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Sunday, August 29, 1999 Published at 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK

Red leader powers Korean runner to gold

Jong: "My country's leader was the source of my power"

Marathon winner Jong Song-ok dedicated her gold medal to the inspiration of North Korea's communist leader as she won the country's first world championship gold medal.

Seville 99
Twenty-five-year-old Jong, a surprise winner who knocked nearly three minutes off her personal best as she set a new national record, said:

"I imagined in my mind the image or our Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, and this inspired me.

[ image: Jong: Shaved almost three minutes off her personal best]
Jong: Shaved almost three minutes off her personal best
"This was the source of my power."

"Yes, I am a new marathon runner in the eyes of the rest of the world. Hopefully they will know me better in the future."

Jong's tough training habits include running 22-25 miles a day in the North Korean mountains.

Her stamina was the key to her success as she reeled in defending Olympic champion, Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia.

Chasing gold

Roba seemingly had the race won at 19 miles when she broke clear to establish a handsome lead.

But Jong and Japan's Ari Ichihashi set off in pursuit and she was overtaken by the pair with two miles to go.

With the stadium in her sights, Jong made her move, leaving the silver-shoed Japanese in her wake to receive the applause.

The winner was also a mystery to silver-medalist Ichihashi.

Surprise tactics

"The Korean is a new name to me, and when you don't know an athlete, it is difficult to guess what their tactics will be," she said.

Romania's Lidia Simon came in third while Roba slipped out of the medals in fourth.

Defending champion Hiromi Suzuki of Japan skipped the race to prepare for the Tokyo Marathon in November.

The heat for the women's race was nothing compared to Saturday's men's marathon, where Spain's Abel Anton became the first person to win back-to-back marathons in the world championships.

Saturday's race began with temperatures of 36C (97F) but the women's race ended with the thermometer at a reasonable 78F.

Results: 1. Jong Song Ok (NKor) 2 hours 26 minutes 59 seconds 2. Ari Ichihashi (Jap) 2:27:02 3. Lidia Slavuteanu-Simon (Rom) 2:27:41 4. Fatuma Roba (Eth) 2:28:04 5. Elfenesh Alemu (Eth) 2:28:52 6. Sonja Krolik-Oberem (Ger) 2:28:55 7. Maria Manuela Machado (Por) 2:29:11 8. Kayako Obata (Jap) 2:29.11 9. Claudia Dreher (Ger) 2:29:22 10. Kim Chang-ok (NKor) 2:29:26

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In this section

Athletics saves face

Brits sprint to relay silver

Injury wrecks Backley medal bid

Wembley to host athletics showpiece

Red leader powers Korean runner to gold

Seville winners: Final day

Red-faced relay runners crash out

Devers wins, but Engqvist earns plaudits

Anton is home hero

Greene flies to historic double

Miller makes it gold

Johnson smashes 400m record

Radcliffe wins silver in 10,000 metres

Heat is on in Seville

Michael Johnson: Life in the fast lane

Jackson hurdles to gold

Magnificent Macey snatches silver

Devastated Edwards gets bronze

A sprint too far for Jones

Colin Jackson: Britain's golden boy

Dean Macey: The great unknown

El Guerrouj stuns Seville

Hansen flops in triple jump

Two disqualified over drugs

May quits after medals row

Injury wrecks Smith's medal dream

Jones fails in four-gold attempt

Lewis takes heptathlon silver