Africa: Continent's Athletes Triumph in Olympics Marathon

24 August 2008

As the Beijing Olympics reached their climax ahead of the closing ceremony on Sunday, African athletes overpowered others to take the top five places in the men's marathon, traditionally the final athletics event.

Samuel Kamau Wansiru of Kenya won gold with a new Olympic record of two hours, 6.32 minutes. Morocco's Jaouad Gharib won silver, also beating the previous Olympic record. Tsegay Kebede of Ethiopia won the bronze medal. In fourth and fifth place were Deriba Merga of Ethiopia and Martin Lel of Kenya.

China's official Xinhua news agency quoted Wansiru as saying: "It feels good to make history here. It feels good to make history for Kenya and win the gold." It was the first time a Kenyan athlete had won the marathon.

Sunday's three marathon medals brought to 10 the number won by African athletes in distance running on the final two days of the games. On Saturday, they won seven medals, sweeping up all the medals in both the men's 800m and 5000m races.

Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele, already the gold medallist in the men's 10000m, took gold in the men's 5000m, where Africans took the top six places. His countrywoman, Tirunesh Dibaba, had on Friday added a gold medal for the women's 5000m race to her gold for the 10000m earlier in the week.

Kenya won six medals at the weekend, making it Africa's biggest medal-winner this Olympics, with total of 14 (five of them gold). On Sunday it was in 15th place on the overall medals log, and it ended the Olympics in fourth place on the athletics medals log, behind the United States, the Russian Federation and Jamaica.

Ethiopia is Africa's second most successful winner, with seven medals (four of them gold). Zimbabwe is in third place, with four medals, all of them won by swimmer Kirsty Coventry.

On Saturday, Sudan won a medal for the first time - Ahmed Ismail took silver in the men's 800m.

See full medals list on our Olympics page

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