Purity Rionoripo en route to a course record at the Paris Marathon (© AFP)
Kenya’s Purity Rionoripo and Benson Kipruto were first past the post at the inaugural edition of The Battle of the Teams in Prague on Sunday (30), winning the World Athletics Label Road Race in 2:20:14 and 2:10:16 respectively.
Starting in glorious sunshine on the Charles Bridge, The Battle of the Teams concept involved four carefully balanced teams of eight athletes, but eventually there could be only one individual winner in the men’s and women’s races, and only one team could come out on top.
After a quick first half, Rionoripo applied pressure at the front of the women’s race at 25km, breaking loose and building an unassailable lead. As the last of the 13 three-kilometre laps unfolded, she pulled further and further clear, surging to the line in 2:20:14, with Ethiopia’s Guteni Shone taking second in 2:21:46.
Eva Vrabcova Nyvltova of the Czech Republic placed sixth in 2:27:07, just 36 seconds shy of her national record and comfortably enough for her to book her ticket for the Tokyo Olympics. “I’m back,” said the European bronze medallist, who returned to action last year after a maternity break. “I don't know what to say. I didn’t expect this at all, so I'm very happy. I didn't want to believe it was happening until I had finished.”
The men’s race was a tactical and cautious affair, with Kipruto putting in a big surge in the final 5km to win in 2:10:16, finishing 10 seconds ahead of Dickson Chumba.
The scoring format, with six runners per team to count, saw times converted to points, but importantly ensured that the last finishers for each team could change the team positions dramatically. Despite her individual victory and points contribution to her Volkswagen team, Rionoripo could not stop rival Team Birell from taking the team title.
Eventually it was the two personal bests by team members that ensured Team Birell’s comfortable winning margin, their squad’s times converting to 7152 points over Team Volkswagen’s 6887. Team Mattoni were third with 6845, with Team Skupina CEZ on 6765.
1 Purity Rionoripo (KEN) 2:20:14
2 Guteni Shone (ETH) 2:21:46
3 Valary Aiyabei (KEN) 2:22:39
4 Betty Lempus (KEN) 2:24:15
5 Tigist Abayechew (ETH) 2:26:12
6 Eva Vrabcova-Nyvltova (CZE) 2:27:07
7 Aberu Mulisa (ETH) 2:28:02
8 Meseret Belete (ETH) 2:28:31
9 Moira Stewartova (CZE) 2:29:28
10 Reia Iwade (JPN) 2:32:33
1 Benson Kipruto (KEN) 2:10:16
2 Dickson Chumba (KEN) 2:10:26
3 Nobert Kigen (KEN) 2:10:27
4 Kenneth Keter (KEN) 2:10:29
5 Lencho Anbesa (ETH) 2:10:50
6 Kinde Atanaw (ETH) 2:11:00
7 Mengistu Zelalem (ETH) 2:11:48
8 Yitayal Atnafu (ETH) 2:11:58
9 Wily Canchanya (PER) 2:12:33
10 Abdi Ibrahim (BRN) 2:12:52