Mungara retains Gold Coast title by just 1 second

Kenneth Mungara raising his hand as he breasted the tape ahead of Japan's Yuki Kawauchi at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon yesterday.
Kenneth Mungara raising his hand as he breasted the tape ahead of Japan's Yuki Kawauchi at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon yesterday.ST PHOTO: LOK JIAN WEN

Kenya's dominance continued at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, after Kenneth Mungara beat Japan's Yuki Kawauchi by one second to retain his title yesterday and ensure a Kenyan won for the third year running.

Mungara, a two-time winner of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (2010 and 2014), picked up another double victory to record the first back-to-back wins on the Gold Coast since 1999.

The 42-year-old was running in a leading pack of eight, which included 2013 winner Kawauchi, in the first 35km of the race.

The two former champions then opened up a gap between them and the rest of the 6,200-strong field, as the race and the day began to heat up.

The pair took turns to lead the race, but the Kenyan eventually prevailed by a second when he breasted the finish line.

Former course record-holder Kawauchi, 29, was gracious in defeat. He said through a translator: "I really respect that he's in his 40s and still able to run like this. We can aspire to be like him."

Mungara said: "I saw Yuki going alone, so I had to work to chase him. I realised I could do something. When I feel okay like I am today, I start making my move."

A former barber back in Nairobi, the Kenyan was unable to shave off more time from the record he set last year, finishing 18 seconds slower as he clocked 2hr 9min.

With the marathon scheduled right before the July 11 deadline to qualify for next month's Olympics, a number of elite marathoners had been eyeing this race to seal their berths in Rio.

Despite his repeat-winning feat, Mungara will not be going to Rio, as the Kenyan squad are not short on talent like Eliod Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott, who completed a one-two finish at the London Marathon in April.

SEA Games 10,000m gold medallist Agus Prayogo came within two minutes of Olympic qualification after finishing 14th yesterday.

The Indonesian's personal best time of 2:21:09 was the quickest for all South-east Asian runners, but short of the 2:19 qualifying mark.

He said: "After 30km, the pacer stopped and the group I was running with slowed down. I had to run alone. When it got nearer to the finishing line, the course was not so flat, and I slowed down."

According to race organisers, the pacers were only tasked to reach the 30km mark.

The sun has not completely set on Agus going to Brazil, as the Indonesian Athletics Association could pick him as its wild card entrant.

When asked if he would take up the offer should it arrive, the 30-year-old said: "I will accept it but I won't be very proud. I will still prefer to be at the next Games by qualifying."

Fang Jianyong and Jasmine Goh were Singapore's best male and female finishers respectively. Goh was 285th (3:04:48) while Fang recorded a personal best of 2:34:33 as he finished 34th.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2016, with the headline 'Mungara retains Gold Coast title by just 1 second'. Print Edition | Subscribe