It was supposed to be a race for marathoning heavyweights Cosmas Ndeti, Moses Tanui, Martin Fiz and Tegla Loroupe.
Instead, the New York City Marathon turned into a celebration for the unheralded.
Giacomo Leone, a 25-year-old policeman from Italy, and Anuta Catuna, 28, from Romania, were the men's and women's winners Sunday, leaving the expected top contenders far back.
Ndeti, Tanui and Fiz never were among the men's leaders, and the projected 1-2 finish by Kenyans never materialized. Instead, an Ethiopian with an intriguing runner's name, Turbo Tumo, was the runner-up, with Kenyans Joseph Kamau, a first-time marathoner, and John Kagwe, third and fourth, respectively.
Ndeti, the three-time Boston Marathon winner from Kenya, placed sixth, just ahead of Fiz, the 1995 world champion from Spain. Tanui, not among the top 100 finishers, ended up in the emergency room of Harlem Hospital, where he was given fluids.
Loroupe, the overwhelming favorite to win her third consecutive women's title, was on course-record pace early before fading over the second half and finishing seventh. After the race, she was removed on a stretcher to the medical tent suffering from dizziness.
Leone won in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 54 seconds on a perfect day for running, with the temperature in the mid-40s, low humidity and a wind from the west. Leone was the first Italian winner since 1986, when Gianni Poli followed countryman's Orlando Pizzolato's 1984 and 1985 victories.
In the 1990s, however, the performances by the Italians had declined, with no finisher in the top five in the past six years.
"The finish of the race was very hard," said Leone, who pulled away in the final three miles and recorded his career-best time in his first marathon victory.
Leone made it look easy, though, beating Tumo (2:10:09) by 15 seconds and Kamau (2:10:40) by 46 seconds.
Leone finished second in last year's Venice Marathon but decided to skip last week's Venice race and come to New York "because the field was very tough and I wanted good international experience."
Running in her third marathon this year, Catuna won by coming from behind to win in a Romanian record 2:28:18, 24 seconds ahead of Franca Fiacconi of Italy, a marathon winner three weeks ago.
"I ran slowly in the first part," said Catuna, the fourth-place finisher in New York in 1994. "Then, I tried to run fast, fast, fast."
Catuna, who finished 15th in the marathon at Osaka, Japan, and 44th at the Olympics, arrived only Saturday night from Boulder, Colo., where she had trained for the past two months.
Chepchumba was third in 2:29:38, and the struggling Loroupe was timed in 2:37:19.
Kim Jones of Spokane, Wash., the women's runner-up in 1989-90 but a non-finisher in 1992, 1993 and 1994, was the only American in the elite men's or women's field and placed a distant fourth in 2:34:36.
"It was good to finish," said Jones, using a new inhaler to combat her chronic asthma. "I couldn't make a move because it was windy . . . there was a headwind. I was fighting the wind."
The winners each received $30,000 plus a new car. Leone also got a $20,000 bonus for breaking 2:10 and Catuna got a $10,000 bonus for finishing in less than 2:29.
Leone's prize money nearly tripled the annual salary he earns as a policeman--$18,000.