Tokyo 2020 August 6th Report
Fionnuala McCormack marked her fourth Olympic Games with a 25th place finish in the women's Marathon.
Conditions in Sapporo were hot and humid from the get go, even with the rescheduled start which saw athletes taking to the gun an hour earlier. The heat began to take it's toll on the field from 20km and saw 10 athletes including Aoife Cooke withdraw shortly after the half way point.
Cooke has enjoyed a tremendous 24 months which included taking the Dublin Marathon title in 2019 and will certainly be back in an Irish marathon vest in the future.
The race in Sapporo was won a Kenyan one-two, with Peres Jepchirchir upsetting the form guide to get the better of pre-race favourite Brigid Kosgei, with USA's Molly Seidel taking bronze.
McCormack backed up a top-20 finish in Rio with a controlled race plan, crossing the line in a time of 2:34:09 for 25th place.
The pace early doors was somewhat reserved for an elite field, with Jepchirchir crossing the 10km marker in a time of 36:16.
Indeed just five seconds separated the top 50 runners, with McCormack positioning herself well in the early stages, just a second behind the leader.
Cooke was among a group that had become a little detached at 10km, 28 seconds down in 70th position before withdrawing at the half way stage.
Kosgei, Chemtai Salpeter and Ruth Chepngetich were among the heavy hitters in a group of a dozen at the front, with McCormack 50 seconds down in 26th while keeping within touching distance.
The 36-year-old settled into her rhythm, but those at the front upped the pace with 15km to go.
McCormack used all of her experience to maintain the 25th place over the final 10k and looked strong as she powered over the line to create another piece of history to add to her illustrious career.
In a gripping race for the medals, Salpeter pulled up and the Kenyan pair made a decisive break, with Seidel doing her best to consolidate third.
Jepchirchir then upset the form book to accelerate away from Kosgei with 2km remaining to power home strongly for gold in a winning time of 2:27:20, 16 seconds ahead of Kosgei with the American Seidel holding on for third.