POWERING AHEAD: Andy Birkett leads the front bunch into a portage en route to winning the gold medal in the men’s marathon final at the World Games at Oak Mountain State Park, in Birmingham, Alabama
East London’s Andy Birkett announced his return to the international marathon racing stage with a stunning gold medal in the men’s 21km marathon event at the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, on Tuesday.
After a disappointing short course race in which he battled asthma and finished eighth, Birkett went toe-to-toe with the Danish world champion Mads Pedersen in extreme heat at the Oak Mountain State Park, and won a thrilling end-sprint to claim the title.
“The pace that Mads was setting down was insane!” Birkett said after the eight lap final.
“He has taken the race from a slow, strategic race with a big end-sprint to a fast race, and to be competitive in the end-sprint you have to be there.
“I had the goal of just trying to stay with him.
I don’t think anyone has stuck with him in a race for a while,” Birkett said.
“I found another gear towards the end and backed myself,” the 2018 world champion said.
“I am happy because yesterday I had quite a bad race.
“This is the first time back racing internationally after a long time, so I am happy to just be in the mix,” he said.
“It is always a privilege to race against the world’s top athletes and that was my intention here, to try to get back into the mix and feel what it is like.
“In SA we have a lot of races so keeping your motivation for the sport is easy.”
Bridgitte Hartley managed a thirteenth place finish in the women’s full marathon race earlier on Tuesday.
On Monday, Birkett secured an eighth for in the men’s marathon short course final.
Bridgitte Hartley finished 13th in the 3.6km race won by Hungarian Vanda Kiszli, who went on to win the double by clinching the full marathon gold on Tuesday.
The results were:
Men’s marathon: 1 Andy Birkett SA 1:23:52.83 2 Mads Brandt Pedersen DEN 1:23:53.13 3 Ivan Alonso ESP 1:25:14.82
Women’s marathon: 1 Vanda Kiszli HUN 1:32:40.76 2 Cathrine Rask DEN 1:32:56.66 3 Eva Baerios ESP 1:34:16.65 13 Bridgette Hartley SA 1:39:56
Men’s short course: 1 Mads Brandt Pedersen DEN 13:50.92 2 Nico Marco Paufler GER 14:01.41 3 Eivind Andreas Vold NOR 14:02.88 8 Andy Birkett SA +47.76 14:38.68
Women’s short course: 1 Vanda Kiszli HUN 15:22.46 2 Eva Barrios ESP 15:34.49 3 Zsoka Csikos HUN 15:34.68 13 Bridgitte Hartley SA 17:01.96 — Gameplan Media
GOLDEN TOUCH: East London’s Any Birkett shows off his gold medal