Rwanda’s highly-rated female athlete Salome Nyirarukundo made history on Sunday when she set a new record and also won this year’s third edition of Berkane International Half Marathon in Morocco on her debut.
The 19-year-old was Rwanda’s only representative at the competition and this was her first competition of 2017 following a successful 2016 season.
Nyirarukundo defied the odds to take gold in tightly contested 21.097km race, finishing ahead of an Ethiopian and three Kenyans in the top five. The former APR Athletics Club runner used one hour, 11 minutes and 13 seconds.
She beat her closest challenger, Borecha Bekolech Gudeta from Ethiopia, who claimed silver, by an amazing 40 seconds.
1. Salome Nyirarukundo (Rwa) 1h:11’13”
2. Borecha Bekolech Gudeta (Eth) 1h:11’:53”
3. Gladys Jepkemoi (Ken) 1h:12’:31”
4. Meto Nancy Jelagat (Ken) 1h:13’:26”
5. Sheila Jepkosgei Chesang (Ken 1h:14’:00”
Nyirarukundo dethroned Ethiopian Dibabe Kuma Lema, who won last year’s edition, and in doing so, broke the world record that was set by Ethiopian Olira Belyenesh, winner of the inaugural edition in 2013 after clocking 1h:11’:18”. Lema won the last edition in 1h:11’:50.”
Kenyan Gladys Jepkemoi took bronze in 1 hour, 12 minutes and 31 seconds while her compatriots Meto Nancy Jelagat and Sheila Jepkosgei Chesang finished fourth and fifth posting 1h:13’:26” and 1h:14’:00” respectively.
Last year, Nyirarukundo won bronze on her debut at the 27th edition of Silvesterlauf, a New Year’s Eve race held in the German South Western city of Trier.
This was after the Rutsiro-born athlete debuted at last year’s Africa Senior Athletics Championships where she qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, in the women 10,000 meters.
In October, last year, Nyirarukundo became the first Rwandan athlete to win the Dar-es-Salaam Rotary Half Marathon for two consecutive years – after also winning in 2015.
She was also the only Rwandan to scoop a podium finish (silver medal) at the 2016 Kigali International Peace Half Marathon and was named Rwanda’s Female Athlete of the Year.