By Spy Uganda
Tokyo: Eliud Kipchoge delivered a dominating performance in the Tokyo Olympics men’s marathon, pulling away from his competition after the halfway point and finishing 1 minute, 20 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands on a steamy day in Sapporo, Japan.
Ugandan athlete Stephen Kiprotich did not finish although he started strongly in the lead pack through almost 5km before he suddenly dropped off and started walking and jogging as he struggled to extend his stay in the gold race as temperatures soared past 27°C.
That gave Kenya’s Kipchoge determination to run towards his legacy of greatness. He took a peek behind him at one point and there was no one there. He was all alone – the greatest marathon runner in history and one of the greatest Olympians.
Kipchoge, the world record holder in the marathon, now is the first men’s repeat Olympic winner since Waldemar Cierpinski of former East Germany in 1976 and 1980.
Nageeye clocked in at 2:09:58, and Bashir Abdi of Belgium finished third, in 2:10:00.
American Galen Rupp, who won bronze in the marathon at the Rio 2016 Games, finished eighth, more than three minutes back in 2:11:41.
After the 15-mile mark, Kipchoge, in front of the lead pack, turned and looked over his shoulder at Rupp and said something to him. Shortly after that, Kipchoge took off and began building his insurmountable lead.
Kipchoge was about to become only the third person ever to retain their Olympic marathon title and cement his legacy. Smiling was his way of enjoying the race, he said later.
“I have fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time, back-to-back. I hope now to help inspire the next generation,” he said.
The 36-year old had previously won 10 straight races and his eighth-place finish sparked rumblings that he may have started to fade.
Kipchoge said last month that winning this gold medal would be his greatest achievement – a big statement for an athlete who already has an Olympic gold holds the world record and is the only man to have ever run the marathon in under two hours.
The marathon and the Tokyo Olympic Games at large were about more than just sports for Kipchoge, they were about the endurance of the human spirit.
They represented hope after a year of human suffering and deaths due to the global pandemic, he said, the mask-wearing crowds along the marathon route a stark reminder that COVID-19 was still raging on.
His win on Sunday held more significance than just the gold medal he wore around his neck after the race.
“It means a lot for me, especially at this time,” he told reporters later, saying the past year had been “really hard” particularly with the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.