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Bahrain's former Kenyan Chelimo wins women's marathon

Athletics - World Athletics Championships – women’s marathon victory ceremony – London, Britain – August 6, 2017 – Rose Chelimo of Bahrain (Gold) poses with the medal. REUTERS/Matthew Childs
Athletics - World Athletics Championships – women’s marathon victory ceremony – London, Britain – August 6, 2017 – Rose Chelimo of Bahrain (Gold) poses with the medal. REUTERS/Matthew Childs

By Ian Chadband

LONDON (Reuters) - Rose Chelimo, a Bahraini who switched allegiance from her Kenyan homeland, sprinted away from her former compatriot Edna Kiplagat to win the women's marathon at the World Athletics Championships after a tactical battle and an exciting finish on Sunday.

Chelimo, who had looked beaten, fought back over the last few hundred metres approaching the Tower Bridge finish after Kiplagat struck for home too soon with two kilometres left.

Forging away to victory, the 28-year-old, who acquired Bahraini citizenship two years ago and was cleared by the IAAF last year to run for her adopted country, denied Kiplagat what would have been an unprecedented third world marathon gold.

Chelimo finished strongly in 2 hours 27 minutes 11 seconds, seven seconds clear of Kiplagat.

Amy Cragg, of the United States, made a tremendous final burst to overhaul another Kenyan Flomena Cheyech Daniel, who had looked set for the bronze medal.

The American also closed in swiftly on the tiring 37-year-old Kiplagat but had to settle for third place in the same time of 2:27:18.

Chelimo had enough energy to spare to wave to the crowd as she approached the line and took the Bahraini flag offered by her team officials.

This, though, was the sort of scene that the IAAF want to see ended. Earlier this year, they froze new transfers of allegiance to stop oil-rich countries luring talented athletes from poor countries with offers of school and financial rewards.

Chelimo was one of those athletes, who has achieved success particularly in half-marathons since switching to Bahrain.

This was only her fourth marathon. Having won on her debut in Seoul, she finished eighth at the Rio Olympics before her runner-up spot behind Kiplagat in Boston in April.

Chelimo's win this time stopped Kenya celebrating a marathon double alongside men's champion Geoffrey Kipkorir Kirui on the first occasion both races had been held in the same day.

Chelimo proved a worthy winner of a race that only came alive in the final few kilometres over a tricky, tight-cornered four-lap circuit of central London around some of the city's most famous sights.

Watched by huge and enthusiastic crowds, British stalwart Aly Dixon, at the age of 38 and with no chance of winning, was the unlikely home star.

She opened up a 32-second lead by the half-way point as she gestured cheerily to the crowd to give her more cheers.

The real race, though, had not even started. A pack of 14 were still only edging up the pace gradually, allowing Dixon, who eventually finished 18th, to lead until the 18th mile.

Even when caught, she managed to hold on to the main contenders until the two-hour mark as they held off making the first move.

American Cragg eventually broke but, when the field splintered, Chelimo pushed for home only for the more rangy Kiplagat to storm past her.

She had, though, made her move too early.

(Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Neil Robinson)

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