Choi gains as rivals take wrong turn

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am

Choi Tat-ming successfully defended his title in the 31st Mount Butler Race yesterday but was able to win more easily than he imagined because of a marshalling error, which threw all his key rivals off the correct route.

Choi suddenly realised that all had gone quiet when he could no longer hear footsteps following him. With a lack of signage and marshals on the 15km route, the following pack had taken a wrong turn.

The confusion disrupted the performance of many runners, even those familiar with the course. Phillipe Cosentino, who placed third in last year's race came to a complete stop and waited for the other runners to catch up.

'It was so frustrating,' said Cosentino. 'I had worked hard to open up a gap between myself and the runner behind, and there I was standing waiting for him to catch up again. He beat me by eight seconds. It cost me third place.'

Cool, dry conditions should have favoured fast times for the more than 800 runners, although parts of the trail section were slippery after the heavy rain that had fallen on Saturday.

Choi's time of 55 minutes and 40 seconds was a personal best for the course and gave him an almost two-minute winning margin over Stefano Passarello, one of the runners who took a two-minute detour up Braemar Hill.

An absence of elite runners in the women's competition allowed veteran athlete Lee Yin-ping to scored her first ever victory in a major race when she finished in 1:08:42, almost two minutes clear of Phuket Marathon winner Nicky Green. Pauline Cheung Pui-ling ran a minute slower than last year but improved on her ninth place finish in 2007 to place third, one minute behind Green.