Morocco’s Jaouad Gharib defended his World Championships title in Helsinki. The 33 year-old had surprisingly won gold two years ago in Paris. At that time he was almost a no name, but today he started as one of the big favourites. Jaouad Gharib, who meanwhile improved his personal best to 2:07:02 at the Flora London-Marathon in 2004, lived up to his role today. The Moroccan celebrated his victory in the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki finishing in 2:10:10 hours with an advantage of eleven seconds. Another big favourite, the Italian Olympic Champion Stefano Baldini, gave up after being in the leading group for a long time.
The silver medal was surprisingly won by Christopher Isegwe from Tanzania. The 29 year-old ran 2:10:21, which was a new personal best for him. His former personal best was 2:10:56. Third was the Japanese Tsuyoshi Ogata in 2:11:16, fourth Toshinari Takaoka (Japan/2:11:53), who was expected to be the stronger Japanese runner. The best European was the Spaniard Julio Rey in 2:12:51. He finished eighth and dbehind him came the US-American Brian Sell with 2:13:27.
big leading group
On the 10 k circuit through Helsinki the first half was run in 64:17 minutes. At this point Jaouad Gharib was already together with Paul Biwott, who later finished seventh (2:12:39). He was the best Kenyan athlete. Getuli Bayo (Tanzania), who later gave up, had also been in the leading group. About 20 runners were in this group, among them Stefano Baldini.
At 30 k the Olympic and the World Champion were running together in front with a five second advantage (1:31:45). But shortly after that they split up. While Jaouad Gharib headed to victory alone and expanded his lead at 35 k (1:47:00) to 22 seconds, Stefano Baldini got immense problems. At 35 k he already was 4:46 minutes back in 27th position. After that he gave up the race early.
„It was my plan to run in the leading group until 30 k. After that I ran my own rhythm”, said Jaouad Gharib, who became only the second runner to defend a world marathon title. Abel Anton had done so before. He had won in Athens in 1997 and in Seville two years later.