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Ramadhani, McCann win marathon golds

Last updated on: March 19, 2006 11:31 IST

Tanzanian Samson Ramadhani held off a challenge from Kenyan Fred Mogaka before kicking clear to win the Commonwealth Games men's marathon, his first major title, on Sunday.

Australian Kerryn McCann successfully defended her Commonwealth Games women's marathon title after a gut-wrenching battle with Kenyan Hellen Cherono.

Ramadhani finished in a time of two hours 11 minutes 29 seconds, more than three minutes outside his personal best, after building a clear lead over the final two km.

Mogaka finished 34 seconds behind Ramadhani to take the silver medal.

Ramadhani finished fifth at last year's world championships. His compatriot Christopher Isegwe had dominated the early stages of the race on a cool Melbourne morning and appeared to be running comfortably before disaster struck at the 20 km mark.

Isegwe, second at the world championships in Helsinki last year, had just taken a water bottle when he grabbed the back of his left thigh and fell to the roadway with an apparent hamstring injury. The 30-year-old tried to keep running but was unable to continue.

England's Daniel Robinson won the bronze medal in 2:14:5 0.

McCann, winner in Manchester four years ago, appeared to have kicked clear of the pack after 40 kilometres but the courageous Kenyan fought back and the pair staged an extraordinary battle within sight of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

The 38-year-old Australian was spurred on by deafening cheers from her home crowd but Cherono, winner of the 2004 Singapore marathon, refused to yield and the lead changed hands nine times in a lung-busting finale.

Roared on by the crowd as she rounded the MCG track, McCann finally kicked clear over the last 200 metres to win in two hours 30 minutes 54 seconds. She finished two seconds ahead of Cherono, who beat her previous best time by 33 seconds.

"I just can't believe it," McCann told Australian television.

"I can't ever imagine doing anything better than this," said the Australian veteran, who ran her first marathon 20 years ago.

England's Elizabeth Yelling had kept pace in an intriguing three-way battle as they approached the 40km mark but fell away to finish with the bronze medal in 2:32:19.

McCann, whose only two major race wins have been at the Commonwealth Games, doubted she would have been able to hold off Cherono without the urging of the crowd.

"If the people weren't out there I don't think I would have got a gold medal today," the mother-of-two said.

Tanzanian Josephine Akunaay and Russian-born Lioudmila Kortchaguina both began strongly and raced with McCann, Cherono and Yelling up to the halfway mark before the leading three gradually began to pull ahead.

Akunaay finished in fifth behind Tracey Morris of Wales and Kortchaguina faded to finish sixth.

Australian Kate Smythe had to be carried from the track after staggering across the finish line in seventh place.

An exhausted Smythe only just made it to the line. Barely able to walk, she fell back across the line and crossed it again, at first waving away officials who tried to help her before they picked her up and carried her away.

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