bahrain jawher 298.88.
(photo credit: Yisroel Pinchas/‘Pashut’ magazine)
Bahrain's Mushir Salem Jawher claimed an historic victory in the 30th Tiberias Marathon on Thursday, the first time an athlete representing the Arab state has even competed in Israel.
The runner, who was born in Kenya and was brought to Israel along with 20 other Kenyans by Mike Kosky, the country's former national athletics team coach, finished the race in 2 hours 13 minutes and 12 seconds. He was closely followed by Kenyans Joseph Kirwabirgen (2:13:14), 2002 winner Simon Bor (2:13:34) and Benjamin Kipketer Bor (2:13:48).
Perennial female marathon champion Nili Abramski again won the women's event in 2:39:24, her ninth win in 10 attempts.
Asaf Bimro claimed the national marathon title by finishing in 2:17:34, his ninth championship.
A record 900 athletes, including 50 wheelchair racers, competed in the marathon, which is run around Lake Kinneret from the Tiberias boardwalk to Kibbutz Ein Gev, and back.
Speaking after the race, Jawher told The Jerusalem Post he was "very proud" to run in Israel and said that even though Bahrain has no official diplomatic ties with Israel, it is a "free country" and "people should live together in harmony."
"When I decided to come I didn't know it was history for me to be in here, but when I arrived [I was] told no other athlete had competed in Israel," added Jawher, a Catholic. "For me, it was no problem and I hope to come back and compete next year."
Not only was it Jawher's first trip to Israel but it was also his first-ever marathon. He has previous concentrated on the 3,000 and 10,000 meter events, in which he hopes to compete at the world championships in Osaka, Japan, next August.
Organizers had hoped that one of the participants would be able to break the elusive 2:12 barrier and claim a $40,000 prize, but strong windy conditions in the middle section of the 42.195-kilometer course hindered the participants' chances.
It was a tight race with the first four athletes running together up until the final kilometer, when Jawher broke away. Kirwabirgen had been appointed the race's pacemaker, but still managed to finish in second place.
Many of the top athletes complained of the strong winds, which, although not as fierce as during last year's event, created extremely difficult conditions.
Abramski, who ran the first half of the race alongside male amateur athlete Yochai Barshavit due to the lack of strong female opposition, described the wind as "horrible" and at the post-match press conference urged the organizing committee to consider changing part of the course for next year's marathon to avoid the wind.
"From 10km onwards, we had a strong wind coming towards us at the side, which made it hard," she said, adding, "Although we hoped for good conditions, I knew it would be windy when I saw the waves in the Kinneret this morning."
Abramski celebrated with her daughter and father after the race, but was a little disappointed to not finish under the 2:37 needed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. "I hope to qualify when I run in Osaka," she said.
Both Bimro and fellow Israeli Wodage Zvyda, who finished in 2:17:44, were delighted after finishing in less than the 2:18 needed for them to qualify for Osaka.
Reflecting on the event, Israel Athletics Association general secretary Jack Cohen said he was excited to see two more Israeli athletes qualify for the world championships and noted that it was the first time in the history of the Tiberias Marathon that four runners finished under 2:14.
Cohen added that he would look into the possibility of changing part of the course to avoid the wind.
Sports authority head Dr. Yehoshua Dekel also spoke of his delight at the inclusion of an athlete from Bahrain and said he was hoping to encourage participants from other Arab countries, such as Jordan, to compete next year.
"Sport is a true bridge between people," he said. "We are very proud of this very special marathon."