DAEGU, South Korea (Reuters) - Edna Kiplagat was tripped by a team mate but got back on her feet to lead a Kenyan podium sweep in the women’s marathon and claim the first gold medal of the world athletics championships on Saturday.
The 31-year-old policewoman raced on with a skinned and bloody knee, breaking clear of compatriots Priscah Jeptoo and Sharon Cherop over the last two kilometers to win her first world title in two hours, 28 minutes and 43 seconds.
Kenya’s domination of the podium represents the first time any nation has swept the medals in the marathon, men or women, at the world championships.
“This is my first championships I have run and I am happy I have won it,” Kiplagat told reporters.
“I didn’t have any special strategy, I just tried to speed up at 32 km... probably the Ethiopians could not stick with me after that.”
Kiplagat, who finished third at this year’s London marathon and won in New York last year, was sent sprawling by Cherop after she had broken free of the field with her fellow Kenyans and Ethiopian Aberu Kebede.
Kiplagat had cut in front of her team mate at the drinks station and toppled over when their legs made contact. Cherop immediately stopped to help her up, however, and the incident failed to disrupt the eventual champion’s rhythm.
“It was a bit stiff and painful but I had to forget about it and run,” she told Reuters after the race.
“A bit of blood was coming out... I was surprised and I didn’t know if I was going to finish the race.”
Jeptoo finished 17 seconds behind Kiplagat in 2:29.00 for silver with Cherop just holding off Kebede for bronze in 2:29:14.
Cherop said she was not to blame for Kiplagat’s fall but felt no hesitation in getting her team mate back to her feet.
“I was so annoyed because it was not my fault,” she told a news conference. “But after I saw my friend had fallen I had to stop and help pick her up.”
Cloud cover and a light breeze helped mitigate the effects of the high humidity in the South Korean host city but the first 35 kms were run at a steady pace as Kenyans, Ethiopians and Japanese runners jostled each other in a large leading group.
Kiplagat led the breakaway at a searing pace just after the 35km mark and, despite her stumble, covered the next five kilometers in 16 minutes, 11 seconds to effectively assure her of victory.
Her husband and coach, Gilbert Koech, said he was overjoyed with the result.
“I am so proud of what she has achieved here,” he told Reuters. “I didn’t see her fall at the drinks station but one of the good things about her is that she is mentally strong under any kind of pressure.
“We are focusing 100 percent on the London Olympics now.”
Additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O'Brien