Athletics: O'Sullivan fails to last the pace

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The Independent Online

Sonia O'Sullivan could finish only 12th in the New York Marathon as the 1999 London winner, Joyce Chepchumba, pulled away from her last challenger with a fierce charge to take victory.

O'Sullivan was disappointing, the Irishwoman finishing in 2:32:06 after falling off the pace at the 16-mile mark. But after some early jostling and a late fall that hurt the legs and hopes of two contenders, the Kenyan enjoyed her first win in two years.

Chepchumba finished in 2hr 25min 56sec in cool temperatures and no wind. Lyubov Denisova, of Russia, was next, 21 seconds behind. Olivera Jevtic of Yugoslavia was third, despite taking a tumble.

Chepchumba's compatriot Rodgers Rop, the reigning Boston champion, won the men's title in 2:08:06 ahead of his countrymen Laban Kipkemboi and Christopher Cheboiboch.

For the first time, the élite women started about 30 minutes ahead of the men. The idea was to give the women a chance in the spotlight, and to allow them to run without having to navigate crowded roads. But there was still some bumping. About 10 miles in, Italy's European champion, Maria Guida, crossed in front of Marla Runyan, the first legally blind Olympian, attempting a marathon for the first time, and both slightly stumbled. They threw their arms out to regain balance, and neither fell. Guida pulled out a few miles later, however.

Jevtic and Kerryn McCann of Australia were part of a spread-out lead pack of eight runners at 21 miles when their feet tangled. Jevtic got back up and moved just off the shoulders of Denisova and Chepchumba. McCann scraped her knee, was in tears, and limped slightly.

The commotion allowed the two front-runners to break away, and Chepchumba and Denisova were going stride for stride into the 24th mile when the Kenyan made her move. She pulled off her black wool gloves, threw them down, looked over at Denisova and pulled away, putting a comfortable margin between the two.

Runyan was the top US finisher in fifth overall, just ahead of the defending champion, Margaret Okayo.