Shura Kitata sprints to London Marathon victory

5 Oct 2020

Shura becomes the third Ethiopian to win the elite men’s title

 

Shura Kitata won the 2020 London Marathon on Sunday 4th October, producing a devastating sprint finish to depose four-time winner and world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge and become only the third Ethiopian to win the elite men’s title.

The 24-year-old finished second to Kipchoge two years ago when the Kenyan won the third of his four London crowns. This time he triumphed in a thrilling three-way sprint for the line ahead of Kenya’s Vincent Kipchumba and fellow Ethiopian Sisay Lemma, in one of the most thrilling finishes.

Despite the cold and wet weather conditions and an unfamiliar looped course in St James’s Park, Kitata crossed the line in 2:05:41, just one second ahead of Kipchumba with Lemma a mere three behind. According to London marathon, the thrilling finish was the closest finish since 2003, when Ethiopia’s first-ever London winner Gezahegne Abera and Italy’s Stefano Baldini crossed the line in the same time.

Paying tribute to compatriot Kenenisa Bekele, who had to pull out of the race due to a calf injury, Kitata said:

“I prepared well and was full of concentration today because Kenenisa has helped me so much…Kenenisa has been training with me and advising me about the race, so I am very grateful to him.”

“I’m very happy to have won the race against a very strong field for my country and for my group of teammates. It is very good and will be really good to boost morale.”

Sisay Lemma who came third in 2:05:45, said “the conditions were very hard, but it was a good competition. With 100m to go I focused on the Finish Line but they [Kitata and Kipchumba] were faster than me.”

Speaking of his hopes for 2021, Lemma said, “I don’t know when I’ll next race because of Covid-19. I don’t know if the next competition will be Tokyo. If it’s Tokyo, I will go, I’m ready for that.”

Three other Ethiopians followed suit – Mosinet Geremew, Mule Wasihun, and Tamirat Tola, finishing in 4th, 5th and 6thplaces respectively.

Kipchoge finished eighth due to a sore right hip. “My right hip was really blocked, and my legs felt cramped in the last 15km,” the disappointed Kipchoge said later. “It only happened during the race. I had been feeling good beforehand. I can’t blame the conditions; it was more in my head.”

On 2nd October, Olympic champion and the second-fastest man in history, Kenenisa Bekele, also had to pull out of the race with a calf injury.

Bekele, who was due to race for the first time since he clocked 2:01:41 to win the 2019 BMW Berlin Marathon in September 2019, said: “I am very disappointed that I cannot race on Sunday. It has been a tough preparation time with lockdown when I couldn’t have my NN team around me. I was in good shape but then I picked up a niggle in my left calf after two fast training sessions too close together in the last weeks of preparation.”

“I have been having treatment every day since then and I truly believed I would be ready but today it is worse, and I now know I cannot race on it. This race was so important to me. My time in Berlin last year gave me great confidence and motivation and I was looking forward to show that again, I have worked so hard for it.”

“I know many people around the world have been looking forward to this race and I am sorry to disappoint my fans, the organisers and my fellow competitors. I will take time to recover and become fit again and I hope to be back in London next year.”

In the women’s race, Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei successfully defended her London Marathon title winning the race in 2 hours 18 minutes and 58 seconds. Ethiopia’s Ashete Bekere and Alemu Megertu finished in 4th and 5th places respectively.

Meanwhile, 45,000 other marathon runners went for it on their own, each of them targeting a socially distanced 26.2-mile challenge. Runners from 109 countries entered the virtual marathon and each of them had almost 24 hours to complete a 26.2-mile course of their own choosing.

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