XIAMEN, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- Ethiopian runners continued their dominance in both men's and women's competition at the 2019 Xiamen Marathon, the first Gold Label road race of the year.
The 24-year-old Ethiopian Dejene Debela clocked 2:09:26 to defend men's title. His personal best of 2:07:10 was set in 2017.
"The race course is good, and the weather is really good. I like to race in China," said Debela, who took his first marathon title in last year's Xiamen race, which was soaked in rain almost from gun to finish.
So far he has competed in three marathon races in China, two in Xiamen and one in Beijing. He won all the three events.
He was followed by his compatriots Afewerk Mesfin and Birhan Nebebew.
Chinese runner Li Zicheng clocked 2:15:04 in today's race, ranking first among Chinese athletes in men's event.
In the women's race, the Ethiopians achieved their ten-year winning streak in Xiamen. Medina Deme, 22, secured her title clocking 2:27:25, trimming two minutes and six seconds off her personal best.
"The course is flat," the Ethiopian runner said. "And I am happy to win, because I have prepared for the race for three months."
She was followed by her compatriots Shasho Insermu and Fantu Eticha. Both of them finished the race in less than two-and-a-half hours.
Chinese athletes He Yinli finished fourth in 2:33:26. "It is a good start for the new season," she said.
A total of 36,826 runners, up by 6,000 from last year, from 38 countries and regions participated in the event, making it the largest marathon in China.
Runners were selected from 81,073 applicants across the world, with 86.3 percent of them coming from outside Xiamen.
This year's Xiamen race invited more elite athletes in an effort to apply for IAAF Platinum Label road race, which requires a minimum of 50 contenders who rank top 200 on IAAF World Rankings or top 100 of Asia. Most of the new elite athletes for this year's race are from Japan.