The British team for this summer’s Olympic marathon will sport a Caledonian streak. The only question is whether it will be two or three strong. Callum Hawkins and Tsegai Tewelde booked their tickets for Rio 2016 with seminal performances in yesterday’s London Marathon, the top two Britons home in a race that doubled as the trial for the GB team for Brazil.
Hawkins’ elder brother Derek was the third Briton home in 14th place and, having also hit the Olympic standard, could be offered a discretionary place.
Callum, in only his second outing at the distance, took eighth place in 2:10:52, delivering an audacious charge towards The Mall that took him past world record holder Dennis Kimetto.
“I knew it was just because he was struggling,” the Kilbarchan Athletics Club man admitted. “But it’s still amazing to get that scalp.”
On the prospect of being joined by his brother in Brazil, Callum said: “I think the last time two brothers were at the Olympics (in the marathon) was in 1992, when I was born. “It would be unbelievable having your brother and training partner right beside you.”
Now the fourth-quickest Scot of all time, the 23-year-old paced himself perfectly to overhaul Tewelde who held his own for a long spell among the elite. The Shettleston Harrier first arrived in the UK for the 2008 world cross-country championships in Edinburgh as a member of the Eritrean team. Fearing for their safety, several of their number fled to Glasgow and sought political asylum.
It was an escape from chaos, he confirmed. “I had a bomb accident when I was eight years old,” he said. “I had a serious injury, five places on my body and a scar on my head.” In Glasgow, where Tewelde settled, he has found peace and a new nation to represent and, in August, the 26-year-old will run for the UK on the greatest stage of all.
Eliud Kipchoge missed the world record by eight seconds in winning the men’s race in 2:03:05 with fellow Kenyan Jemima Sumgong taking the women’s title. However, Freya Ross looks set to miss out on a second Olympic appearance after coming 18th.
Kipchoge retained his crown in course record time as the 31-year-old left the field trailing. He celebrated by raising his finger as he made the final turn, but appeared to realise as he approached the line just how close he had come to Kimetto’s world record, his compatriot going just eight seconds quicker in Berlin two years ago.
Kipchoge brought his hand to his forehead as he saw his time, but was soon smiling again as he celebrated a stunning run. Fellow Kenyan Stanley Biwott was second with a personal best of 2:03:51, while Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele came in third.
Kipchoge said: “I knew the record was close. I tried to squeeze it, but it wasn’t possible. I’m happy I ran a course record. The crowd is what pushed me, it’s a wonderful crowd in London. In every kilometre, except in the tunnel, they cheer you and keep you moving. The support was perfect and it was good to get a PB.”
Sumgong ensured a Kenyan double by winning the women’s race, despite banging her head in a heavy fall. She took a tumble at around 22 miles, apparently tangling feet with Aselefech Mergia in an incident in which pre-race favourite Mary Keitany also fell and never fully recovered.
Sumgong cracked her head against the road, but ignored her clear discomfort to rejoin the leading pack and eventually pass them. She finished in 2:22:58 as defending champion Tigist Tufa failed to haul her in over the final 600m. “The Ethiopian runner clipped my leg and I went down,” she said of her accident. “I got up again as quickly as possible and got my pace back. The fall really affected me and I was unsure if I could continue. I have a cut on my head and on my shoulder, they are bleeding but I don’t feel any pain yet. I did feel it in my legs, though, so I’m so surprised I won.”
Elsewhere, Fife’s Paralympic hopeful Derek Rae all but cemented his Rio place with a personal best in the adjoining IPC championships.