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Dublin: 6°C Sunday 17 January 2021

Eritrean teenager takes World Championship gold in Marathon

The 2:12.27 finish earned Eritrea just their second ever medal on the world stage.

ERITREA CLAIMED THE first gold of the world championships when unheralded teenager Ghirmay Ghebreslassie stormed to a shock victory in the men’s marathon.

China Athletics Worlds Source: Kin Cheung

After a build-up marked by controversies over doping, competition finally got off to an early start when Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich defended his marathon title.

But in hot, clear conditions, Kiprotich could only finish sixth as 19-year-old Ghebreslassie took the lead from Lesotho’s Tsepo Ramonene Mathibelle on the 36km mark and was able to see off pressure from Ethiopian Yemane Tsegay for a memorable win in 2:12.27.

“I am so proud of this victory. This is my first gold medal in my first marathon championship,” said the Eritrean, crowned the youngest ever world marathon winner in just his fourth race.

It’s a very special thing for me. It gives me motivations to continue to work hard. My medal is the first gold medal in Eritrean history.”

Eritrea had previously only ever claimed one medal — a silver by Tadese Zersenay’s silver in the 10,000m in the 2009 worlds in Berlin.

The opening day of the worlds will later see sprint rivals Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin square up in the 100m heats. The later events will take place against a backdrop of doping intrigue, especially when twice-banned Gatlin runs in the first round of the 100m, with the semi-final and final scheduled for Sunday.

China Athletics Worlds Ghebreslassie writes a message after his victory. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Gatlin, 33, has the world’s leading time of 9.74sec and is riding a winning streak of 27 straight races, stretching back to August 2013 and is considered favourite to dethrone Bolt.

Bolt has recovered from pelvic joint pain to twice run 9.87 in London last month, and will be up against it in his bid to defend his double sprint titles, the towering Jamaican having won nine of 10 individual sprint titles on offer since the 2008 Olympics.

Another runner seeking a historic victory will be Mo Farah, the 5,000m and 10,000m world and Olympic champion.

Should Farah win the 10,000m in the Chinese capital, he will have strung together an unprecedented six consecutive global track distance titles, with a chance to make it seven in the 5,000m.

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