Legese, Kuma prove Ethiopian supremacy to lift TSK 25K titles

Avinash Sable and L. Surya retained their crowns winning the Indian category in the men’s and women’s sections.

Birhanu Legese celebrates after winning the Tata Steel 25K Elite run.   -  PTI

Keeping alive the pre-race projections Ethiopian runners proved their supremacy winning both the men’s and women’s elite races in Tata Steel Kolkata 25K on Sunday.

With IAAF Bronze level road race seeing a healthy participation of the elite athletes, the contest remained quite interesting till the end with the winners making a burst in the final 500 metres.

Avinash Sable and L. Surya retained their crowns winning the Indian category in the men’s and women’s sections.

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Signifying its increasing popularity, the open category of the race witnessed an attendance of 14,734 runners.

With the course setting challenging turns and stretches, the elite runners had to negotiate crowds of amateur participants of the open category, who put up inadvertent hurdles at many locations eventually slowing up the race.

The men’s pack of Legese, his compatriot Bayelign Yegsaw and the Kenyans Eric Kiptanui and Amos Kipruto kept a tight pack till the last hair pin at 20 km mark.

As none of the elite runners deciding to be the pace-setter, the initial five kilometres remained relatively sedate at 15.37s.

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As the elite runners came up against the ‘open’ race runners, the pack slowed down considerably at the 15km approach clocking 45.57s, which also resulted in the leading group increasing to 11 runners.

This virtually ended the prospect of anyone matching Kenenisa Bekele’s course record of 1:13:48 as the 20km split read 1:01.04.

However, it did not kill the possibility of a thrilling finish as the two-time Airtel Delhi Half Marathon winner Legese breaking out of the pack with barely two kilometres remaining.

Legese switched gears again in the final 400 metres to fend off compatriot Yegsaw, who was the only one chasing him. Legese finished first with a timing of 1:15.48, Yegsaw finished with a timing of 1:15.49.

The women’s race was pretty even till the last lap with the Indian elites, L. Suriya and Sudha Singh running in the same pack with their international competitors.

Suriya, a Southern Railway employee, was leading pack for a long stretch and was just behind the eventual winner Dibaba Kuma by the 15km mark. The African runners showed their class in the last five kilometres, when they switched gears to secure podium finishes.

Kuma timed 1:27.34 to finish first followed by her compatriot Ftaw Zeray (1:27.38) and Failuna Matanga of Tanzania (1:27.45).

Defending champion Degitu Azimeraw finished a distant fourth clocking 1:27.51, which was a far cry from the course record of 1:26.01 she set  last year win the crown.

Results:

Men (Overall):  1. Birhanu Legese (Eth) 1:15.48, 2. Bayelign Yegsaw (Eth) 1:15.49, 3. Amos Kipruto (Ken) 1:15.52, 4. Eric Kiptanui (Ken) 1:15:52, 5. Robert Chemonges (Uganda) 1:16.01.

Women: (Overall): 1. Dibaba Kuma (Eth) 1:27.34, 2. Ftaw Zeray (Eth) 1:27.38, 3. Failuna Matanga (Tan) 1:27.45, 4. Degitu Azimeraw (Eth) 1:27.51, 5. Florence Kiplagat (Ken) 1:27.57.

Indian best:

Men:  1. Avinash Sable  1:17.11, 2. Srinu Bugatha 1:17.18, 3. Abhishek Pal 1:18.26.

Women:  1. L. Suriya L. 1:28.29; 2. Sudha Singh 1:29.11, 3. Parul Chaudhary 1:30.18.