Merga, Kosgei win in Boston; Canadian wheelchair racer Roy second

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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BOSTON - Ethiopia's Deriba Merga overcame the disappointment of his Olympic fade to win the Boston Marathon on Monday, and Kenya's Salina Kosgei won the closest women's race in the history of the event. Americans took third in both races for the best U.S. finish since 1985.
Merga, who was passed in the last 400 metres and finished fourth in Beijing, pulled away before Heartbreak Hill and won in two hours eight minutes 42 seconds - almost a full minute ahead of Kenya's Daniel Rono and American Ryan Hall.
"I've never experienced anything like this," said Hall, who took the early lead and was shoulder-to-shoulder with the leaders until they passed from Wellesley into Newton, with about 15 kilometres to go to go. "And I've been in the Rose Parade, so that's a pretty big deal."
Kosgei won a sprint with defending champion Dire Tune, trading the lead several times in the final blocks of Boylston Street before hitting the tape less than a stride ahead of the Ethiopian in 2:32:16. American Kara Goucher led the three as they crossed the MassPike into Kenmore Square with one mile to go, but she was outkicked down the stretch and finished nine seconds back.
"I just wanted it for everybody that wanted it for me," said Goucher, whose voice cracked repeatedly in the post-race news conference. "I'm proud of how I did. I just wanted to be the one that won - for everybody."
Canadian Diane Roy of Hatley, Que.,was second in the women's wheelchair race in 2:01:27. Japan's Wakako Tsuchida won the women's race for third straight year, clocking 1:54:37.
Other Canadians who finished were Stephen J. Drew of Waterloo, Ont., finished 28th, while Rami Bardeesy of Halifax was 112th.
Roy made headlines during the Paralympics in September when she was stripped of a gold medal in the women's 5,000 metres because of a crash behind her, then settled for silver days later when the race was held again and American Amanda McGrory beat her by 1/100ths of a second.
South African Ernst Van Dyk breezed to his eighth win in the men's wheelchair race, matching the all-categories Boston Marathon record set by Jean Driscoll, who won eight women's wheelchair races.
The marathon winners will take home US$150,000, but Merga had to wait for his traditional laurel wreath: The women, who had a 30-minute head start, ran so slowly and the men's pace was so fast that he crossed the finish line before Kosgei had a chance to climb the champion's podium.
"I was little bit embarrassed," said Colleen De Reuck, a 45-year-old four-time Olympian and naturalized U.S. citizen who grabbed the lead out of frustration and finished eighth. "You come to a marathon and a big marathon like this, you get paid a lot of money to come and run and I think you should race."
The women's race was the slowest since 1985, a pace that had the men's leaders passing the female stragglers and approaching the final mile as the women were hitting the tape.
Goucher burst into tears and was consoled by her husband, and Tune fell to the pavement for several minutes after the final sprint. A race spokesman said Tune would not be available because she was receiving medical attention; defending champion Robert Cheruiyot, who was seeking an unprecedented fourth straight title and fifth overall, dropped out of the race between the 35K and 40K markers and was taken to a hospital.
One year after Tune outkicked Alevtina Biktimirova to win by two seconds in what was then the closest women's finish ever, the Ethiopian traded places with Kosgei several times on the last long stretch to the tape. The only closer finish in the 113-year history of the event was in 2000, when Elijah Lagat beat Gezahegne Abera with an identical time of 2:09:47.
A field of 26,386 runners left Hopkinton in the morning with temperatures hovering around 10 C and a stiff headwind. Hundreds of thousands lined the 42.195-kilometre course that winds up and down through seven suburbs before ending in Boston's Back Bay.
The top runners were easier to spot this year, wearing their names on their bibs instead of numbers so the hundreds of thousands of fans along the course could cheer them on.
Another runner was easily identifiable by his number: Air traffic controller Patrick Harten wore No. 1549 to honour his role in the safe landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. He finished in 2:47:19 - 355th overall.
- With files from The Canadian Press.

Organizations: Boston Marathon, US Airways Flight 1549

Geographic location: Boston, Kenya, U.S. Ethiopia Beijing Wellesley Newton Boylston Street Kenmore Square Hatley Japan Waterloo Back Bay Hudson River

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