Ceron secures his triple crown

Dionicio Ceron was not always confident he could complete an unprecedented hat-trick of London Marathon victories yesterday. But he did know that if he was still in contention with three miles to go, his speed would secure him the title again. He was; and it did, writes Mike Rowbottom.

The Mexican's victory, in 2hr 10min exactly, was as smoothly executed as his previous two in the capital. Having stayed well within the leading bunch of 10 men left after the pacemaker had taken them to the halfway mark just inside the target of 64 minutes, the world silver medallist chose his moment to strike and was never seriously challenged.

But for the two men in his wake, Vincent Rousseau of Belgium and Britain's Paul Evans, the morning provided its own particular satisfactions.

Rousseau, the only man to have run two sub-2:08 marathons, was pleased with his second place in 2:10:26, given that it had been achieved in the hot conditions he has generally made it his business to avoid.

With temperatures rising towards 80F, this was the hottest ever London Marathon, and Rousseau - who has a contract with his home federation stating that he is not obliged to run for his country in temperatures over 64F, was palpably not in his element. But he came through.

So too did Evans, who overcame the unexpected challenge of Kenya's 19- year-old Jackson Kabinga in the final mile to take third place in 2:10:40. He is now virtually certain to be offered the third British Olympic marathon place alongside the pre-selected Richard Nerurkar and Peter Whitehead - but he looks unlikely to take it up.

Evans has expressed grave doubts about running a marathon in the extreme heat and humidity of Atlanta. John Bicourt, his coach and agent, indicated that he was most likely to seek an Olympic run at 10,000 metres, the event in which he reached the 1992 Olympic final.

Bicourt estimated that Evans, a 35-year-old family man from Lowestoft, could lose up to pounds 100,000 income by choosing to run an Olympic marathon rather than one of the main commercial marathons in the autumn.

Whatever he decides, this run represented a triumph for the Belgrave Harrier as he finished ahead of such proven marathon runners as Domingos Castro of Portugal, Antonio Serrano of Spain - who fell heavily in the closing stages - and Mexico's German Silva, who beat him into second place in New York last November.

"After 24 miles, I thought I couldn't get past Kabiga," he said. "But he was as tired as I was. I thought, `I've got to get on to that podium'. If it had been a race between fourth and fifth places, maybe I wouldn't have done it."

Gary Staines, the pacemaker for the last two years, proved he is a bona fide marathon runner by finishing ninth in 2:12:54 in only his second attempt at the distance. But if Evans should turn down the Olympic place, Staines may not be inclined to take it up - as an asthmatic, running in the smog of Atlanta could be disastrous for him.

The next Briton, Mark Hudspith, was 18th, and Jon Solly and the 1993 London champion, Eamonn Martin, dropped out.