Lisa Weightman (Vic) has become only the third Australian woman to finish in the top 20 at an Olympic marathon.
The 33-year-old Melbourne business consultant finished 17th in 2:27.32, more than a minute faster than she has ever covered the 42km before, and was 4.25 minutes behind the winner, Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia.
Only Lisa Ondieki, who won silver in Seoul in 1988, and the late Heather McCann, who was 11th in Sydney in 2000, have run better at the Games.
Australia’s other two competitors, Jessica Trengove (SA) and Benita Willis (Vic), were 39th and 100th, clocking 2:31.17 and 2:49.38.
Weightman was delighted with her performance but said she wasn’t surprised because her coach, prominent athletics identity Dick Telford, had predicted she was ready for a big one.
She had previously finished 33rd in Beijing four years ago and 18TH at the world championships in 2009.
She said she was given a boost by being able to stay just behind the leading pack, whereas in Beijing she had lost touch early in the race and felt “a bit lonely.”She plans to keep running marathons with Rio 2016 in her sights.
Trengove, 24, running only her second marathon, said the experience was “one of the best things I have ever done” and found it very different to her first one, in Japan in March.
“I’m still trying to get my head around it,” she said. “It was very different conditions and the noise was unreal.”
The made-for TV course took in many famous London landmarks, including the Tower of London, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace and Trengove said she couldn’t stop smiling as she ran past them all.
The race was a lot less fun for Willis, 33, who tore the tendons in a hip five weeks ago and could not train properly during the final phase of the lead-up.
But she was determined not to let it stop her competing at her fourth Olympics, having run the 5000m in Sydney, the 10,000m in Athens and the marathon in Beijing.
“I knew it would be tough and I was sore from the 5km mark,” she said.
“When you represent your country you want to be in good shape and I was really upset that I wasn’t.
“But you shouldn’t give up your spot in the Olympic Team easily. I wanted to start and see what happens.
“It’s hard not to get emotional when you see that time but I’m proud to have finished.”
Gelana, 24, a niece of Sydney men’s marathon winner Gezahergne Abera, was followed onto the podium by Kenyan Riscah Jeptoo and Russian Tatyana Arkipova after a thrilling sprint to the line in the rain.
With thanks to the Australian Olympic Committee