The Allstate Sugar Bowl Believes in Champions – Jemima Jelagat Sumgong

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Who knew the sixth place female finisher in the 2006 Crescent City Classic, now sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, would end up as an Olympic marathon gold medal winner? Jemima Jelagat Sumgong, that’s who.

Sumgong made history in 2016 when she became the first female Kenyan to win Olympic gold in the marathon during the Rio Oylympic Games. She finished in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 4 seconds, nine seconds ahead of runner-up Eunice Kirwa, oddly enough, a Kenyan native who represented Bahrain in the 2016 Games.

Throughout her running career, Sumgong, 35, kept her focus on becoming a world class marathoner.

“I knew eventually I would make it,” she said. “I was in Beijing [in the 2012 Olympics] but I was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to win a medal or make it on the podium but I knew one time, one day, I’d be somewhere. I was never worried that I’d lose this.”

After her Rio success, she arrived home in Kenya to a hero’s welcome and was promoted in the Kenyan Army from private to corporal for her victory. It wasn’t her first victory in the marathon in 2016. She captured the prestigious London Marathon in April. She also has won the Rotterdam and Las Vegas marathons and has runner-up finishes in the Boston, Chicago and New York City marathons.

Though the Crescent City Classic is a 10K event, consider a sprint by many long distance runners, marathoners like Sumgong have competed in it for many years.

It’s a common sight to see runners from Kenya, Ethiopia or other African countries sprinting to the finish line in City Park with the crowds cheering them on.

Sumgong is one of many former Crescent City Classic participants to compete in the Olympics. Isiah Koech of Kenya is a two-time Olympian and captured the 2013 Crescent City Classic. Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa, who won the men’s silver in the marathon in the 2016 Olympic Games, finished second in the 2009 Crescent City Classic.

Eloise Willings from Australia competed in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in Rio and Hiwot Ayalew of Ethiopia, the 2015 Crescent City Classic female champion, took part in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in the 2016 Olympics.

“The Crescent City Classic has long been a great mix of world-class runners and recreational running enthusiasts,” said Allstate Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan. “It offers a competitive race for some of the world’s best distance runners and a world-class party afterward; just as you’d expect here in New Orleans. The Allstate Sugar Bowl is pleased to be involved with such an iconic event.”

From its earliest years, the Sugar Bowl Committee has been honored to provide opportunities for young athletes from around the country – and the world – athletes like Jemima Jelagat Sumgong. That’s because, at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, We Believe in Champions.

– Story by Trey Iles, December 2016, updated July 2020

The Allstate Sugar Bowl Believes in Champions

Champions have long defined the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The list of Hall of Fame athletes who have competed in the annual contest is staggering. But the list of champions extends well past the football game. Since its inception in 1934, the Allstate Sugar Bowl has given opportunities to young athletes in many amateur sporting events.

In late 2016, the Allstate Sugar Bowl published stories on five athletes who competed in Sugar Bowl events and then went on to excellence after their New Orleans’ experiences.

Feature No. 1: Derek Wolfe, Football
Feature No. 2: Bob Cousy, Basketball
Feature No. 3: Patrick Mullins, Soccer
Feature No. 4: Jemima Jelaget Sumgong, Road Racing
Feature No. 5: Janice Davis, Track & Field

This was followed by four additional stories in the fall of 2017.

Feature No. 6: Hal Sutton, Golf
Feature No. 7: Barbara Farris, Basketball
Feature No. 8: Julio Jones, Football/Track & Field
Feature No. 9: Archie Manning, Football

The spring of 2019 brought another segment of featured “Champions”:

Feature No. 10: Shaquille O’Neal, Basketball
Feature No. 11: Aleia Hobbs, Track & Field
Feature No. 12: Sean Tuohy, Basketball
Feature No. 13: Davey O’Brien, Football
Feature No. 14: Haley Moore, Golf

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