BEIJING (AFP) - Ethiopian Mare Dibaba lived up to her billing as the world's fastest marathon runner by winning the gruelling event at the world championships in a sprint finish on Sunday.
Dibaba timed 2hr 27min 35sec to edge Kenya's Helah Kiprop by just one second after a sprint in the final 50 metres of the race held in overcast, relatively cool conditions.
Kenyan-born Bahraini Eunice Kirwa claimed bronze in 2:27.39, while defending champion Edna Kiplagat could only finish fifth (2:28.18) behind Kenyan teammate Jemima Sumgong (2:27.42).
"I was confident because my last lap is fast," said Dibaba, who set a rip-roaring pace over the last five kilometres, too fast for Kiplagat who dropped off.
Sumgong then also found the pace too much, meaning the three podium finishers bolted into the Bird's Nest stadium alone and with all to race for down the 100m of track usually reserved for the likes of speed king Usain Bolt.
Kiprop tried to move on Dibaba on the outside, but the Ethiopian kicked home with a spent Kirwa settling for third.
"It all came down to a sprint in the stadium," said Dibaba. "Since I arrived in Beijing the weather was very hot and I was scared about that for the marathon But this morning the weather changed. It is very similar to our country and easy for us to our own race.
"From now on I will concentrate on the Rio Olympics in my training."
Kiprop added: "Everybody was strong and it was very close. I was excited when I entered the stadium because I didn't expect this result."
The 25-year-old Dibaba, finished first in this year's Xiamen marathon in a personal best-equalling 2:19.52 and also came in second in Boston.