RIO DE JANEIRO — The intruder leaped over the barriers, darted onto the Olympic marathon course and was caught by security.

It was a scary but familiar moment for Kenyan runner Jemima Jelagat Sumgong. Only four months ago, a man also ran onto the course as Sumgong competed in the London Marathon.

Reassuringly for the 31-year-old athlete, Sunday’s outcome in Rio de Janeiro was the same as in April in London: The intruder was stopped and Sumgong got the victory.

She became the first Kenyan woman to win the Olympic marathon, completing the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 4 seconds in hot and sunny weather.

Kenyan-born Eunice Kirwa, who now runs for Bahrain, was 9 seconds behind, and world champion Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia took bronze.

Rio Olympics officials said the intruder was stopped by soldiers of the National Force. “There was no impact to the race,” organizers said.


But for that quick action, the outcome could have been very different.

With about a kilometer (half a mile) to go to the finish line at the Sambodromo parade grounds, a man with a sign jumped over barriers along the route ahead of Sumgong and the other runners, and two security forces on bikes immediately cut him off. The protester then jumped over fencing on the left side of the road, and Sumgong and the other runners continued unhindered.

“I was scared,” Sumgong said. “I thinking … if not me he could grab one of my colleagues.”

That’s just what happened in the men’s marathon at the 2004 Olympics. Vanderlei de Lima was tackled by a spectator as he was leading. Twelve years later, the Brazilian lit the cauldron in the Aug. 5 opening ceremony to begin the Rio Games.

De Lima had to settle for bronze in Athens, but Sumgong collected gold after maintaining her cool and her focus in the heat.

“I was never worried that I’d lose this,” Sumgong said. “At 40 kilometers, I knew the gold was mine. At 35 kilometers, I noticed that my other two teammates had dropped off, and that gave me the motivation to carry on.


“At 40 kilometers, I saw there were three of us, but I knew whatever happened, I couldn’t lose the gold and then I knew I was on the way to history,” she said.

The breakaway began with about seven kilometers to go.

“It was very hot, but everybody had to get through the heat,” Sumgong said. “I had to control my body and listen to my body very carefully.”

Sumgong is only the third Kenyan woman to become an Olympic champion, following wins on the track at the 2008 Beijing Games for Pamela Jelimo (800 meters) and Nancy Jebet Langat (1,500 meters).

“I was in Beijing but I was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to win a medal or make it on the podium,” Sumgong said. “But I knew one time, one day, I’d be somewhere. I’m so happy. I feel extremely proud.”

It hasn’t been a smooth buildup to the games for Kenya amid doping allegations surrounding its runners. Sumgong’s agent, Federico Rosa, was charged last month by Kenyan authorities with six counts related to administering banned substances to two other athletes.


“In Kenya, we are clean,” Sumgong said. “I am sure I am clean.”

The marathon produced a couple of Olympic landmarks.

Triplets competed for the first time in an individual event, although only two finished. Lily Luik was the fastest of the 30-year-old Estonian sisters, clocking 2 hours, 48 minutes, 29 seconds to finish in 97th place. Leila Luik ended up 114th in 2 hours, 54 minutes, 38 seconds. But Liina Luik didn’t finish, withdrawing before the 35-kilometer mark.

“It was so hard,” Lily said. “I saw everybody stopping and everybody suffered.”

The last-place finisher was the first Cambodian to compete in the Olympic marathon.

“I think it’s the spirit of the Olympic Games,” said Nary Ly, who took almost an hour longer than Sumgong. “Never give up on finishing. Fight until the end.”

Unlike one of the favorites. Tigist Tufa, the 2015 London Marathon champion, pulled up after 18 kilometers.

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