Eliud Kipchoge confirms all time greatness at Tokyo 2020

After his win at Tokyo 2020 the Kenyan becomes the third man in history to win consecutive Olympic marathon titles.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Was there anyone better placed to close the curtain on Tokyo 2020, in 2021, than marathon king Eliud Kipochoge?

The Kenyan took home his second Olympic gold in Japan after completing his race in emphatic fashion.

Beating his fist to his chest he grinned as he crossed the line in 2:08:38, his rivals some 80 seconds behind him.

By successfully defending his Olympic title in Sapporo, Kipchoge has entered the realms of running elite. He is now only one of three runners ever to win back-to-back Olympic marathons.

You have to revisit decades gone by to find the two other athletes who have achieved the same feat as Kipchoge: Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia went back-to-back at Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964, and Waldemar Cierpinski the same at Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980.

It’s been some time since it has been done but now the clocks can reset.

Even in the soaring heat and sweltering humidity the running legend remained cool and collected and put on a display of impressive dominance.

A race to remember

A 07:00 start did little to waylay the conditions wreaking havoc on the men’s marathon and the runners trying to negotiate with them.

Little seemed to phase Kipchoge. His race in Sapporo was executed near enough to perfection.

With just over 30km to go, eight athletes made up the lead pack. It was then, just a kilometre later that Kipchoge decided to split away and take ownership of the race.

He ran a five kilometre stretch in a gruelling 14 minutes and 28 seconds, testing to see who, if anyone, could respond to his challenge.

They could not.

Another sub-15 five kilometre stretch decisively moved the Kenyan away from his rivals and into the front on his own. Finding the finishing line was then just a matter of time.

Kipchoge’s one minute and 20 second margin of victory was so great it is the biggest seen at an Olympics since 1972.

A career in numbers

There are a handful of remarkable numbers that gesture towards Kipchoge’s greatness.

First, there are his four Olympic medals.

One bronze and one silver from the 5000m courtesy of races ran in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. Then more recently of course, two Olympic gold medals won at Rio 2016 and now Tokyo 2020.

You can also turn to his history of dominance in the marathon event.

In 2013, Kipchoge decided to concentrate his efforts on the longer distances and all at once, everything changed.

The global icon would amass a 10-race-long winning streak, a record unparalleled in modern marathon running and only recently dismantled in October 2020.

In 2018 he would set a new marathon world record of 2:01:39 in Berlin, becoming the first person to finish the distance in under 2:02 beating the previous mark by a remarkable 78 seconds.

As a testament to the impossible and the humanly possible, Kipchoge after his world record, decided he wanted to go a step further.

In 2019, he accomplished the marathon distance in under two hours.

Although World Athletics did not ratify his time as a record, it shows the true extent of Kipchoge’s athletic capacity; one that is to date, unrivalled and unparalleled.

At this year’s Games only 11 of the 115 entrants were older than the 36-year-old who still has big goals.

No human is limited

“I think it is good not to ask about retirement,” Kipchoge said to journalists at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, after landing from Tokyo.

“When your wife delivered the first child, did you plan you plan for the next one immediately?” He posed to those asking.

Though he did not reveal where and when he will race again, or when he will return to his training camp in Kaptagat in the Kenyan highlands, there was something Kipchoge was certain of – how he intends to shape his legacy:

“I have a huge plan to inspire the youth and everybody in this world.”

“I want to make running a Kenyan lifestyle. I want to make the young people respect the sport, treat it like a real profession.”

With all that he has achieved through years of dedication to his sport, Kipchoge already has what he needs to convince people of his cause.

For the man whose mantra is “no human is limited” the world can be sure that whatever Kipchoge does next, he will do so with the same conviction and dedication he has poured into his unequalled running career.