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Bikila and Debele triumph as Ethiopians dominate Dubai Marathon

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Dubai Marathon

(Reuters) – Olika Adugna Bikila won the men’s Dubai Marathon on Friday ahead of Kenyan Eric Kiprono Kiptanui and Ethiopian compatriot Tsedat Abeje Ayana, as the top 11 runners finished the race inside two hours and seven minutes.

Ethiopians dominated the 21st edition of the race with 18 of the top 20 men’s and women’s finishers in Dubai.

With little to separate the leading pack heading into the final kilometer, Bikila produced a late charge to cross the line in 2:06.15, 0.02 seconds ahead of his fellow debutant Kiprono, to collect the winner’s cheque of $100,000.

“At 40km, I realized that, with my speed, I could win,” Bikila said.

Ayana took third place with a time of 2:06.18.

It was the first time in marathon history that 11 men’s runners had clocked times below 2:07.

Such was the intensity of the competition that Ethiopia’s Beshah Yerssie, who ran 2.06.34 – which would have been a world record two decades ago – was only 11th, meaning he received no prize money from the overall pot of $1 million.

Boston Marathon winner Worknesh Degefa Debele of Ethiopia overcame physical issues at midway to win the women’s race with a time of 2:19.38 for her second title in the World Athletics Gold Label road race.

The women’s winner also takes home $100,000.

“I’m really proud I managed to keep going when my back was giving me so many problems,” Debele, who first won the event three years ago on her debut, said.

“I want to sort them out, because my aim is to represent my country in the Olympics.”

Debele’s compatriots Guteni Shone Amana (2:20.11) and Bedatu Hirpa Badane (2:21:55) were second and third respectively.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Heinrich and David Holmes)

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