Eyob Gebrehiwet improved his PB by three minutes to win the 32nd edition of the Huawei Venice Marathon in 2:12:16 on Sunday (22), becoming the first Italian man since 1995 to win the IAAF Bronze Label road race.
In what was just his second marathon to date, following a 2:15:39 debut in Florence last year, Gebrehiwet’s winning mark is the second-fastest time by an Italian man this year behind Daniele Meucci’s 2:10:56 at the World Championships in London.
But the race was not without controversy as Gebrehiwet capitalised on a moment just after the half-way mark when the lead pack of seven men followed the lead motorcycle who had taken a wrong turn.
Having built a lead of almost one minute at half way, reached in 1:05:30, the seven leaders – Bernard Bett Kiplangat, Moses Kemei Kipngetich, Robert Kiplimo, Abdulah Shami, Mutai Kipkemei, Gilbert Chumba and David Metto Kiprono – unintentionally ran off course. They later rejoined the race, but at 25 kilometres they trailed the then lead pack – which had earlier been the chase pack – by a minute.
Gebrehiwet, Mogos Shumay, Muhammed Mussa and Rodgers Maiyo reached 25 kilometres in 1:18:32. Maiyo then dropped out and Mussa began to struggle, leading Shumay and Gebrehiwet alone in front.
Gebrehiwet then pushed the pace after passing the famous Ponte della Libertà, reaching the 35-kilometre mark in 1:49.23. By 40 kilometres, reached in 2:05:13, his lead over Mussa had grown to more than two minutes.
The Italian runner of Eritrean origin, who competes for the local Venice Marathon Club, crossed the finish line in Riva dei sette Martiri in 2:12:16 to take the first win of his career after missing this race in 2015 and 2016 due to injury problems. Mussa finshed runner-up in 2:15:14 ahead of Tariq Bamaarouf, who held off Chumba in the final stages of the race.
Gebrehiwet became Italian citizen in October 2015 and was introduced to athletics by Marco Maddalon. He was previously coached by Giancarlo Chittolini (the trainer of 3000m steeplechase Alessandro Lambruschini). He is now trained by Ruggero Pertile, who has recently a coaching career after hanging up his running shoes last year.
“On the eve of the race I felt pressure but I managed to stay calm as I knew that I had worked well,” said Gebrehiwet, who is coached by Ruggero Pertile, the fourth-place finisher in the marathon at the 2015 IAAF World Championships. “Ruggero is not only my coach, but also a good friend. He dedicated a lot of his time to train me. Today he gave me a lot of support along the course.
“Today’s race shows that the work is paying off,” added Gebrehiwet, whose next big goal is the 2018 European Championships. “It was not an easy race as I had to run alone on the Ponte della Libertà. I dedicate the win to myself as I have always believed in my work despite all the difficulties.”
Pertile, who retired from international racing last year, was delighted with Gebrehiwet’s run. “Eyob is a determined athlete,” said Pertile. “We have set a long-term goal building towards the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. I knew that he felt well. He could have run faster but I am very happy with his race.”
Utara the clear winner
Misfortune also struck in the women’s race as defending champion Priscah Jepleting Cherono suffered from stomach cramps during the race and was unable to mount a challenge to Sule Utura of Ethiopia.
Utura, the 2008 world U20 5000m champion, was joined by Cherono in the first half. They passed through 10 kilometres in 35:02 and 15 kilometres in 52:35, building up a gap of 16 seconds over Aynalem Woldemichael.
The lead duo reached the halfway mark in 1:14:10 and increased their gap to more than five minutes at 25 kilometres. Utura broke away soon after, though, and had a 53-second lead over Cherono by 30 kilometres.
The Ethiopian continued increasing her lead and eventually went on to win in 2:29:04, smashing her PB by five minutes. Despite fading dramatically in the final kilometres, Cherono held on to second place and crossed the line in 2:41:08.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
1 Eyob Faniel Gebrehiwet (ITA) 2:12:16
2 Mohammed Mussa (ERI) 2:15:14
3 Tarik Bamaarouf (MAR) 2:16:41
1 Gedo Sule Utura (ETH) 2:29:04
2 Priscah Cherono Jepleting (KEN) 2:41:08
3 Aynalem Woldemichael (ETH) 2:42:12