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Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge successfully defends Olympic marathon title

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He not only retained the title won in Rio de Janeiro five years ago to secure the second Gold Medal but with it completed a creditable achievement of four medals in an equal number of Olympic Games.Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge successfully defends Olympic marathon title

Similar to the 2016 Games, Kipchoge became the last athletic Gold Medallist at the 2020 Games as well to win his fourth Olympic medal.

The 36-year-old veteran who first came to the limelight by securing a Gold Medal in track events at the 2003 IAAF World Championship in Paris, Saint Denis (which yours truly reported from France).

That was a great comeback after he missed almost a year of competition in 2002, including the junior world championships in Kingston, Jamaica, after contracting malaria.

In 2012, Kipchoge switched from track events to the road, and ran his first competitive marathon in 2013 in Hamburg, Germany.

He won the Bronze Medal in Athens in 2004 before upgrading it to a Silver in Beijing 2008 before moving on to road events.

Kipchoge, who clocked two hours, eight minutes and 38 seconds to finish first here, was six seconds faster than his 2016 Games feat of 2:08.44s.

In Rio de Janeiro, he waited until the 36km to break away from the first lot but in this morning’s race under cool weather conditions, he broke away in the 31st km.

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge successfully defends Olympic marathon title
Eliud Kipchoge celebrates his victory

The Kenyan more closely resembled a solitary figure out on a morning training run than a man leading the Olympic marathon by the 38th km.

He had built a lead of more than one minute by that point, with no other runner within view.

Kipchoge’s dominance was clearly evident with his winning margin of 1:20s being the widest in an Olympic marathon since Frank Shorter’s win in 1972. Finishing second place was Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands in a season’s best 2:09.58s while Bashir Abdi of Belgium won the Bronze Medal in 2:10.00s.

Except for the winner, those who finished from second to eighth places registered their season’s best timings.

Fulfilled the legacy

“I think I have fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time. I hope now to help inspire the next generation,” said Kipchoge, who joined 1960 and 1964 champion Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia and East German Waldemar Cierpinski, the winner in Montreal in 1976 and Moscow in 1980, as those who have retained their Olympic marathon titles.

“It means a lot to me, especially at this time. It was really hard last year, with the Olympic Games postponed. I am happy for the local organising committee who made this race happen. It is a sign that shows the world we are heading in the right direction – we are on the right path to a normal life,” he said after the heroic performance.

Similar to the Women’s marathon last morning, the pace was conservative and cautious throughout, with a large group of nearly 50 runners going through the opening 5km in 15:17 and 10km in 30:53s, on pace for a modest 2:10:19s finish.

Kipchoge was at or near the front throughout, taking turns in the lead with Colombian Jeison Alexander Suarez and Daniel do Nascimento of Brazil who seemed to enjoy the opportunity of leading a pack that included the greatest marathoner of all-time.

Little changed at 15km where 2016 Bronze Medallist Galen Rupp of the US and Kipchoge’s teammate Lawrence Cherono were also chipping in with the pacing duties.

The field was beginning to spread out by the time South African Stephen Mokoka reached the halfway point in 1:05:13s, with 23 runners still within three seconds of the lead.

Kipchoge was the picture of calm at the head of the pack and maintained his cool as he exchanged a fist bump with Brazil’s Daniel do Nascimento as they continued to take turns at the front.

In the 27km the lead pack was reduced to 12, but with Kipchoge still firmly dictating the proceedings with Rupp was still there, along with Belgian Bashir Abdi and Dutchman Abdi Nageeye, Kipchoge’s teammates Cherono and Kipruto, and Alphonce Felix Simbu of Tanzania.

By the 30km the pack further dwindled to eight but that apparently wasn’t to Kipchoge’s liking in 1:32:31s.

Kipchoge had a 27-second lead through 35km in 1:46:59s and he extended it to more than a minute, 5km later.

He was the lone competitor at the end with only the substantial crowds that turned out to watch the race.

But Cherono, Ayad Lamdassem of Spain and training partners Abdi and Nageeye battled it out for the Silver and Bronze Medals.

Nageeye survived the battle, crossing the line in 2:09:58s, two seconds clear of Abdi.

“I said so many times I wanted a top three but I never made it. So today I was just focussing. When I reached 39km I just knew that I would win a medal. I was feeling really easy with the last 3km to go. I knew I had just nine minutes to run. It is unbelievable,” said Nageeye, who finished 11th in Rio de Janeiro.

“I always believed in myself. I was normal, I packed my bags and trained in France, America, Ethiopia, Kenya. To stand on the podium with Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest of all time – It is amazing,” he added.

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