Kenya’s Jemima Sumgong made history for her country, becoming the first woman to capture a gold medal in a marathon.
In previous appearances at the summer games in 2004, 2008, 2012 Kenyan marathoners brought home silver medals. In Rio 2016, they’ve finally hit gold.
The runner’s confidence showed as she was seen chatting at some points with her Bahraini rival Eunice Kirwa who outpaced the pack most of the way, but fell behind in the final stretch, finishing in 2 hours, 24 minutes and 13 seconds, clinching the silver medal for Bahrain. Kenyan-born Kirwa switched allegiances from her home country to Bahrain in 2013—a common practice in international sports.
“When the other Kenyans were left behind, I did see [Kirwa] close to me,” Sumgong says. “In fact we talked so much on the way, but I couldn’t help her since she was running for another country, and I was running for Kenya.”
Favored to win, Sumgong pulled away from her competition in the final two miles of the 26.2 mile race, crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 24 minutes and four seconds. 2015 world champion Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia, also favored for a spot on the medal podium, finished in 2 hours, 24 minutes and 30 seconds. Dibaba picked up the bronze.
“I was never worried that I’d lose this,” an ecstatic Sumgong tells the Associated Press. “At 40 kilometers, I knew the gold was mine.”
Kenyan fans including Afro-pop band Sauti Sol and Olympic and world middle-distance champion David Rudisha celebrated Sumgong’s ace performance on social media:
— Sauti Sol (@SautiSol) August 14, 2016
— David Rudisha MBS (@rudishadavid) August 14, 2016
WHAT A MOMENT TO BE IN RIO DE JANEIRO!!! KENYA WINS HER FIRST OLYMPIC MARATHON WOMEN’S GOLD!!! WELL DONE JEMIMA SUMGONG!!!
— Celestine Karoney (@cjkaroney) August 14, 2016
HISTORY MADE……JEMIMA SUMGONG…OLYMPIC CHAMPION…TAKE A BOW!!!!
— James Wokabi (@JWokabi) August 14, 2016
— Ken Okoth, MP Kibra (@okothkenneth) August 14, 2016
Sumgong’s historic victory was extra sweet considering fellow nationals had voiced criticism of Kenyan authorities on social media for 20 athletes repping adopted countries, including at least three athletes who ran in the marathon for Bahrain and Canada. Add to this Sumgong nearly tripped before winning the London marathon in April. But the Kenyan miracle was steady on her feet for Rio.
The Kenyan runner tweeted that bringing home the gold was the best day of her life.
— Jemima Sumgong (@JemimaSumgong) August 14, 2016