Athletics: Kagwe takes Manhattan

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The Independent Online
JUST AS he did last year, John Kagwe pulled away from his Kenyan countryman, Joseph Chebet, in the final yards of the New York Marathon to take his second straight title in what was the race's second-closest finish in its 29-year history.

Kagwe, Chebet and the Tanzanian, Zebedayo Bayo, turned into Central Park in Manhattan almost abreast, but Bayo fell back, leaving last year's 1- 2 finishers, Kagwe and Chebet, to fight it out. Kagwe, who received $50,000 (pounds 31,250) for his pains, won in 2hr 8min 45sec, with Chebet three seconds back and Bayo in third at 2:08:51.

The closest finish in the history of the race was in 1994 when Mexico's German Silva beat his compatriot, Benjamin Paredes, by two seconds.

The early part of the race was slower than predicted, with the pace-setters failing to do their job. Instead, the first half was very tactical.

After that, the pace picked up, with two of the drop-outs being the reigning Olympic champion, Josia Thugwane of South Africa, and the 1997 world champion, Abel Anton of Spain. As the race developed - in front of the 2million people estimated to have lined the city's streets - it boiled down to a three-man contest between Kagwe, Chebet and Bayo.

Franca Fiacconi became the first Italian to win the women's race, beating the Kenyan, Tegla Loroupe, twice a winer of the event. Fiacconi, third last year and second in 1996, finished in 2:25:17. The Mexican, Adriana Fernandez, also passed the ailing Loroupe and finished second, a minute and 16 seconds behind. Loroupe, beset by stomach cramps, finished in third five minutes further back.

The jubilant Fiacconi gave the thumbs-up sign twice shortly before the end, then bent and kissed the ground after crossing the finish line.