Pune: An unheralded Belachew Endale Abayneh clinched his maiden crown as African powerhouses Ethiopia and Kenya swept all the medals in the men`s and women`s sections of the 28th Pune International Marathon here on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Belachew led the Ethiopian gold rush as his compatriots won the titles in the men`s and women`s half-marathon. Having finished ninth and 10th on previous two occasions here, it was doubly special for Belachew as he broke into the lead by the 30km mark to cross the finish line at Nehru Stadium after clocking two hours, 17 minutes and 52 seconds.
He was followed across the finish line by Kenyan Ezekiel Cherop who clocked 2:18.16 and Ethiopian Edisa Merga Ejigu in 2:20.33. "I won here after three failed attempts. I am very happy that I managed to win this time," he said. Belachew, however, could not improve on his personal best of 2:14.04 and blamed it on the poor traffic management.
As runners approached Dapodi near Aundh, there was heavy traffic mismanagement and the runners had to literally struggle their way out leading to a fall in timing. The field boasted of Gebregziabher Gebremariam, who had won the New York Marathon on his debut over the distance in 2010 with a personal best of 2:04:53.
The 2009 World cross-country champion from Ethiopia, however, had some trouble and could not finish as the other pack went into the lead. With the Services athletes pulling out, there was no show from the Indians in the full marathon, while the women`s 10km saw an upset when Sangli girl Nilam Rajput stunned Asian Games silver medallist Kavita Raut by six seconds for the top position.
A 16th overall finish with a timing of 2:27:04 by Nashik`s Bhiku Khairnar was the `best` among the Indians. Local lads K Moorthy (2:51.51) and Vijay Aher (3:03.33) were overall 23rd and 26th. The men`s half marathon had a photo finish with Habtamu Arga Wegi of Ethiopia pipping his Kenyan rival Yegon Daniel Cheruiyot after both clocked 1:04.21.
Ethiopian Melaku Belachew Bizuneh finished third with 1:04.30. Ethiopians concluded their campaign in an emphatic manner when their women`s runners swept the top three places in the women`s half marathon.
Men`s full marathon: 1 Belachew Endale Abayneh (Eth; 2:17.52), 2 Ezekiel Cherop (Ken; 2:18.16), 3 Edisa Merga Ejigu (2:20.33).
Men`s half marathon: 1 Habtamu Arga Wegi (Eth; 1:04.21), 2 Yegon Daniel Cheruiyot (Ken; 1:04.21), 3 Melaku Belachew Bizuneh (Eth; 1:04.30).
Women`s half marathon: 1 Aberu Zewude Tesema (Eth; 1:16.54), 2 Mestawot Tadesse Shankutie (Eth; 1:17.15), 3 Romeha Alene Woldu (Eth; 1:17.17).
Men`s 10km: 1 Man Singh (Services; 31.12), 2 Arjun Pradhan (Ser; 31.13), 3 Ankit Malik (31.14).
Women`s 10km: 1 Nilam Rajput (Maha; 37.24), 2 Kavita Raut (Maha; 37.30), 3 Lalita Babar (Maha; 37.34).