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Romanian runs away with Olympic women's marathon

Romanian runs away with Olympic women's marathon

Constantina Tomescu-Dita, a 38-year-old mother from Romania, pulled away from the lead pack near the halfway mark in the marathon on Sunday to win by 22 seconds over her nearest challenger.
Reigning world champion Catherine Ndereba of Kenya outsprinted China's Zhou Chunxiu for the silver to the disappointment of the roaring crowd at National Stadium. Still, the bronze was China's first medal in track and field. Another Chinese runner, Zhu Xiaolin, was fourth.
The 42.2-kilometer (26.2-mile) race was expected to be the biggest test yet of what impact Beijing's polluted skies and muggy heat would have on the Olympic endurance events. Instead, the weather provided the runners with relief. Gray morning skies replaced the blue of the previous two days with a light rain falling at times.
Tomescu-Dita won in 2 hours, 26 minutes, 44 seconds. Ndereba, a pre-race 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."
Tomescu-Dita, the 2005 world championship bronze medalist, blew kisses to the crowd and raised her arms in triumph as she crossed the finish line.
World record-holder Paula Radcliffe of Britain, who decided to race in her fourth straight Olympics earlier this week because she is recovering from a stress fracture in her thigh, struggled to finish 23rd, nearly six minutes behind the winner.
She stayed with the leaders through the early stages but faded. 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, saying it was either a cramp or just her body protecting herself from the injury.
The start time was set at 7:30 a.m. Beijing time, to avoid humidity and heat later in the day. Eighty runners took off from near the vast expanse of Tiananmen Square, the heart of China's capital city.
Thousands of students lined the start, waving Chinese and Olympic flags and pounding yellow, green and pink noisemakers shaped like hands.
Police were stationed every 10 meters (yards) between fans and racers, their backs to the race. Tiananmen has been a stage for small protests against China's human rights record.
The pack ran south around the Forbidden City, then stretched out as the runners pushed northward to the National Stadium.
It was on those streets that Tomescu-Dita ran away from the rest to lead by more than a minute through the race's later stages.
She steadily increased her lead from there. Until near the end _ and by then, it was too late.
"I pushed hard and wanted my gold medal," Tomescu-Dita said. "I was looking back the whole time."
Tomescu-Dita was halfway around the final lap in the Bird's Nest when Ndereba and Zhou entered the stadium, the Kenyan slightly ahead.
The surge of the crowd's roar seemed to propel Zhou, and she passed Ndereba with half a lap to go _ just as Tomescu-Dita was raising her hands in anticipation of crossing the finish line.
But, encouragement notwithstanding, Zhou couldn't hold on. She fell back a bit by the home stretch and crossed one second behind the Kenyan to take the bronze. The crowd fell into sudden silence.