba and China's bronze medalist Chunxiu Zhou never stood a chance of catching her and could only battle for the minor places.

Tomescu finished third in the 2005 world championships but she dropped out of the 2003 world championship marathon and at the 2004 Olympics she faded to finish 20th after a strong start.

"I kept looking back today because I didn't want to lose a medal but I couldn't believe (what I saw)," she said.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)