African runners sweep medals as Shenzhen Marathon tries to keep race clean

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, December 16, 2018
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By Sportswriter Wang Haoming, Qin Lang

SHENZHEN, China, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Kenyan and Ethiopian runners dominated Sunday's 2018 Shenzhen International Marathon, whose organizers had gone to lengths to ensure a clean race after a half marathon here last month was marred by a major cheating scandal.

With over 30,000 people competing in Sunday's event, Kenya's Edwin Kipngetich Koech came home first in a time of two hours nine minutes and 44 seconds while Mulu Seboka Seyfu of Ethiopia took the women's title in 2:27:12. Zhang Zhenlong was the first Chinese runner to cross the tape, finishing in 10th overall in 2:20:43.

The marathon took place under scrutiny, after 258 runners were caught cheating in the Shenzhen Nanshan half marathon three weeks ago. 18 runners with fake bib numbers and three running on behalf of others were given lifetime bans from the event. The other 237 runners, of whom a great number had taken shortcuts, were banned for two years.

This time, Shenzhen Marathon organizers had vowed to avoid a repeat of last month's incident, using microchipped wristbands, facial recognition technology, and extensive video monitoring in order to prevent cheating.

"We employed several measures to avoid the possibility of cheating, making it almost impossible to cut corners or use fake bibs," an organizing committee official surnamed Song told Xinhua.

Organizers said the facial recognition technology was capable of identifying unregistered runners, while wristbands fitted with electronic chips were able to accurately record competitors' times as they passed through the course's timing mats, allowing organizers to identify runners suspected of taking shortcuts.

"These are only preventative measures, and we hope the runners choose to respect the sporting spirit of the marathon," Song added.

In addition, organizers also stationed 224 referees and over 3,000 volunteers at various points along the course, and made an official announcement on Wednesday urging runners to "keep to the rules and respect the sporting spirit". The announcement added that competitors wearing fake bibs or running on behalf of others would face a lifetime ban from the event.

Marathon running has surged in popularity in China in recent years. The number of marathons and road races staged in the country grew from just 22 in 2011 to 1,072 this year, according to the Chinese Athletics Association (CAA). But with marathon running still in its infancy in China, such rapid growth has resulted in a few teething problems for runners and organizers alike.

In November's Suzhou Marathon, local runner He Yinli finished second after a spectator entered the course to hand her a Chinese flag, disrupting He's rhythm and possibly costing her a chance of victory. And in last month's Nanning Marathon, a marshal came under fire for forcing winner Outoya Gelgelo Tona to an abrupt stop after he crossed the finish line. Enditem

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