TANZANIA’S long distance runner Alphonce Simbu is over the moon, after putting his mark again in the world’s map, winning men’s bronze at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in London, UK yesterday.
And, Simbu was understandably jubilant. “I am very, very happy,” he said. “This was my focus. I thank God because he protected me, gave me power and strength. I think Tanzanians are over the moon now because this is a great day for us.
“It was a difficult race because everybody is fighting for this. The course has ups and downs and a lot of curves, it is not an easy one. I thought I could catch Kipketer after 35km.
From the start I stayed in the first group, but when Tola, Kirui and Kipketer got away I felt that their pace was too fast for me. But you cannot know if you do not catch up with one of them later because a marathon race is very difficult.”
It is the first medal for the country in the championships since 2005. The only medal Tanzania has ever won in the event was in 2005 edition, when Christopher Isegwe won silver in Helsinki, Finland.
After disappointing campaigns in 2009 Berlin, German, 2011 Daegu, Korea, 2013 Moscow, Russia and 2015 Beijing, China in which Tanzania performed dismally, many had placed their bet on Simbu to excel this time, basing on the kind of preparations made by Athletics Tanzania (AT) prior to the London championships.
And, Simbu lived to that expectation, putting up a spirited performance to finish just behind winner Kenya’s Geoffrey Kipkorir Kirui and second placed Ethiopian rival Tamirat Tola. Kirui won the men’s world marathon, making up for his country’s podium no-show in the last two championships.
Kirui, this season’s Boston marathon winner, clocked 2 hours 08 minutes 27 seconds for gold, 1 minute 22 seconds ahead of Ethiopian rival Tola. Simbu of Tanzania claimed bronze, clocking 2:09:41, just two seconds adrift of Tola after 42km around a 10km Thames river embankment loop in central London in glorious sunshine.
Simbu’s latest feat comes at the backdrop of an impressive 12 months of success in which, he finished fifth at the Rio Olympic Games in August 2016, winning this year’s Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon held in Mumbai, India on January 15th and finished fifth at the London Marathon on April 23rd this year.
At the same event in London yesterday, another Tanzanian runner Ezekiel Jafary finished 12th in a time of 2:14.05, while Stephano Gwandu Huche posted 2:20.05 to finish in the 38th place.
On Saturday, Tanzanian Failuna Matanga missed the medal by a whisker, after finishing fifth at the 10,000 metres women’s race. She clocked 32:29.97 in the race won by Japanese Mizuki Matsuda in a time of 31:59.54.
Rachel Cliff from Canada was second with 32:00.03, while Britain’s Beth Potter came third in a time of 32:15.88. The fourth place went to Eloise Wellings from Australia who posted 32:26.31.
Tola, the Olympic bronze medallist at 10,000m and fastest in the field here with his season’s best of 2:04.11, led the field through the halfway point in 1:05.28, accompanied by Kenyans Kirui and Gideon Kipketer, with this year’s London champion Daniel Wanjiru a couple of seconds back.
At the 1:38 mark, Tola surged to open up a 20-metre lead on Kirui, but the Kenyan gradually reeled the Ethiopian back in and spurted past him to become the fifth gold medallist from the east African powerhouse in the marathon.
“This is the best moment of my career, easily,” said Kirui. “I am so happy to win the world title because it is my first time at these championships.
This was the best course and the best crowd I have seen at a marathon. “I was not expecting to be world champion. I feared the Ethiopian because he had such a fast time, so I just followed my plan to 35km and then felt my body to see how I was doing. Good for me it responded well.