Takahashi adds world record to Olympic marathon

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The Independent Online

Naoko Takahashi, the Olympic champion, became the first woman to break the two hours 20 minutes barrier as she won yesterday's Berlin Marathon. The 29-year-old from Japan, competing over the distance for the first time since her victory in Sydney a year ago, won in a world record time of 2hr 19min 46sec.

Her front-running performance bettered the previous fastest mark of 2:20:43 seconds, set over the German course two years ago by Tegla Loroupe. On this occasion the tiny Kenyan finished second in 2:28:02. Third was Kathrin Wessel of the host nation, who clocked 2:28:36.

Takahashi, running for the first time in a mixed race, was prominent from the start. Approaching the halfway mark the first Japanese-born Olympic champion was two minutes in front of Wessel, who had overtaken Loroupe. Despite slowing slightly, Takahashi was still on target for a time of 2:19:30.

At that point Takahashi's time of 69min 50sec was only one second adrift of that achieved by Loroupe during her world record run. But her pace was much more consistent than ran by the Kenyan two years ago and a slight smile was seen on Takahashi's face.

At 22 miles it was apparent that unless a major mishap occurred Takahashi would break the 2hr 20min barrier. Behind her Loroupe, as she so often does, has gained a second wind and has forged ahead of Wessel. However, the 28-year-old who is based in Detmold, Germany, knew she had little chance of catching the leader.

After her victory, Takahashi said: "The course was great, the weather was good and I thank all the spectators for their tremendous support. It was a challenge to run this race. And it has always been my goal to win the Olympics and break the world record."

In the men's race, there was a Kenyan sweep of the medals. Joseph Ngolebus won in 2:08:47, followed by Willy Cheruiyot, in 2:09:07, and William Kiplagat, 47sec later.

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