Radcliffe, Ramaala Win in New York Marathon

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Maybe this will make up for her Olympic heartbreak.

Britain’s Paula Radcliffe surged ahead in the final feet Sunday to win the tightest New York City Marathon in history in 2 hours 23 minutes 10 seconds -- less than three months after pulling out of the Athens Games in tears just a few miles from the finish.

Radcliffe edged Kenya’s Susan Chepkemei by four seconds to become the race’s first non-Kenyan women’s champion since 2000. She raised her arms in triumph after crossing the line and wrapped herself in the Union Jack flag.

The previous record for closest women’s finish in New York was five seconds, Wanda Panfil’s margin over Kim Jones in 1990.


“I was reasonably confident I could overtake her,” Radcliffe said.

The men’s race wasn’t nearly as thrilling, with Hendrik Ramaala of South Africa winning in 2:09:28 for his first marathon victory. Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi of the United States was next across, 25 seconds behind.

Ramaala, like Radcliffe, got a bit of redemption in this race after pulling out of the Olympic marathon with a groin injury.

“I always said I will win a big marathon one day,” he said. “It didn’t happen for four years, but I kept on trying. Finally, I made it.”

But Ramaala actually missed out on the tradition of breaking the tape across the finish line because he didn’t see it, leaving Mayor Michael Bloomberg and race director Allan Steinfeld holding the tape. Ramaala later apologized for his mistake.

Radcliffe and Chepkemei ran side by side for the final five miles, with both women trying to jostle for position. But Radcliffe made one final push under cascading autumn leaves to pull out the victory.

“I was pleased Susan was running with me. She’s a good friend,” Radcliffe said.

The scene was the opposite of what happened under the blazing Greek sun in August. Radcliffe began that race with a nagging left leg injury that forced her to take anti-inflammatory drugs.


The medicine, combined with the stress and heat, left her feeling queasy.

Finally, she could go no farther, stopping to sit on a curb three miles from the end. Radcliffe sobbed uncontrollably. She tried running the 10,000 meters a few days later but could not finish for one of the most disappointing turns in her career.

But she got back to training after letting her injury heal and decided two weeks ago to run in New York.

She became the first British woman to win the race through New York’s five boroughs since Liz McColgan in 1991.


Russia’s Lyubov Denisova was third in 2:25:18, and defending champion Margaret Okayo of Kenya was fourth in 2:26:31.

Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor fell at the bottom of the Queensborough Bridge close to the 16th mile. She was not seriously injured but had to pull out of the race, giving up her bid to become the first woman from the U.S. to win the race since Miki Gorman in 1977.

Kenya’s Michael Rotich, the fifth-ranked marathoner in 2003, dropped out of the men’s race early and was taken to the hospital.

Race organizers didn’t have any immediate word on his condition.



Atlanta Thrasher star Dany Heatley was hit in the left eye with a puck during a Swiss league game at Bern, Switzerland, and could be sidelined six weeks after facial surgery.

Heatley was diagnosed with severe bruising and internal bleeding in the eye. He will be operated on in a few days for a broken orbital bone below the eye. Heatley will stay in the hospital for at least a week.

Club doctor Martin Schaer was confident Heatley would regain full vision in the eye.


Heatley signed to play with SC Bern during the NHL lockout, which shows no signs of being settled.

Heatley is a restricted free agent, meaning the Thrashers have his rights, but his contract lapsed at the end of last season.

“He’s got disability insurance coverage,” Heatley’s agent, Stacey McAlpine said. “If a player was to suffer a career-ending injury, the insurance policy would be implemented.... We’ve got a policy in place that we feel would provide him with some protection.”



Top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo shook off a slow start and beat sixth-seeded Vera Zvonareva, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, to successfully defend her Advanta Championships title at Villanova, Pa., for her fifth tournament victory of 2004.

Mauresmo seems poised to make a splash this week at Staples Center at the season-ending tour championships. Mauresmo has won two consecutive tournament titles and considers herself the favorite heading to L.A.

“Yeah, I guess so, when you win these kind of titles,” she said. “I’m in shape, I feel confident on the court and my game is there.”

Sixth-seeded Marat Safin overwhelmed unseeded Radek Stepanek, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, with the help of 16 aces to win his record-tying third Paris Masters title.


Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champion, also won the Paris Masters in 2000 and 2002, and lost to Andre Agassi in the 1999 final. Boris Becker is the only other player to have won the Paris indoor event three times.


Ken Gibson, 17, a junior defensive back for La Verne Damien, broke his neck in two places while making a tackle Friday in a 35-13 loss to Chino Hills.

Airlifted from the field to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, Gibson had surgery Saturday that used bone from his hip to fuse two vertebrae together, according to his coach, Scott Morrison. He is in critical but stable condition.


“He has very limited movement and sensation, but it is improving over course of the last 24 hours,” Morrison said.