Peres Jepchirchir leads Kenya one-two to win Olympic women's marathon gold

KAWAGOE, JAPAN - AUGUST 07:  Peres Jepchirchir of Team Kenya celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the gold medal in the Women's Marathon Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 07, 2021 in Kawagoe, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
KAWAGOE, JAPAN - AUGUST 07: Peres Jepchirchir of Team Kenya celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the gold medal in the Women's Marathon Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 07, 2021 in Kawagoe, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Peres Jepchirchir outruns world record holder Brigid Kosgei for Olympic marathon win as Kenya take gold and silver in physically draining race; Team USA's Molly Seidel gets bronze

Peres Jepchirchir led a Kenyan one-two finish in the women’s marathon, ahead of world record holder Brigid Kosgei,

Jepchirchir crossed the line in two hours, 27 minutes and 20 seconds, her season’s best time, to finish a physically exhausting race in a hot and humid Sapporo.

The two-time world half marathon champion was 16 seconds ahead of Kosgei. Team USA's Molly Seidel, a relative newcomer to the marathon, took home the bronze in two hours 27 minutes 46 seconds.

"It feels good," said Jepchirchir on winning gold. "I’m so, so happy because we win as Kenya. First and second.

"I thank my god so much. I’m happy for my family. I’m happy for my country, Kenya.

"I pushed on the pace (and when I opened the gap) it was like, 'wow, I’m going to make it. I’m going to win'."

The Olympic organisers started the race one hour earlier, at 6 a.m., due to concerns about the heat in Sapporo.

An 88-strong field lined up at the start of the 42km course in Sapporo Odori Park. Fourteen, including world champion Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya, did not finish.

"It was so hot, it was not easy," said Jepchirchir. "I’m just thankful I managed (to cope) with that weather."

"It is very hot but we tried to do our best," added Kosgei.

Chepngetich and Kosgei were content to lead the early going in the race, with a group of 10 runners accompanying them along the way.

No runner made a real strike for home for the first 30 kilometres as they paced themselves through the streets of Sapporo.

The real race began at the 36km mark.

A small breakaway group including Kosgei, Jepchirchir, Seidel and Lonah Chemtai Salpeter of Israel moved away from rest of the field, opening an 11 second gap.

Kosgei moved up from sixth to run alongside her fellow Kenyan and, just before the 38km-mark, they made a push for victory.

Seidel began to lose ground as did Salpeter while the Kenyans moved away.

Soon after Salpeter began to walk, with the heat taking its toll on the Israeli runner. She continued to finish 66th.

With less than one kilometre to go, Jepchirchir made another push for home to cement her position as the world's top female marathon runner.

As Kosgei faded, Jepchirchir charged home to finish in a season’s best of 2:22:01.

Jepchirchir's gold gave Kenya its second consecutive women's marathon title at the Olympics. The women’s race in Rio in 2016 was won by Jemima Sumgong.

This is the 10th running of the women marathon at the Olympic Games after it was first included in the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

Kenya have won seven marathon medals in the event's 10 appearances, but this was the country's first gold and silver in a single Olympic marathon race.