Sun win makes up for Athens disappointment

China's Sun Yingjie retained her crown at the Beijing International Marathon yesterday with a solid if unspectacular win which will boost her confidence after a disappointing display at the Athens Olympics.

Kenya's James Moiben won the men's marathon in two hours, 10 minutes and 42 seconds.

Wearing the national red livery and cheered on enthusiastically by thousands spectators at the roadside, Sun led through much of the race, which started bright and early at 8.31am from the Forbidden City in Tiananmen Square.

'I feel very excited about winning the race. I was very disappointed when I got back from Athens, but now I will start to prepare for the 2008 Games in Beijing,' she said.

With her trademark duck-like running style, Sun pulled away in the final section of the race to win in 2:24:11.

The time was well off her personal best of 2:19:39 which she notched up in last year's race to make her history's third fastest woman over the full marathon - only Briton Paula Radcliffe and Kenya's Catherine Ndereba have run faster.

Mainland women maintained their dominance in the race after Zhou Chunxiu (2:28:42) and Dai Yanyan (2:29:58) filled second and third places respectively.

Sun's form was good coming into the race. Sun won the IAAF World Half Marathon title on October 3 in New Delhi, setting a Chinese national record of 1:08.40.

Sun, who is still recovering from a foot injury, admitted the time was a bit disappointing but said there were some logistical difficulties with the Beijing event. 'The race is tough. In the first 15km, there are too many runners and I was unable to speed up.'

Sun has long maintained that the marathon is her speciality, but it was her third-place finish in the 10,000 metres at the World Championships in Paris last year that drew a new set of admirers.

Before Athens she had been called the best Chinese runner in a decade but a collarbone injury confined her to ninth place in the 5,000m there and she was forced to watch her training partner Xing Huina take the spotlight with her 10,000m gold medal win.

Winning Beijing and New Delhi helped her chase away some of the demons after Athens. 'I'm happy the long and difficult season finally ended up with two wins,' she said.

Kenya's Moiben, who won this year's Xiamen marathon, was well pleased with his win - his previous personal record was 2:10:54.

'It's my first Beijing marathon, but I liked it. The people were great. The first part of the race looked a bit hard so we decided to play it a bit conservative,' said Moiben.

'At the 25km point I saw all the boys ahead of me so I pushed myself. I had been a bit worried because I'd had a muscle problem, but at 30km I realised I had it and that there was no problem.'

Christopher Isegwe of Tanzania, who took the second in 2:10:56, enjoyed the flat surface.

'This was my first race in Beijing and I was pleased. I followed Moiben but then he pulled away. This was my personal best and is great because I also won the Belgrade marathon,' he said.

South Korea's Ri Kyong-chol finished third in 2:15:24. Defending champion, Ian Syster of South Africa, was clearly disappointed after dropping down the field. 'It was OK but it was more difficult than last year,' he said.