Kenenisa Bekele and Degitu Azimeraw registered victories as records tumble at the Kolkata 25K.
With contrasting victories, Kenenisa Bekele and Degitu Azimeraw made Sunday’s Tata Steel Kolkata 25K an Ethiopian affair to remember.
By winning his first 25 kilometre run in 1:13:48, Bekele shaved nearly four minutes off the course record in the year the run went international and Azimeraw, 18, lowered the women’s mark by over a minute breasting the tape at 1:26:01.
Such was the impact of the quality field that the first eight including the top three Indians bettered the previous men’s course record of 1:17:16 set by defending champion G Lakshmanan in 2016. The Indians were led by Avinash Sable, a steeplechaser who was here to improve his endurance. Clocking 1:15:17, Sable finished fourth overall.
On a pleasant, cool morning, Bekele, 35, approached the halfway mark seven seconds off the leading pack but kicked away to bounce on the home stretch.
He had broken so far away from the group that had compatriot Asefa Diro (5th), Tsegay Tuemay (2nd), Augustino Sulle (3rd) and Sable that for the better part of the last 7km, Bekele looked at his watch instead of over his shoulder. He breasted the tape held by long jump world record holder Mike Powell and former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly.
“If there was a pacemaker, I would have been a minute-and-a-half faster,” said the world record holder in the 5000 and 10000m who has now shifted to the marathon. Kenya’s Denis Kimetto holds the world record for 25k at 1:11:18.
The women’s race had Azimeraw, Hellah Kiprop and the pint-sized Failuna Matunga together till 500m from the finish. Matunga started falling back then and though Kiprop kept up with Azimeraw, she couldn’t produce the final sprint. So, Azimeraw won despite taking a wrong turn but course-correcting immediately.
The first five runners went under the course record of 1:27:31 set by Sudha Singh in 2015. The fast improving L Suriya, Lakshmanan’s sister, was best among Indians and fifth overall with a timing of 1:26:53.