It was jubilation across Kenya as female marathon runner Jemima Sumgong touched the finish line in the women’s marathon race at the Rio 2016 Olympics yesterday.
The 31-year-old runner defied the scorching heat of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to finish the 26.2 mile race in 2 hours, 24 minutes, and 4 seconds, becoming the first Kenyan female marathon runner to win the gold medal.
“I just don’t know what to say. This is just unbelievable. Before the start of the race I asked God to help me get a good result and I’m happy my prayers have been answered,” Sumgong told SuperSport after the race.
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However, it was not an easy win for Sumgong since she had to battle it out with the reigning world champion Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia, who finished third, and a Kenyan-turned-Bahrainian Eunice Kirwa, who came in second.
Sumgong was able to break from the pack after the first 35 kilometers and kept pushing until she managed to shake off her closest opponent Eunice Kirwa in the final kilometer.
“At the 35 kilometer mark I realized that my teammates had dropped off and that gave an extra motivation to push forward and make my country proud. In the last 2 kilometers it was just the three of us and I said I’m not letting go now,” she added.
Who Is Jemima Sumgong?
Born in 1984, Jemima Jelagat Sumgong hails from Nandi District in the Kenyan Rift Valley region. She is a renowned marathon runner with a personal best finish of 2 hours, 20 minutes, and 48 seconds.
Sumgong has won several international marathon competitions including London, Rotterdam, and Las Vegas marathons. She also finished runners-up in the Boston, Chicago and New York City marathons.
Her London Marathon competition earlier this year was notable because she tumbled and fell in the middle of the race but still managed to emerge the winner.
Sumgong’s win at the Rio 2016 Olympics comes at a time when Kenyan athletes are facing a myriad of challenges including allegations of doping.
Less than a week ago, the Kenyan athletics team manager at Rio, Michael Rotich, was sent home from the ongoing Olympics and subsequently arrested upon arrival to Kenya following an exposé by the Sunday Times of UK that allegedly showed him accepting a cash bribe in order to warn Kenyan athletes ahead of doping tests.