Ethiopian Sets Olympic Record in Women’s Marathon

August 5th, 2012 Print Print Email Email

LONDON — On the narrow streets of Sunday’s women’s Olympic marathon, Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia reached for her water bottle and collided with another runner just beyond the halfway point. She fell to the ground and scraped her right elbow. She got up and was bumped again.

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“I said, ‘Oh wow, I’m not going to finish,’ ” Gelana said. “I just concentrated on running. All of a sudden I made it.” She did not see the runner who knocked her down inadvertently as runners scrambled to get their liquids and avoid dehydration. But Gelana climbed to her feet, remained poised and set an Olympic record to win in 2 hours 23 minutes 7 seconds.

On a cool, rainy day, she surged to victory over the final one and a half miles, running the second half of the 26.2 mile race more than three minutes faster than the first. Gelana covered the first half in 1:13:13 and the final half in 1:09:54. And then she had her elbow treated with a patch.

Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya took second in 2:23:12 on a twisty, loop course that passed many of the familiar London landmarks and sometimes puddled with rain. Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova of Russia made a charge over the final miles and finished third in a personal best of 2:23:29. She had finished fourth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2008 Beijing Games.

The biggest surprise was that the prerace favorite, Mary Keitany of Kenya, who won the London Marathon in April, could not hold the pace as it quickened. Her back cramped, according to Jeptoo; Keitany finished fourth in 2:23:56. A Kenyan woman still has not won an Olympic marathon since the event was first held in 1984.

Sunday was even more frustrating for the Americans. Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher went to the lead early but faded, both also sustaining cramps in their legs and back. Flanagan finished 10th in 2:25:51, and Goucher was 11th in 2:26:07. Desiree Davila, who had been battling a hip injury, dropped out after 2.2 miles.

Liliya Shobukhova of Russia, the second-fastest woman’s marathoner in history, also dropped out about midway. Paula Radcliffe of Britain, the world-record holder at 2:15:25, did not enter the Olympic marathon, her brittle feet no longer allowing her to recapture her former greatness.

“Once again, the only thing certain about the marathon is 26.2 miles,” said Mary Wittenberg, director of the New York City Marathon. “It can bring even the best to their knees.”

Ethiopia has now won the Olympic women’s marathon twice. Fatuma Roba took first at the 1996 Atlanta Games. At the London Games, Ethiopia has won both women’s distance events, with Turunesh Dibaba taking a gold medal in the 10,000, while its East African rival, Kenya, has twice had to settle for the consolation of silver.

Gelana, Dibaba and Roba are all from the same village, Bekoji, located above 9,000 feet in Ethiopia’s southern highlands where many residents live as subsistence farmers. Bekoji is also the hometown of the multiple Olympic champions Kenenisa Bekele and Derartu Tulu, a kind of world running capital.

“It is a running lifestyle in Bekoji, and I am part of that,” Gelana, 24, said.

Gelana had won the 2012 Rotterdam Marathon in 2:18:58, an Ethiopian record, running with a stirring consistency, covering the first half in 69:30 and the second half in 69:28. On Sunday, she showed her versatility with a so-called negative split, covering the second half much faster than the first.

“I was in control of my competitors,” Gelana said. “I was always running at their pace.”

Twenty-three runners reached the halfway point at or near 1:13:13. Then the pace sped up. And finally only four runners were left contending for the three medals: Gelana, Jeptoo, Petrova Arkhipova and Keitany.

At the New York City Marathon last fall, Keitany ran both courageously and recklessly, setting off at world record pace, only to fade to third. She ran a much more controlled race at the London Marathon in April, then cruised home over the final half in 67:44 to set an Ethiopian marathon record of 2:18:37. But she was not at her best Sunday.

After falling, Gelana had remained cautious at ensuing water stops, fearing that if she went down again she would not complete the race. Then with about one and half miles remaining, she made a surge toward the gold medal. Keitany could not answer with her back muscles having seized, according to Jeptoo, who had tried to help her teammate by bringing Keitany liquids during the race.

“Mary didn’t react,” Jeptoo said. “I knew she was having a problem. I tried to win any medal that would come.”

For her it would be silver as Gelana and Ethiopia collected another gold. At the start, Gelana had not expected to win. Her doubt grew after she splattered to the pavement. But she has loved running in the rain since she was a child. And Sunday, she remained composed and crossed the line into Olympic history.

Later, she held up her patched elbow for reporters, but said she had not felt any pain during the tense excitement of the race.

“It didn’t stop me from running,” Gelana said.

  1. Nagasso
    | #1

    In the tradition of Abebe Bikila, Mammo Wolde, Wami Birattua, Gete Wami, Derartu and many others to count….. Tirunesh, Tariku, Kenenisa and now, TIKI, won the olympics despite the adversities and hurdles thrown their way by TPLF/Woyane minority rule of Ethiopia.

    The minority Tigres/Woyanes are colonizing the galant Olympic champions time and time again, Oromo Ethiopians. What an irony….. when hundreds of thousands of their fellow Oromo Ethiopians are suffering in TPLF/Woyane dungeons.

    We will soon follow your example and come out of TPLF/Woyane tyranny in victory and bury TPLF/Woyane forever.

  2. Ittu Aba Farda
    | #2

    Did you see her reaction when she got up after she stumbled on the track? Did you? How she looked back at some one she thought tripped her? That is what is called a perfect stare of death!!! And she got up and gone!!! I watched the final 1 mile again and again and again. As a proud Oromo and as equally proud with all my historical association with everyone as an Ethiopian, this must be one of my proudest moments. My countrymen!!! This is a proud moment for all of us to savor!!! And that daughter of ours, that sweetheart of ours, Tirunesh Dibaba graced us all with her triumphant victory in the 10K final on Friday. What a finish that was!!!

  3. Tedla Asfaw
    | #3

    “Marathon the Queen Marathon the Queen Abebe and Mamo Defeated the world” that was the number one song in Ethiopia way back when I was a child. In 1960 and 1964 Abebe Bikila won gold and 1968 Mamo Wolde won the third gold in Olympics. The song celebrates, Marathon the Queen you were captured for the third time trying to escape from Ethiopia . Wining three consecutive Olympic Marathons by one country is still a record. Nobody can claim such victory in Olympics except mother Ethiopia.

    However, the last time Ethiopians won Olympics was in 2000 Gold by Gezahegne Abrera and Bronze by Tesfaye Tola. The first Olympic gold for African woman was by Fatuma Roba in 1996, Atlanta. Since then it has been a disappointment for Africa and especially for Ethiopia. All this has changed on Rainy Sunday Olympics, August 5, 2012 in London.The rain and the meandering track has kept most of the elite runners in one pack for most of the race. It was a very close and tactical race.

    On the last few miles three Kenyans and two Ethiopians distanced themselves from the pack and the battle to conquer London was in full gear. Aselefech Mergia was left behind and it is now Mare Dibaba and Tiki Gelana with three Kenyans. On the last few miles the Russian woman came to the lead pack with one Kenyan pulled back. Dibaba has also pulled back.

    The hope of Ethiopia was only Tiki Gelana. The focused and elegant Tiki seems to understand her mission, bring the glory back home, thanks to the support of Ethiopians who waved Ethiopian flag and most likely from her niece Gezahegne Abera who might have whispered on her ear when she was chosen to represent Ethiopia. Gezahenge Abera was knocked on the pavement in 2000 Olympics in Sydney. That knock energized him to win Marathon for Ethiopia after 32 years Olympics drought.

    By sheer coincidence Tiki Gelana was also knocked down in the middle of the race when she reached for water bottle but that did not stop her from her mission. She got back to the leading pack. She run with a sore elbow. That was a scary moment for all of us who watched the race. The last 400m Tiki took the lead for good and brought the Queen back home, Ethiopia Africa . Marathon the Queen is brought back home after “hiding” in Fatuma Roba’s home for 16 years.

    The disappointment we had in 10,000m men final yesterday was replaced by high hope for more medals to come home. Make no mistake this year is Ethiopian women athletes year. Tirunesh Dibaba the best runner on the planet showed what Ethiopian women are made of by thrashing everyone on the track field on August 4 night in a packed Olympic Stadium. Tirunesh Dibaba not competing for most of the last years because of injury did the impossible. The Ethiopian flood is coming to London big time indeed Tirunesh Dibaba is the leader of Ethiopian Athletes. We love you Tiruye !!!!!

    The 3000 m women steeplechase surely will bring us gold. We have Fantu in 800m. Tirunesh and Meseret will bring us gold in 5000m. With all these to come nothing will match what Tiki Gelana did today in rainy London. Like the rumbling River Gelana of Ethiopia she rumbles beside the Thames River and brought the Marathon Glory once more to Ethiopia.

    We love you Tiki Gelana. You run with grace and beauty. You set a new Olympic Record, 2 hours,23 minutes and 7 seconds, you are the Ethiopian Queen in London, the whole Africa is proud of you. Our men young marathon runners will be inspired by your win and make us proud once more next Sunday. Winning both women and men Olympics Marathon is indeed possible. Let the party begins fellow Ethiopians !!!!!

  4. ደርቤ ቀጀላ
    | #4

    ውሽታም ትኪ ገላና ርግጠኛ ነበረች:: ስለምን ትርኪ ምርኪ ታወራላችሁ?
    እጅግ በጣም ቀልጣፋና ጀግና ስለሆነችም ነዉ ድል ያደረገችዉ::
    ስለሆነም ያልሆነ ሃተታ ኣታቅርቡ:: ጸጉር ስንጠቃችሁን አቁሙ::
    ዉድ ትኪ ገላና ማንም የሚወዳደራት የለም::
    የበቆጆዋ ልጅ ኢትዮጵያዊት ትኪ ጀግንነቱዋ በዐለም ታይቶዋል::
    እግዚኣብሔር ይባርካት::
    ደርቤ ቀጀላ

  5. Nagasso
    | #5

    Had to check my emotions as I watched Tirunesh & Tiki in the world arena …. In the tradition of Abebe Bikila, Mammo Wolde, Wami Biratu, Gete Wami, Derartu Tulu, Fatuma, Gezahegne and many others to count….. Tirunesh, Tariku, Kenenisa and now, TIKI, won the olympics despite the adversities and hurdles thrown their way by TPLF/Woyane minority rule of Ethiopia.

    It is an immeasurable irony that the minority Tigres/Woyanes continue to colonize the galant Oromo Ethiopians, who time and time again stood as Olympic champions. What an irony….. when hundreds of thousands of their fellow Oromo Ethiopians are suffering in silence in TPLF/Woyane dungeons…their land and resources looted &/or looted, became second class citizens in their own land, while the rest of the world is looking the other way.

    Tiki, Tirunesh …. Hope we Ethiopians will soon defeat the TPLF/Woyane tyranny and following your example stand victorious on the grave of TPLF/Woyane rule.

  6. Nagasso
    | #6

    In the tradition of Abebe Bikila, Mammo Wolde, Wami Birattua, Gete Wami, Derartu, Fatuma Roba, Gezahegne and many others to count….. Tirunesh, Tariku, Kenenisa and now, TIKI, won the olympics despite the adversities and hurdles thrown their way by TPLF/Woyane minority rule of Ethiopia.

    It is an immeasurable irony that the minority Tigres/Woyanes continue to colonize the galant Oromo Ethiopians, who time and time again stood out as Olympic champions. What an irony….. when hundreds of thousands of their fellow Oromo Ethiopians are suffering in TPLF/Woyane dungeons while the rest of the world is looking the other way.

    TIKI & Tirunesh… Hope to soon follow your example and despite all the adversities, Ethiopians will defeat TPLF/Woyane tyranny and come out in victory and walk on the graves of TPLF/Woyane.

  7. Alehegne
    | #7

    Dear Tiki, you are a proud for all of us!! You did it wonderfully! I couldn’t thank you enough!!! May God help you reach your future dreams! I wish I can greet you in person and say you thank you.

  8. ፋልማታ ኡማታ
    | #8

    እንደዚህ ነው ያገር ልጆች:: አምላክ ይጠብቃችሁ ለዘላለም::

  9. ፋልማታ ኡማታ
    | #9

    I am so happy, please do what you have to do, I have no problem at all.

  10. love
    | #10


    The one who is to blame in regards to Oromos are the OLF who have conspired and conspiring with TPLF and foreingers against the people of Ethiopia including Oromos for their dramatic claims against Amara. Little do they know that foreigners will not support stronger groups that protect the mass such as (Oromos who are peaceful except the wanna be Wahabis and ethnofascist, Oromos who are the majoriity, Oromos who are the defender of the nation) hence this is the reason the Amara leaders indirectly may have been defending the Oromos in the past. Even though there was still question of Oromos must be in the leadership (in fact I believe Ethiopia will be peaceful in the long run if moderate Oromos as demonstrated by many Oromos leadershp in the past in every sector of society they are appointed, Ethiopia will be peaceful. Moderate Oromos have demonstrated excellent leadershp if you look in every sector, in military, Ethiopian Airlines, Education, agriculture, etc. That is why they have to root out these negative elements within Oromo to take leadershp in Ethiopia. I am sure they will get support from mainstream Ethiopians and moderate Amaras. Of course our problmes have always been extreme thinking in every group and no one should be left alone. By now we must learn that isolating one group for others to benefit has not worked in Ethipia and let us stop playing with the lives of Ethipians in order to benefit the few and foreigners. Again, for foreingers as in the case of Burundi or Rwanda they set one ethnic groups against the other especially favoring the minority group. So this is not rocket science to figure out how other nations went through and we must stop the game here.

    There was someone who did a movie documentary on Abebe Bikila, I beleive he cashed in on fame and money and I wonder if he really sent the right message for the world and Ethiopia about Abebe Bikila? It is amazing how the world still keep talking about Abebe Bikila and we are silent. This is an indication that past and present leaders are indeed threatened by fame of their own fellow Ethiopian who happened to be Oromo. Such mistrust should stop and be proud for where he came from or who he is. I might understand why ethnic identity was not favored in the past. We must be grateful for this because it will forment and set one against the other as being “Ethipian” is enough. The down side is that, leaders failed in making people proud of who they are this is where they failed once again it is because of the threat that might come using identity. Today, why is it feared Ethiopia will disintegrate? TPLF said identity is importnt it will give choice to be or not to be in union while persecuting one group against the other. Of course their goal is exactly disintegration. What the TPLF could have done is identity and being proud of who you are is good but unity is more importnt. This would have made TPLF one of the greatest leaders. Unfortunately, the divison rather helped them than the rest of Ethipoians. The point, it is high time to erect Abebe Bikilas statue in Addis with the presence of his family.

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