Beriso Shankule leads Ethiopian 1-2 with marathon win in Budapest

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Amane Beriso Shankule led an Ethiopian one-two in the women’s marathon at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23, clocking 2:24:23 at the finish in Heroes’ Square ahead of defending champion Gotytom Gebreslase, who took silver in 2:24:34.

An Ethiopian medal sweep had looked on for most of the race, until the hot conditions took their toll on last year’s London Marathon winner Yalemzerf Yehualaw.

She was passed by Morocco’s Fatima Ezzahra Gardadi, who claimed bronze in 2:25:17, and Israel’s 2022 world bronze medallist Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, who took fourth place in 2:25:38.

Yehualaw was barely able to make it over the line as she finished fifth in 2:26:13. Her teammates halted their celebrations and ran to support her, before she was taken into the care of medical staff.

Rosemary Wanjiru led the Kenyan challenge in fifth place, clocking 2:26:42, with her teammate Selly Chepyego Kaptich one place behind in 2:27:09.

A field of 70 runners from 47 countries had set off at 7:00am local time, when the temperature was 23°C.

The Ethiopian trio formed part of a formidable four-strong unit for most of the race. Along with Tsehay Gemechu, second fastest in the world this year, they made a decisive break shortly after the 30km marker, although Gemechu dropped out in obvious discomfort shortly afterwards.

For a while it seemed simply a case of which order on the podium the three Ethiopians would finish, with Beriso Shankule, whose victory in Valencia last December in 2:14:58 made her the third fastest woman of all time, pushing on for gold and Yehualaw looking on for silver.

But defending champion Gebreslase was able to move up again into second place as Yehualaw began to suffer and fade out of the medal picture.

It was clear from the start that the conditions were going to be a huge factor in the racing.

However, they didn’t dissuade Rosa Chacha of Ecuador from taking the field through 5km in 17:48, three seconds ahead of the tightly packed main group which was moving conservatively at 2:30 speed.

Susanna Sullivan of USA soon moved up to join her as the race crossed the Chain Bridge from Pest to Buda, and their lead increased to seven seconds when they entered a 600m tunnel that offered shade and, reportedly, a breath of wind.

At 7km, Sullivan, a full-time teacher with a best of 2:24.27 set when finishing 10th at this year’s London Marathon, was four seconds clear of Chacha and 12 seconds clear of the main pack, and by 8km that lead had grown to 20 seconds.

After 35 minutes of racing, however, Sullivan’s early jaunt was over as she found herself accompanied by a group of around 20, with the leading pack moving through 10km in 35:31.

Wanjiru, Gemechu, Gebreslase, Rebecca Cheptegei of Uganda, Salpeter and Rose Chelimo of Bahrain were to the fore as the race sped up to 2:20 pace, although Sullivan and the first of the leaders, Japan’s Rika Kaseda, were soon slightly ahead again as the pack appeared to slow.

At this point, around the 13km mark, the four Ethiopian athletes – Shankule, Gemechu, Gebreslase and Yehualaw – arrived in a phalanx at the front and accelerated to detach a lead group of around 15, with Sullivan disappearing back into the field.

Cheptegei led the lead group of 17 through 15km in 52:56 at around 2:18 pace before Salpeter and Keira D’Amato of the United States took over as the Chain Bridge and the cooling tunnel beyond beckoned, with the pack now growing to around 25.

At the halfway point D’Amato led the field through in 1:14:29, with Salpeter at her shoulder.

By the 25km point the serious business of the race was involving around 15 runners, with the Ethiopian athletes strongly to the fore as Shankule led through in 1:27:51, with Gemechu, Gebreslase and Yehualaw in a top six that also featured Wanjiru and Salpeter.

By 27km the lead group was 10 – just – as Germany’s Melat Yisak Kejeta struggled to keep in touch, and the Ethiopian quartet was at the heart of it as the temperature reached 27°C.

Kenya’s Wanjiru and Kaptich were in the hunt, although not running together, along with Salpeter, Gardadi and Nazret Weldu of Eritrea.

Salpeter led a group of nine runners through 30km in 1:44.26; by 32km the lead group, going through in 1:50:59, was down to Salpeter, Wanjiru and the Ethiopian unit. With 10km remaining, the hammer had come down.

Now came the big move, as the four Ethiopians, after a brief confab, accelerated away, leaving Salpeter and Wanjiru running side by side in their wake.

However, the pace told on Gemechu, who suddenly stopped and leaned over the barrier, appearing to be in discomfort, leaving Gebreslase, Yehualaw and Shankule in the medal positions.

The group was now three intent runners in a line, led by Shankule, with Gebreslase looking the least comfortable as she looked over her shoulder to check the lead. Between the 33rd and 34th kilometre, Shankule made her move.

As the Ethiopian trio approached the Chain Bridge for the last time, heading westwards towards Buda, she attacked, with Yehualaw dropping away, and the defending champion Gebreslase becoming a distant third.

In the tunnel, heading uphill, Shankule continued with her break, checking her watch and looking back to check the damage. Yehualaw, meanwhile, kept checking over her own shoulder to see where Gebreslase was.

Soon enough, the defending champion was with her, and moving past her into silver medal position. Yehualaw’s hold on bronze did not look secure, with Gardadi moving past Salpeter into fourth place. At 40km, Shankule led in 2:16.50, with Gebreslase at 2:17:14, Yehualaw at 2:17:33 and Gardadi another 20 seconds back. But Yehaulaw appeared in deep trouble and Gardadi, looking strong, was soon past her into bronze medal position. With a kilometre remaining, Shankule’s lead was 24 second from Gebreslase, with Gardadi 1:01 behind and Yehualaw 1:13.

After crossing the line – where the finish banner was held by World Athletics President Sebastian Coe – Shankule sank to her knees before rising to embrace the defending champion.

Soon Gardadi was pounding the ground in joy as she came home for bronze. It was a heroic lone effort that earned material reward in Heroes’ Square.

“We knew if we worked together, we could get a better result, and we worked well as a team today,” Shankule said. “We got the lead group down to six and then we pushed away with four of us. That was our plan because there was such a strong field.

“After we got rid of the rest, then it was a battle with my tough teammates. Gebreslase is a strong athlete and she wanted to defend her title. But all our team are strong. We wanted to win all three medals, of course, but that didn’t go to plan in the end. We took gold and silver and we are happy with that.”

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