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US marathon victory boosts hopes for non-Africans

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Winner of the 2017 New York City Marathon Women's race Shalane Flanagan of the U.S. speaks to reporters in New York City, in New York, U.S. November 6, 2017 REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan on Sunday became the first American woman in 40 years to win the New York City marathon in a victory that has boosted the hopes of non-African athletes.


Shalane Flanagan beat off three-time defending champion Mary Keitany of Kenya in two hours 26 minutes and 53 seconds to become the first American woman since 1977 to win the New York marathon.

"It's indescribable," the 36-year old said after Sunday's race. "It's a moment I'm trying to soak up and savour."

Her victory comes after that of Galen Rupp, who became the first American to win the Men's Chicago Marathon Since 2002, last month, dethroning several east African athletes in the process.

"This is the sort of thing that will inspire a whole generation of kids not just from the USA but non-African kids," 1984 Olympian and athletics commentator Tim Hutchings told RFI.

Anti-doping tests

Rupp's stellar performance was not the only one to catch the public's eye. In Chicago the USA's Jordan Hasay also wowed crowds when she came second behind Ethiopian athlete Tirunesh Dibaba in the women's race.

But this trend could soon be reversed reckons Hutchings.

"Some of the east Africans are beginning to slow down a bit and coming back into the reach of the rest of the world," he commented.

This turn around can be linked to better drug-testing in African countries, explains the Olympian.

"The doping problems in east Africa are beginning to come to the fore more and more, so the drug testing there is becoming more and more stringent and equal to what has been faced by athletes in the West for many years."

Kenyan Olympic champion Jemima Sumgong was suspended for four years for doping on Tuesday, as if in confirmation of Hutchings words.

The 32-year-old tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO in an out-of-competition test by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in her native Kenya.

"Generally it is acknowledged that there are some serious doping problems in Kenya and some big names have been caught," says Hutchings referring notably to Boston marathon winner Rita Jeptoo, who had her title stripped because of doping.

Sumgong herself already tested positive for a banned substance in 2012.

However, she's also been at the forefront of a campaign of top Kenyan athletes to push for tighter measures to eradicate doping.

Her drugs ban will thus come as a surprise to her fans, but not Hutchings.

"Some people feel that because of the increased quality of testing in Kenya for example that is one reason why some African athletes aren't running as fast as they used to," he commented.