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News and Notes: Men's Olympic Marathon

Wanjiru Breaks the Barriers

Samuel Wanjiru became the first Kenyan to win the Olympic Marathon gold medal at Beijing and he did so in barrier-breaking style. In running an Olympic record 2:06:32 he became the first man to simultaneously break 2:09, 2:08 and 2:07.


Wanjiru took a massive 2 minutes and 49 seconds off of Carlos Lopes's former Olympic Games record of 2:09:21, the biggest reduction since Abebe Bikila lowered his own Olympic standard from 2:15:16.2 to 2:11:12.2 in 1964. Wanjiru now owns significant records at the marathon, half-marathon (world record, 58:33) and 10,000 meters (world junior record, 26:41.75).


Silver medalist Jaouad Gharib was also under the old Olympic record, but the two-time World Champion (2003, 2005) as well as last year's World Champion, Luke Kibet (who did not finish in Beijing), failed to become the first to add an Olympic title after winning the World gold.


No man who had previously been a winner at one of the five Big City World Marathon Majors events – Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London and New York City – had come up a winner at the Olympics and Beijing competitors such as Martin Lel and Marilson dos Santos weren't able to defy that challenge.


Wanjiru had won his first marathon last December with a course record 2:06:39 at Fukuoka, Japan and then lowered his personal best to 2:05:24 in finishing as runner-up to Lel at the Flora London Marathon in April.


At 21 years and 288 days old, Wanjiru became the youngest male marathon gold medal winner since Juan Carlos Zabala (20 years 321 days) in 1932. He was the youngest to win any Major since 1993 when Cosmas Ndeti (21 years 146 days) was first at the Boston Marathon.


With Lel's win at London earlier this year, African runners now own the men's event record in all seven World Marathon Majors races.


World Marathon Majors, Men's Event Records:


BerlinHaile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia, 2:06:24

Boston – Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, Kenya, 2:07:14

Chicago – Khalid Khannouchi, Morocco, 2:05:42

London  Martin Lel, Kenya, 2:05:15

New YorkTesfaye Jifar, Ethiopia, 2:07:43

Olympic Games – Samuel Wanjiru, Kenya, 2:06:32

World Championships – Jaouad Gharib, Morocco, 2:08:31