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With sprint at end, Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia wins women's marathon title at world championships

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BEIJING — Mare Dibaba captured the first women's marathon title for Ethiopia at the world championships Sunday, holding off Helah Kiprop of Kenya in a race that was settled by a 100-meter sprint.

Dibaba finished in 2 hours, 27 minutes, 35 seconds, but needed to pick up the pace after entering the Bird's Nest to hold off Kiprop, who finished one second behind in the closest finish ever at the worlds. Eunice Kirwa of Bahrain earned the bronze.

Two-time champion Edna Kiplagat was in contention until the end but faded to fifth place.

PHOTO: Ethiopia's Mare Dibaba crosses the line ahead of Kenya's Helah Kiprop to win the gold medal in the women's marathon at the World Athletics Championships at the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Ethiopia's Mare Dibaba crosses the line ahead of Kenya's Helah Kiprop to win the gold medal in the women's marathon at the World Athletics Championships at the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

With the stadium in sight, Dibaba kept checking her watch, waiting to make her move. Just after entering the tunnel, she took control and raised her arms after crossing the line.

She certainly has a fitting name for a champion. However, she's not related to Ethiopian long-distance greats Tirunesh and Genzebe Dibaba.

Around the two-hour mark, Kiplagat said something to her two Kenyan teammates and they began to pick up the pace. A pack of a dozen runners was thinned to six.

That group included the Kenyans, Dibaba and Kirwa, who is Kenyan and started to compete for Bahrain in 2013. Soon after, Kiplagat dropped back, too.

It was an overcast day that was missing the baking heat the men encountered on the opening day of the championships. The air quality wasn't ideal, though, with the race starting at the "moderate" level and staying in the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" range until the finish.

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