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Hassan stages remarkable comeback victory in the London Marathon in 2:18:33

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  • Hassan stages remarkable comeback victory in the London Marathon in 2:18:33

Sifan Hassan staged an incredible and almighty comeback to win the TCS London Marathon on her debut on Sunday (23) morning in 2:18:33.

Hassan’s debut looked on the verge of coming to grief in the 19th kilometre when she dropped off the leading group before stopping on two or three occasions to stretch out her bothersome leg. Fans following the race across the world on social media pondered whether Hassan would drop out but the Dutchwoman would not be defeated so easily.

With a grimace on her face and still not running with her usual fluency, Hassan resumed her race although the leaders - who still had the luxury of pacemakers at this point - were moving away from the stricken track star as she crossed the iconic landmark of Tower Bridge and into the second half. 

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By the 25 kilometre mark, Hassan was running in complete isolation some 28 seconds - almost 200 meters - behind the leading group headed by reigning Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir from Kenya and also included reigning champion Yalemzerf Yehualaw from Ethiopia, neither of whom had been beaten in a marathon of any significance. 

After the race, Hassan admitted she was considering dropping out at this point but as the leading group began to slow, Hassan started to rally. And by the 30 kilometre mark, the landscape of the race changed significantly. Hassan had moved within three seconds of the leading group.

After an optimistic first half split of 68:29 - a pace which put the women’s only world record of 2:17:01 into view - the race developed into a cagey and tactical affair which played to the advantage of Hassan who began to make her presence felt in the leading group in the closing stages along the Embankment.

But the leg and hip problems just before the halfway point weren't Hassan’s only obstacles. The Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion admitted she was struggling to master the art of taking on drinks during the race and she almost missed her last drink at the 40 kilometre checkpoint altogether, forcing Hassan to stop for a second time and retrace her footsteps to retrieve her water bottle.

The group congregated once again and five women were still in close contention with one mile remaining. Last year’s third-placer Alemu Megertu from Ethiopia was the first of the quintet to make a winning bid and while her short-lived surge dispatched her more illustrious teammate Yehualaw and Kenya’s Sheila Chepkirui, Hassan - who was still grimacing intermittently but growing in confidence as the finish-line drew closer - countered the move.  

And when the finish-line drew into sight on The Mall, there was only going to be one outcome. Hassan mustered up some of her legendary track speed, kicking away from Megertu and Jepchirchir for a magnificent and memorable debut victory.

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Arms spread wide and with an expression of sheer disbelief on her face, Hassan broke the tape in 2:18:33 - a Dutch record and fourth on the European all-time list - for victory ahead of Megertu (2:18:37) and Jepchirchir (2:18:38). Hassan also became the first European winner of the London Marathon since Germany's Irina Mikitenko took back-to-back victories in 2008 and 2009.

"It was really amazing. I never thought I would finish a marathon. Here I am - one of my favourite marathons to watch - I finished it and I won. I cannot even believe it," said Hassan after achieving one of the great comeback victories in the marathon.

Hassan's thoughts immediately turned to this August's World Athletics Championships in Budapest where she is likely to turn her focus back to the track. "That’s one of my dreams. I wasn’t even doing that much marathon training because I was thinking about Budapest…I think I will do amazing because of this," said Hassan.

Behind Hassan, Italy’s Sofia Yaremchuk finished ninth in a lifetime best of 2:24:02 with Samantha Harrison the leading British finisher in eleventh in 2:25:59. 

In the men's race, former European U23 10,000m bronze medallist Emile Cairess made an auspicious debut at the distance, moving through the field in the second half to finish sixth in 2:08:07. Phil Sesemann was the second British finisher in eighth in 2:10:23 while Mo Farah drew his marathon career to a close in ninth in 2:10:28. 

Steven Mills for European Athletics


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