Xue Bai wins first women's title for China

Xue Bai became the first Chinese woman to win the marathon world championship title on Sunday, surging ahead of Japan's Yoshimi Ozaki in the final kilometre to win at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate in 2 hours 25 minutes 15 seconds.


AFP - China's Xue Bai won the women's marathon world title in a time of 2hours 25minutes and 15 seconds here on Sunday.

The 20-year-old - whose name means 'white snow' - beat home Yoshimi Ozaki of Japan (2hr 25:25) while Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia took the bronze (2hr 25:32).

At 5km there was a lead group of 40 runners with Rwanda's Epiphanie Nyirabarame leading them out, and America's leading medal hope Kara Goucher - third in the 10,000 metres at the last world championships - prominent.

The Kenyans and the Ethiopians were also in close contention while China's Zhu Xiaolin - fourth both in the 2007 worlds and the Olympics in Beijing - was also up there.

Nyirabarame was still setting the pace after 10km with Goucher and experienced Romanian Lidia Simon - the 2001 world champion and 2000 Olympic silver medalist - in close attendance while Zhu and compatriot Zhou Chunxiu were also prominent as the lead group was whittled down to 20.

Nyirabarame paid dearly for her early efforts as by the 15km mark she was beating the retreat and was 13 seconds off the pace with the leadership becoming increasingly fluid.

Olaru had now been replaced at the head of affairs by the Chinese pair of Zhu and Zhou while among the remainder up front were still Goucher, Simon and Ethiopia's two-time Boston Marathon champion Dire Tune.

Crossing over Museum Island and sweeping towards the Berlin Cathedral after an hour of the race, the Chinese were still the hares for the greyhounds behind them as Tune and Simon sat on their shoulders.

They took on the pace from the Chinese pair - whose other two team-mates Sun Weiwei and Xue were also in the lead pack - going under the Brandenburg Gate at 20km.

At the halfway stage it was Russian Nailiya Yulamanova who led the way ahead of Zhu and Simon.

However, Tune suffered a terminal blow just before the 25km marker when she tripped over another runner's legs and tumbled to the ground and although, she quickly rose to her feet she had lost all her rhythm and quickly dropped away.

Yulamanova's sudden injection of pace tore apart the lead group reducing it to 11 as among others Simon started to feel all of her 39 years and was left trailing - Goucher was just about hanging on in the lead group while the Chinese were packed ominously behind the Russian.

Also coming into the picture for the first time was Ozaki, who had kept her own counsel at the back of the pack but as the 30km mark approached the 28-year-old started to make her presence felt.

Passing the world famous Humboldt University - opposite the square where the Nazis performed in May 1933 their infamous 'Burning of the Books' of mainly Jewish authors not approved by them - Goucher started to weaken.

By the 30km mark the lead group was down to four, Yulamanova, Ozaki, Xue and Mergia but 5km later then there were three as the Russian paid for her valiant efforts and was dropped.

Ozaki suddenly upped the pace brutally just after the 40km mark and while Xue was able to stay with her, Mergia was unable to.

However, it was Ozaki who had to give second best as within sight of the finishing line at the Brandenburg Gate Xue pressed the accelerator and left her for dead.

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