Jemima Jelagat Sumgong became the first Kenyan to win the women's Olympic marathon Sunday after a scary moment near the finish when police intercepted a man who nearly marred the event.
Sumgong completed the course in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 4 seconds to give Kenya its first gold medal in Rio.
Kenyan-born Eunice Kirwa, who now runs for Bahrain, was nine seconds behind and world champion Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia took bronze.
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With about a kilometer 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 police 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 initially. "I thinking he could maybe ... he could grab one of my colleagues."
When Sumgong ran the London Marathon in April, a man tried to intercept her there. But the outcome was the same: Victory for the 31-year-old Kenyan.
"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."
Three Americans, meanwhile, finished in the top 10 for the first time ever in an Olympic women's marathon. Shalane Flanagan finished in sixth place, Desiree Linden seventh, and Amy Cragg ninth.
Only two of the Estonian triplets in the marathon completed the race. Lily Luik was the fastest of the 30-year-old sisters, clocking 2 hours, 48 minutes, 29 seconds to finish in 97th place.
Leila Luik ended up in 114th place 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."
One of the favorites left the race prematurely. Tigist Tufa, the 2015 London Marathon champion, pulled up after 18 kilometers.