GHEBRESLASSIE SURPRISES AS YOUNGEST EVER WORLD MARATHON CHAMP
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)
(22-Aug) -- The 15th IAAF World Championships in Athletics got off to a
shocking start here as a plucky teenager from Eritrea, Ghirmay
Ghebreslassie, became the youngest-ever world marathon champion at 19
years-old. Running in only his fourth marathon --two of which he had
failed to finish-- he won the first-ever gold medal at these
championships for Eritrea, crossing the finish line in National Stadium
in 2:12:28. The silver medal went to Ethiopian veteran Yemane Tsegay
and bronze to Uganda's Solomon Mutai.
finished second at last April's Haspa Marathon Hamburg in a career best
2:07:47, came into these championships as a top-10 prospect, according
to his manager Jos Hermens. But victory wasn't in the cards.
was his second full marathon," Hermens told Race Results Weekly after
the race (he had run as a pacemaker in Chicago last October and had
dropped out of Dubai last January). "To be honest, we didn't expect him
Ghebreslassie benefited by conserving energy and
staying behind in the first half of the race while other athletes
surged, only to be brought back. Off of a slow early pace --just 16:06
at 5-K-- the surging began, first by Mongolia's Ser-Od Bat-Ochir, then
the Italian pair of Daniele Meucci, the reigning European champion, and
his 41 year-old teammate, Ruggero Pertile. The Italians led the race
through 20-K (1:03:23) and 25-K (1:19:16). Ghebreslassie was seven
seconds back in 10th place running with the pre-race favorites Wilson
Kipsang (reigning TCS New York City Marathon champion) and Dennis
Kimetto (world record holder) of Kenya, Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda (the
defending champion) and Lelisa Desisa (two-time Boston Marathon winner)
of Ethiopia among others.
After 25-K, the race's biggest surge
came from unheralded Tsepo Ramonene of Lesotho. He shot ahead of the
field, and within a few kilometers had a lead of nearly 30 seconds, a
lead that would stick all the way through 35-K.
the race had completely fallen apart as the sun got hotter and the
winds stronger. Both Kimetto and Kipsang had dropped out. Desisa was
with Kiprotich 23 seconds back, and the reigning Boston and World
Championships winners were struggling.
"Today wasn't my day,"
Kiprotich told Race Results Weekly after eventually finishing sixth. "I
tried and tried, but was not good enough."
Ghebreslassie said he wasn't worried and was sticking to his race plan.
decided to leave the group at 34-K," he told reporters, just one
kilometer earlier than planned. "That is what I expected when I came
Step by step, Ghebreslassie was catching up to
Ramonene, and with 1:53:15 on the race clock, he passed him with
authority. Little did he know that his biggest battle was still to
come. Tsegaye was closing on him, and at about 38-kilometers he passed
him. But Ghebreslassie struck back, immediately retaking the lead.
Tsegaye didn't realize that the heat wasn't bothering his Eritrean
"I'm more experienced with this weather," Ghebreslassie told reporters. "Today, the weather was
very nice for me."
Tsegaye, who said he did dedicated heat training, wasn't as lucky.
I have experience but sometimes race is difficult," Tesgaye said.
"After 35 kilometers, I had a stomach problem and I didn't go with him."
two minutes later, Ghebreslassie would take the lead for good. Coming
into National Stadium alone with an Eritrean flag draped over his arm,
he ran right through the finish line, not realizing that the athletes
did not have to run a full lap of the stadium. Officials told him to
"I'm not sure," said Ghebreslassie of the finish line's location. "I've never finished in a stadium before."
was rewarded for the effort he put in early in the race, finishing a
surprising fourth in 2:14:23. His teammate Meucci had stomach trouble
and was forced to make a toilet stop which he said cost him a minute and
a half. He finished eighth in 2:14:54.
Ghebreslassie revealed today that his family wanted him to concentrate on school and not go into athletics.
I start to show my achievements in athletics they followed me," he
said. "They started to believe I can make special history for Eritrea."