Rio de Janeiro won the bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games against the candidatures of Madrid, Chicago and Tokyo. These were the first Olympic Games in South America, and the first held in in the host country’s winter season.
The women’s marathon at the 2016 Summer Olympics took was scheduled on 14 August on the Sambadrome, over a course where runners had to run 3 laps.
Almost all the favourites were the African runners who had shined in the last World Championships of Beijing 2015. For Ethiopia the world champion Mare Dibaba, for Kenya Helah Kiprop (2nd) and Jemima Sumgong (4th), and now competing for Bahrein, but born in Kenya, Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa (3rd).
Sumgong was born in the Nandi District in Kenya. She began competing abroad already in 2004, winning her first races, many of them in US soil. Her first marathon was in Las Vegas in 2006, which she won in 2.35.22. At the 2007 Frankfurt Marathon she came fourth, improving her PB to 2.29.41. Shortly afterwards she married, taking a break during the 2009 season before returning in the San Diego Marathon of 2010. After the birth of her daughter, the next season she won the Castellon Marathon with 2.28.32. From that point onwards she finished in top positions in World Marathon Majors, although missing top spot. Finishing 4th in the Beijing World Championships of 2015, she ensured a victory in the London Marathon of 2016. Rio 2016 could be the time to finally claim the show, after a long and successful running career.
At 9:30 in the morning, the Rio 2016 women´s marathon started with temperatures around 19°C and noticeable humidity. With sparse shade, the bright sun was going to be directly overhead of the runners for most of the course. The pace was consistent from the outset, passing the 5k in 17.23 with most of the main contenders at the front. Desiree Linden from the US moved to the front and reduced the pack from 30 women to 13 just before the 10k mark (34.22).
The next section showed some movements. Before the 18k Ethiopians Tufa, the 2015 London Marathon winner, suddenly stopped, and soon after Volha Mazuronak of Belarus moved to the front, pushing the pace. The remaining runners with her reached the 20k in 1.09.07 and the halfway point in 1.12.56.
Things didn´t change much in the next section, although the leading group consisted of 7 runners when crossing the 30k in 1.43.21. Kenyan Kiprop and US Amy Cragg and Desiree Linden were already falling behind.
At the 36k mark Kirwa, Dibaba and Sumgong opened a gap. With 2.15.00 on the clock, Sumgong surged at front, with only Kirwa able to go with her. Heading towards the Sambadrome Kirwa was 5s behind and too tired to challenge Sumgong.
Therefore, Sumgong crossed first the finish line in 2.24.04, to win the first woman Olympic marathon title for Kenya. She had run the second half of the race almost two minutes quicker than the first. Completing the podium were Kirwa (2.24.13), winning for Bahrain its second ever Olympic medal in any sport, and Dibaba (2.24.30) for Ethiopia.
All members of the US team, Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Linden and Amy Cragg finished inside the top-10. Likewise, three pairs of twins finished the marathon: two of the Luik triplets from Estonia, the Hahner from Germany and the Kim from North Korea.
Regarding Sumgong´s racing career it didn´t go well after Rio 2016. In 2017, two weeks before the London Marathon, was suspended for 4 years because of erythropoietin doping. Her doping ban was doubled to 8 years, accused of forging her medical records, and re-started in 2019. She will be unable to compete until 2027, meaning probably the end of her sports career.