XIAMEN, China, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- Ethiopian runners swept top three in both men's and women's competition at the 2017 Xiamen International Marathon here on Monday.
Lemi Berhanu claimed the men's title in 2 hours 8 minutes and 27 seconds, and his compatriot Meseret Mengistu Biru became the women's champion in 2:25:58.
About 30,000 runners from 31 countries and regions took part in the first IAAF Gold Label Road Race of the new year, including some 24,885 men and 5,115 women. The organizing committee invited 27 high level athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Belarus, Eritrea and Algeria to compete in the 15th anniversary of the event.
Lemi Berhanu, the winner of the 2016 Boston Marathon with 2:12:45, took the lead from the start with his countrymen and beat all the other runners to take the gold, but he didn't break the course record and the Chinese all-comers' record of 2:06:19 set by Kenya's Moses Mosop in 2015. The Ethiopian got a prize money of 40,000 US dollars.
"The course is very hard with a lot of rises and falls," the 22-year-old explained why he couldn't make the breakthrough as he said in the pre-match press conference, "and the weather is very hot."
The 22-year-old got the first place at the 2014 Zurich Marathon on his debut and went on to win in Dubai and Warsaw, before created his personal best at 2:04:33 at the 2016 Dubai Marathon. Berhanu represented his country and ranked the 13th at the Rio Olympic Games in 2:13:29.
Mosinet Geremew crossed the line in 2:10:20 to be the runner-up, while Shura kitata took the third place in 2:10:36.
In the women's race, the Ethipians also proved to be the dominant force with a comfortable top three finish. 2015 Paris Marathon winner Meseret Mengistu Biru completed in 2:25:58 to dent Workenesh Edesa's hope of retain the title of the race. Edesa set her PB of 2:24:04 in last year's edition but clocked 2:26:27 to be the runner-up this time, while Tola Melkam Gizaw took the third in 2:26:47.
"I am happy to be the champion," said Mengistu, "But it's a pity that I didn't break my personal record. The day is hot and the slopes in the return course is hard."
The 26-year-old said her next aim is to compete at the 2017 London Marathon.
You Peiquan touched the line first among all the Chinese runners, the runner told Xinhua that he finished in about two hours and 33 minutes by his own watch.