LONDON (AP) — Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia won the women’s Olympic marathon on Sunday in a race that began in heavy rain, was briefly drenched in sunshine and ended in another downpour.
Gelana was soaked from head to toe as she crossed the finish line, but she didn’t seem to mind, despite slipping at one point on the slick streets.
She raised her hands high to celebrate after navigating the rainy course in 2 hours, 23.07 seconds to hold off Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya by five seconds. Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova of Russia won the bronze in the typcial London weather.
‘‘I love running in the rain. I have been doing that since I was a small child,’’ Gelana said. ‘‘I slipped in the middle of the race and my elbow is still injured. But I didn’t feel any pain during the race.’’
There were four runners in a bunched pack over the last three miles. But with the finish line around the bend, Gelana made her move, grimacing as she surged to the front. With the rain picking up — going from a light drizzle to a deluge — she kept glancing over her shoulder to see if Jeptoo was gaining ground.
No one could catch Gelana as she easily coasted across the line to win the biggest race of her life.
Shalane Flanagan of Marblehead was the top U.S. finisher in 10th place, 2:44 behind Gelana. Right behind her in 11th was Kara Goucher, who trains with Flanagan in Portland, Ore.
While these were actually favorable running conditions — not too hot — quite a few runners dropped out of the race:
— Liliya Shobukhova of Russia — a top contender — stopped halfway through the race with a right leg ailment.
— British runner Mara Yamauchi’s day ended about five miles into the competition because of a bruised heel.
— American Desiree Davila of Rochester Hills, Mich., went out at the end of the first loop with a nagging hip injury.
— Tetyana Filonyuk of Ukraine barely went 100 meters — about as far as Usain Bolt & Co. will sprint later on the track — before calling it a day. There was no reason given.
Not even the dreary weather could dampen the mood of the crowd, which lined the course holding umbrellas. The country was treated to quite a show on Saturday night, with heptathlete Jessica Ennis, distance runner Mo Farah and long jumper Greg Rutherford all taking gold at the track.
The British marathoners couldn’t follow up. Their best chance at a medal, though, Paula Radcliffe — the fastest woman ever in the marathon — didn’t compete because of a foot injury.
Although the marathon traditionally ends inside the Olympic stadium, this one took the runners past some of the biggest landmarks of London: Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, London Bridge, Tower of London and finally right by Buckingham Palace, which was near the finish.
Jeptoo and teammate Mary Keitany were among the runners who stuck by Gelana for most of the race. Keitany was one of the favorites after winning the London Marathon earlier this year. But this course was much different and Keitany faded near the finish.
Still, Jeptoo tried to encourage her teammate, even grabbing Keitany a water bottle late in the race. Keitany finished fourth.
Before this race, Gelana’s biggest win was the Rotterdam Marathon in the Netherlands last April, when she finished in 2:18:58 to set a national record.