By Alexander Cornwell
DUBAI (Reuters) – Tamirat Tola led Ethiopia’s clean sweep at the Dubai Marathon on Friday after men’s pre-race favorite Kenenisa Bekele retired injured.
Tola won the men’s race in two hours four minutes and eleven seconds, setting a new course record and personal best, ahead of fellow Ethiopian’s Mule Wasihun and Sisay Lemma in second and third place respectively.
Tola said through an interpreter after the race he was a “little upset” he did not run under 2:04:00 and that he would now switch attention to winning gold in the 10,000 meters at the World Championships in London in August.
Tola had won Bronze in the 10,000 meters at the Rio Olympics last year.
Triple Olympic champion Bekele withdrew during the race after injuring himself in a fall shortly after the start.
Manager Jos Hermens, who directed blame towards the organizers, said Bekele fell because of a surge from behind and that there should have been a gap between elite athletes and other runners.
Race officials said the fall was due to “unintentional contact”.
Ethiopian Bekele, the second-fastest marathon runner in history, was making an attempt on the world record after winning Berlin last September just six seconds outside Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57. [nL4N1EZ2PV]
Bekele, widely regarded as the greatest distance runner of all time and world record holder over 10,000 and 5,000 meters, has also said he is eyeing the world record at April’s London Marathon.
On the women’s side, Worknesh Degefa won her first competitive full marathon in the shadows of Dubai’s sail-like, luxury Burj al-Arab hotel in 2:22:36.
Compatriots Shure Demise and Yebrgual Melese finished second and third respectively in the 17th running of the Dubai Marathon.
It was the first time since 2014 that the Ethiopians swept all top three men’s and women’s places in Dubai.
Dubai upped the stakes in the lead up to the race, offering a bonus $250,000 on the winner’s $200,000 price money if the men’s world record was broken and a further $50,000 for any runner who ran under 2:04:00 in the men’s race.
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)