Israel’s Marhu Teferi wins silver in men’s marathon at World Athletics Championships

31-year-old achieves Jewish state’s best-ever placement at the event, raising hopes ahead of Paris Olympics; Lonah Chemtai-Salpeter finishes fourth in women’s race

Marhu Teferi celebrates after his second place finish in the men's marathon during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, August 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)
Marhu Teferi celebrates after his second place finish in the men's marathon during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, August 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)

Israeli runner Marhu Teferi took silver in the men’s marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest on Sunday, claiming the country’s best placement ever at the major event and cementing himself as a medal contender in next year’s Paris Olympics.

The Ethiopian-born Teferi, 31, followed up on the European silver he won as part of Israel’s team last year. This time, he finished second with a time of 2:09:12, behind Uganda’s Victor Kiplangat who clocked a winning time of 2:08:53 on the streets of the Hungarian capital after breaking free in the last 15 kilometers.

Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase took bronze, crossing the finish line at 2:09:19.

Teferi’s achievement is Israel’s first medal ever in the event. Israel won gold at the men’s team marathon event at the European Athletics Championship in Munich in August 2022, although that competition didn’t include Kenyan, Ethiopian and Ugandan competitors, who usually dominate such races.

Teferi, who was left with a torn tank top after taking a tumble around the 30km mark, said sweltering weather conditions had made it “very hard for everybody.”

“I am grateful I managed to finish with the silver,” he said. “I wanted to get the best out of me and this competition was my biggest target. I am glad I managed to fulfill my dream.”

Israel’s Marhu Teferi competes in the men’s marathon final during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on August 27, 2023. (Attila KISBENEDEK/AFP)

President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal congratulated Teferi in a statement.

“We are very proud of you. You brought joy to the entire nation of Israel. We remember you running in shorter races, but now you did it on the biggest stage of all. Well done!”

“Congratulations to Marhu Tefri on the silver medal for the marathon at the World Championships,” Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar wrote on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

“We are continuing to conquer the top of world sports and put Israel on the map,” he added.

Along with Teferi, Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter punched her ticket to next year’s Olympics this weekend after finishing fourth in the women’s marathon on Saturday.

The Kenyan-born Chemtai Salpeter, who picked up bronze at the 2022 World Athletics Championships, competed in the Tokyo Olympics two years ago but was forced to pause running while in the leading pack with four kilometers to go after suffering menstrual camps. She ended up finishing 66th out of 88 runners.

Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter uses a sponge to cool down while competing in the women’s marathon final during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest on August 26, 2023. (Photo by ROBERT GHEMENT / POOL / AFP)

Well-timed surge

Kiplangat and teammate Stephen Kissa, along with Ethiopians Gebresilase, Tsegaye Getachew and Tamirat Tola, and Kenya’s Timothy Kiplagat went through the 30km mark in a tight grouping in 1hr 32.

Kissa then took a tumble after catching Kiplagat’s heel, leaving Kiplangat to move clear with Gebresilase.

Over the next 5km, Kiplangat, 23, surged to successfully drop the lead pack, Gebresilase falling 15sec behind.

“When I reached 30km I knew I felt strong and decided to push,” said Kiplangat. “I had great energy and that allowed me to go. Then at 35km, I could surge again.

“That was always my plan and I managed to do it. The pace was high but I had more to give. It was tough but I always felt I had the power.”

Victor Kiplangat of Uganda celebrates after winning the men’s marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, August 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)

Teferi moved up through the field for silver, while reigning world champion Tola, who set a championship record when winning in Eugene last year, dropped out.

Kissa did well to recover from his fall to finish fifth, just behind Tebello Ramakongoana of Lesotho.

Ethiopia’s defending champ Tola said he pulled out because of stomach pains.

“I was trying my best. I was feeling good until 30km,” he said. “But after that, I started to have a bad feeling in my stomach.

“I did not sleep the whole night because I had a problem with my stomach and I was about to puke but nothing came out because I ate rice with a lot of salt.”

Teferi and his wife Selamawit, who is also a professional runner, represented Israel at the 2020 Olympics, where Marhu finished 13th in the marathon event, the best placing ever for an Israeli man. He is also the Israeli marathon record holder.

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