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Track and field

Romanian roars to marathon triumph

The women's marathon field runs past Tiananmen Gate early in the 26.2-mile journey to the Bird's Nest. The women's marathon field runs past Tiananmen Gate early in the 26.2-mile journey to the Bird's Nest. (ALFRED CHENG JIN/REUTERS)
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Associated Press / August 17, 2008
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BEIJING - Romania's Constantina Tomescu-Dita raced into the Bird's Nest, turning the Olympic marathon into a one-woman race.

Tomescu-Dita pulled away from the lead pack near the halfway mark this morning to win by 22 seconds. Reigning world champion Catherine Ndereba of Kenya outsprinted China's Zhou Chunxiu for the silver, to the disappointment of the roaring crowd. Still, the bronze was China's first medal in track and field. Another Chinese runner, Zhu Xiaolin, was fourth.

The 38-year-old Tomescu-Dita won in 2 hours 26 minutes 44 seconds. Ndereba, a prerace favorite, finished in 2:27:06, one second ahead of Zhou.

It was the second consecutive Olympic silver medal for Ndereba. At 36, she may not get another chance.

"I'm not disappointed," she said. "Disappointed is not in my vocabulary when I'm doing this."

World record-holder Paula Radcliffe of Britain, who decided to race in her fourth straight Olympics only last week because she is recovering from a stress fracture in her thigh, struggled to finish 23d, nearly six minutes behind the winner.

She stayed with the leaders through the early stages but faded from there. Not far from the finish she walked to the railing and stretched, then walked back onto the course and began to run.

"I'm not sure what happened," she said of her pain. She kept running, she said, because "it's horrible when you have to drop out" - as she knows from the 2004 Athens Games.

In the heptathlon, Hyleas Fountain became the only American other than Jackie Joyner-Kersee to win an Olympic medal in the event. The 27-year-old former NCAA champion, in her first Games, captured the bronze last night.

As she crossed the finish line in the 800 meters, the last of the two-day competition's seven events, Fountain crumbled to the track in a combination of exhaustion and emotion, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks.

"I'm so excited right now, I don't even have words," she said a short time later.

Fountain had 6,619 points, behind the 1-2 Ukrainian finish of gold medalist Nataliia Dobrynska and Lyudmila Blonska.

In the women's shot put, Valerie Vili won the gold medal, giving New Zealand its first gold in track and field since 1976. Vili, the reigning world outdoor and indoor champion, won with a mark of 20.56 meters. Belarusians Natallia Mikhnevich and Nadzeya Ostapchuk took silver and bronze. John Walker's win in the 1,500 at Montreal in 1976 was New Zealand's last gold in Olympic track.

The top contenders coasted in the women's 100 heats. That included Americans Lauryn Williams, Muna Lee, and Torri Edwards, and Jamaicans Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart.

American Dee Dee Trotter earned a wild card to advance in the women's 400 after having to sit through six heats before clinching a spot. Trotter's time of 51.41 in her prelim was only good for fourth, one spot out of an automatic berth. American Mary Wineberg advanced, finishing second in her heat while gold medal favorite Sanya Richards posted the best time overall, 50.54.

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