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Fiona O’Keeffe crushes US Olympic Marathon Trials record in Orlando on debut

By George Ramsay, CNN

(CNN) — Fiona O’Keeffe produced a stunning performance at the US Olympic Marathon Trials in Orlando on Saturday, smashing the previous record by more than three minutes.

In her first-ever race over the 26.2-mile distance, O’Keeffe booked her spot at this year’s Paris Olympics as she crossed the line in 2:22:10, improving on Shalane Flanagan’s record of 2:25:38 set in 2012.

Emily Sisson, the US women’s marathon record holder, and Dakotah Lindwurm finished in second and third respectively to complete the American women’s team for Paris.

In the men’s race, Conner Mantz was first to finish in a time of 2:09:05, a second ahead of friend and training partner Clayton Young.

Third-placed Leonard Korir will have to wait to find out if he can qualify alongside Mantz and Young as his 2:09:57 was outside the time needed to open another spot on the US team.

The new qualification system means that Korir will need an American man – other than Mantz or Young – to run under the Olympic qualification time of 2:08:10 in an eligible race by the end of May to open up the third spot for him on the team.

O’Keeffe was undoubtedly the star of the show on a warm day in Orlando. The 25-year-old became the youngest-ever winner of the women’s trials and the first woman to win the event on her marathon debut.

She pulled away from the high-quality field after the 18-mile mark to finish 32 seconds ahead of Sisson, who will go to her second Olympics having raced the 10,000 meters in Tokyo three years ago.

“A lot of excitement, definitely some nerves kicking in,” O’Keeffe told reporters about her emotions on the final lap.

“I started hearing people saying, ‘You’re going to Paris, you’re going to Paris.’ But I knew there were so many strong women behind me and I was running scared a little bit.”

The highly competitive women’s field meant that strong contenders to make the team were always going to miss out. Sara Hall, hoping to compete at the Olympics for the first time aged 40, finished fifth, while former American record holder Keira D’Amato dropped out after mile 20.

Lindwurm, who placed 36th at the last trials, finished strongly in the closing stages of Saturday’s race in a time of 2:25:31, 15 seconds ahead of Jessica McClain in fourth.

Mantz and Young had the two fastest qualifying times coming into the men’s event and booked their places in Paris by pulling away from Zach Panning in the final three miles, crossing the line almost side by side.

Korir also passed Panning with about a mile to go, then overtook Elkanah Kibet with a late surge to finish third.

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