>> Simbu, who claimed bronze in the men’s marathon in London yesterday, has been awarded $20,000 (about Sh45 million) while Kenya’s Geoffrey Kirui took home $60,000
Dar es Salaam. The government has congratulated long distance athlete Alphonce Felix Simbu for his sterling performance at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London, United Kingdom yesterday.
Simbu claimed bronze in the men’s marathon, just one minute, 24 seconds adrift of Kenya’s Geoffrey Kipkorir Kirui, who won the race, making up for his country’s podium no-show in the last two championships.
“He (Simbu) has once again shown that he is as good as the world’s best,” the minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Harrison Mwakyembe, said yesterday.
“I am proud of our athletes who are representing our nation with such great distinction” Mwakyembe added.
The minister urged other Team Tanzania members who are in London for the ongoing IAAF World Championships to emulate the 25-year-old marathoner.
Simbu, this year’s Mumbai Marathon winner, was one minute, 24 seconds behind Kirui, who clocked 2 hours, 08 minutes and 27 seconds for gold, 1 minute, 22 seconds ahead of Ethiopian rival Tamirat Tola.
Simbu was just two seconds adrift of Tola after 42km around a 10km Thames river embankment loop in central London in glorious sunshine.
“Winning a medal at the World Athletics Championships has been my goal for so long. Now my goal will be to win the gold,” the excited Tanzanian runner said shortly after the race.
Following his impressive show at the race, Simbu was awarded $20,000 (about Sh45 million), while Kirui and Tola took home $60,000 and $30,000 respectively from the organisers.
Athletics Tanzania (AT) president Anthony Mtaka also heaped praise on the athlete for ending the country’s 12-year medal drought at the world most prestigious athletics event.
“My hearty congratulations to Simbu for winning bronze in the men’s marathon at the ongoing IAAF World Championships. This is the best moment of his career. We are proud of him,” Mtaka said yesterday.
For his part, the Kenyan runner he was happy to win the gold and that his goal was to retain the honour next year.
“I am so happy to win the world title because it is my first time at these championships. This was the best course and the best crowd I have seen at a marathon.
“I was not expecting to be world champion. I feared the Ethiopian because he had such a fast time, so I just followed my plan to 35km and then felt my body to see how I was doing. Good for me it responded well.”
Tola, the Olympic bronze medallist at 10,000m and fastest in the field here with his season’s best of 2:04.11, led the field through the halfway point in 1:05.28, accompanied by Kenyans Kirui and Gideon Kipketer, with this year’s London champion Daniel Wanjiru a couple of seconds back.
At the 1:38 mark, Tola surged to open up a 20-metre lead on Kirui, but the Kenyan gradually reeled the Ethiopian back in and spurted past him to become the fifth gold medallist from the east African powerhouse in the marathon.
“I was smart not to follow the Ethiopian,” Kirui said of Tola’s initial surge, with his rival blaming an old leg injury for eventually falling off the Kenyan’s new pace.
“When he tried to take off I knew I had to hit my target at 35km then I started to move.”
Britain’s Callum Hawkins finished fourth in a personal best of 2:10.17, while Kipketer claimed fifth in 2:10.56, a place ahead of Italy’s Daniele Meucci, given the same time, a personal best.