Ethiopian runners excel in Hong Kong Marathon 2017 as Melaku Belachew Bizuneh and Gulume Tollesa Chala win the men and women’s titles, respectively
HONG KONG (SCMP)―Ethiopia’s Melaku Belachew Bizuneh wins the 2017 Hong Kong Marathon, men’s title, in a record time of 2:10:31. Compatriot Gulume Tollesa Chala makes it an Ethiopian clean sweep as she win’s the Women’s Marathon in 2:33:39
“Last year was very bad,” laughed Melaku Belachew Bizuneh, one of the bedraggled thousands who took part in the 2016 Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. “But I feel very good today!”
As well he might. The Ethiopian danced a jig on the finish line after breaking the event record with a finishing time of two hours 10 minutes and 31 seconds to land a US$65,000 check – plus a US$5,000 bonus for finishing under 2:12:00.
And in perfect conditions, it was an Ethiopian double as Gulume Tollesa Chala took the women’s title in 2:33:39.
Melaku battled to eighth place in 2016 when the race was held in a bitterly cold downpour. The contrast could not have been greater on and the track as he dominated the field in perfect weather.
Melaku and Julius Kipyego of Kenya broke away from the chasing pack coming out of the Western Harbour Tunnel and battled side by side most of the way to Victoria Park before the Ethiopian burned off his rival around the 40km mark. Another Ethiopian, Adugna Bekele Chala, was a distant third (2:11:32).
Women’s winner Gulume won the Frankfurt Marathon in 2015 and was second in Paris and the Gold Coast in 2016, though her prize money from Hong Kong will beat all of those payouts combined. No wonder her husband – also her coach – seemed a happy man as he translated for her.
“The weather conditions were great and it was very nice to run in,” she said after finishing ahead of Betelhem Moges Chernet, also from Ethiopia, (2:33:49) and last year’s Ethiopian winner Letebrhan Haylay Gebreslasea.
“I won Frankfurt in 2:27 so today was a bit slower but I’m delighted with the win,” she said. “We’ll build a new home for the family with the money and maybe start some sort of business, a shop or market.”
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