Preview: Women's Marathon - IAAF World Championships
Provided by IAAF
Two years ago, Edna Kiplagat made history by becoming the first woman to win back-to-back world titles in the marathon. The Kenyan now has the opportunity to win a third successive gold medal.
The 35-year-old has contested just one marathon this year, finishing an uncharacteristic 11th in London in 2:27:16. But since then she has performed solidly in three 10km races, recording a season’s best of 31:57.
Both of her past two World Championships victories were held in hot conditions, and the marathon in Beijing will likely be the same. That, combined with her major championships experience and tactical nous, makes her a strong medal threat.
Another medal would put her in the elite company of Catherine Ndereba, Manuela Machado and Lidia Simon as the only three-time medallists at the World Championships. A third gold would make her the first athlete, man or woman, to win three marathon world titles.
But the marathon can be unpredictable at the best of times and there are many athletes in with a chance of winning.
While Kiplagat has the fastest PB of all the entrants with 2:19:50, Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba is the fastest athlete this year. The 25-year-old won the Xiamen Marathon in January in a world-leading 2:19:52, equalling the PB she set in 2012. Dibaba went on to finish a close second at the Boston Marathon in April, but the winner on that occasion, Caroline Rotich, will not be in Beijing.
But perhaps the biggest threat to Kiplagat’s title defence is Asian Games champion Eunice Kirwa from Bahrain. The 31-year-old is undefeated in her past seven races. Four of those were marathons, all of which were on Asian soil, and she broke the national record with 2:22:08 when winning in Nagoya earlier this year.
Sairi Maeda finished third behind Kirwa in Nagoya in a big PB of 2:22:48, making her the fastest Japanese woman this year. At the past nine editions of the World Championships, at least one Japanese athlete has finished in the top six in the women’s marathon. And Maeda looks to be her country’s best chance of keeping that record alive.
Ethiopian athletes make up half of the six fastest entrants, including Tokyo Marathon winner Berhane Dibaba and London Marathon winner Tigist Tufa.
Since finishing fourth on her marathon debut in Barcelona in 2012, Dibaba has finished in the top three in all of her following seven marathons. Her PB of 2:22:30 was set at last year’s Tokyo Marathon, where she finished second.
Tufa was a big surprise winner in London earlier this year, clocking 2:23:22 to defeat a field that included Kiplagat, world half-marathon record-holder Florence Kiplagat, two-time London Marathon winner Mary Keitany and Olympic silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo.
The Kenyan team is almost as strong. Helah Kiprop, who finished second to Berhane Dibaba in Tokyo, is the fastest Kenyan entrant on this year’s form, but team-mate Jemima Sumgong has a faster PB, having clocked 2:20:41 in Boston last year. Both athletes will be making their major championships debut.
The host nation will be represented by Ding Changqin, who won the Chinese title earlier this year in a PB of 2:26:54. The 23-year-old finished 19th in Moscow two years ago, so will want to finish higher up in front of her home crowd.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF