Kenya Loses Men's Title, Wins Women's

Tuesday, April 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ The Kenyans aren't finished winning the Boston Marathon. They're just taking the women's race now.

Catherine Ndereba won her second consecutive Boston title on Monday, helping her homeland avoid a shutout after South Korean Lee Bong-ju ended Kenya's streak of 10 consecutive men's victories.

``I knew I was running alone against many Kenyans, but the marathon is competing by yourself,'' said Lee, who finished in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 43 seconds. ``I focused on competing by myself and not paying attention to the others.''

Lee pulled away from Ecuador's Silvio Guerra in the 25th mile to win by 24 seconds and become the first non-Kenyan to win since Italy's Gelindo Bordin in 1990. Lee is the first Korean to win since the Korean War; Yun Bok-suh won in 1947, and Kee Yong-ham in 1950.

``The last winners were my heroes,'' Lee said.

Because of the time difference, Lee won while his most of his native country was asleep. Yun said he couldn't hold back tears when he heard the news.

``I was 24 and Lee is 31, an age that could be a disadvantage,'' Yun said. ``I thought that if he finished third, that would be fine. But he did far more than I had expected. A real feat.''

The United States won 10 consecutive Boston Marathons from 1916-25, though the 1918 race was a relay because of World War I. The Kenyans were hoping for an unprecedented 11th straight win, but they best they could do was Joshua Chelang'a, who finished 46 seconds behind the winner in third.

Kenya also took fourth, fifth and 10th, but its three former champions in the race all had disappointing finishes. Moses Tanui, the 1996 and '98 winner, was 12th; defending champion Elijah Lagat was 17th, and '99 winner Joseph Chebet did not finish.

``I was a little bit worried because I was expecting my countrymen to be a little ahead of me,'' Chelang'a said. ``I was looking for my countrymen to assist me.''

The pack of two dozen men that ran together for the first half of the race dwindled to three by the 25th mile, when Chelang'a, running in his first marathon, fell back. Guerra dropped off the pace soon after, leaving Lee to run alone down Boylston Street, his right fist raised in triumph.

``It was indeed hard for me to make a break,'' he said. ``But I thought, 'If it's hard for me, it's hard for the other guys.' If only I can endure this moment and go for it, then I can make it.''

Ndereba finished in 2:23:53 to win the women's race by nearly one-third of a mile, pulling away from three-time winner and 1996 Olympic gold medalist Fatuma Roba about 17 miles in. The winners each received $80,000 from the total purse of $525,000.

``The only reason Catherine broke away from me is that I felt weak today. I wasn't in good condition and I just couldn't make it,'' Roba said. ``At the start, I thought Catherine was going to win. Once she made the gap between myself and her, I knew I couldn't catch her.''

Malgorzata Sobanska of Poland finished second at 2:26:42. She was followed by Lyubov Morganova of Russia at 2:27:18, Lornah Kiplagat of Kenya at 2:27:56 and Roba at 2:28:08.

In the wheelchair division, Ernst Van Dyk became the first South African men's champion with a time of 1:25:12, ending the seven-year reign of Switzerland's Franz Nietlispach (1995, '97-00) and Heinz Frei ('94. '96).

Louise Savage of Australia took the women's wheelchair title for the fourth time in five years, pulling ahead of Switzerland's Edith Hunkeler on the final straightaway and beating her by four seconds.

Rod DeHaven, of Madison, Wis., ran to the 26.2-mile course in 2:12:41, good for sixth and the first top 10 performance for an American since 1994. The United States, which hasn't had a Boston winner since Greg Meyer and Joan Benoit in 1983, placed two runners in the top 15 and nine among the top 31.

The top American woman was Jill Gaitenby of Providence, R.I., who finished 14th in 2:36.45.

``I'll be back,'' said Josh Cox of El Cajon, Calif., who led near the midpoint of the race before finishing 14th. ``And I think the Americans will, too.''