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Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola broke out a decisive kick 8K from the finish to win the gold medal in the men’s marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon on Sunday.

Tola, who won the Olympic 10,000m bronze at the 2016 Rio Games and marathon silver at the 2017 London World Championships, recorded a championship record of 2 hours, five minutes, and 37 seconds. He improved the World Championships best of 2:06:54 which was set by Kenyan Abel Kirui during the Berlin meet in 2009.

Fellow Ethiopian Mosinet Geremew took silver, as he did during the 2019 World Championships in Doha, in the time of 2:06:45.

Bashir Abdi finished third in the time of 2:06:49.

Tola made a move at around the 34K mark of the race. He dropped the pace markedly to leave a field of six fighting for second place.

In temperate conditions — which are atypical for global championships — Tola crushed his competitors, the field began to split into that race for second place with Abdi, Geremew, Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, and Canadian Cameron Levins hanging on for the fight.

Levins and Kamworor worked hard to get within striking distance of a medal, but it was not to be on the day.

Cameron Levins’ national record

Cameron Levins has worked hard at trying to improve his own national record of 2:09:25, which he had set in Toronto in 2018.

He only achieved entry into the Tokyo Olympic Games at the 11th hour when he flew to Fürstenfeld, Austria, eight hours out of his time zone, to run just fast enough to qualify. Leading up to that he had a rough finish in Chandler, Arizona in The Marathon Project. The London Marathon during the pandemic, in the rain, relegated him to the sidelines.

Levins waited after the initial qualification window had closed (interrupted by the pandemic) and for it to re-open before racing again. This time he went to London in October 2020. Unfortunately, the weather went sideways with pelting rain, wind, and cold temperatures — he dropped out late in the race. Meanwhile, fellow Canadian Tristan Woodfine clocked a 2:10:51. At that moment, two of the three spots were likely taken.

Two months later, Levins had run confidently to about 35K in Chandler, AZ. He looked like he was in position for a great race, and then suddenly, the fade hit him hard and he went from being on pace for 2:08 to closing in 2:12 — not what he was looking for at all. In that same race, fellow Canadian Ben Preisner clocked a 2:10:27 performance. Three athletes were potentially qualified and Levins was not one of them.

The qualification window was closing on May 31 and Levins would need to fit in one more marathon. If he didn’t roll the dice one more time, the team was already set: Hofbauer, Preisner, and Woodfine. Asked if there was stress leading up to the S7 Austria Marathon, with flying to Europe and committing to this event one week prior to the qualification window closing, he said, “yes, but there was almost more stress waiting for the June 3rd nomination announcement.”  

In 2018, Levins took Jerome Drayton’s 43-year-old national record of 2:10:07 set in Fukuoka. Between 2015 and 2019, he was often dealing with injuries or was under the weather at big meets. He had already proved his talent by winning the 2012 NCAA championships in the 5000m and 10,000m events. He went on to compete in the 2012 London Olympics at both distances and earned a bronze medal during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. In May of 2015, in Eugene at the old Hayward Field he took Simon Bairu’s national 10,000m record clocking a stunning 27:07.51; pre-super shoes.

He considered retirement.

Perhaps Eugene, being in his backyard, and in the same time zone for once, was an attempt at redemption over having a rough go in Sapporo last August in the 34-degree (93.2F) heat. It didn’t go well and if the selectors were to be questioned at any time, it was in taking Levins for Tokyo.

The 31-year-old made Team Canada again for Eugene and the Vancouver Island native made no mistake in crushing the national record, making the selectors look good and going out on a high note — if that is within his plans.

But Paris awaits…

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