Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge delivers running masterclass to retain Olympic marathon title

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge is epitome of good sportsmanship as he cruises to second Olympic gold in gruelling marathon race in Sapporo

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge delivered a masterclass in running to retain the Olympic title in the men’s marathon at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The Kenyan runner, running in his fourth Olympics, crossed the finish line in Sapporo Odori Park in a time of two hours eight minutes and 38 seconds.

The time was faster than the one he ran to win Olympic gold in Rio in 2016.

"It means a lot for me, especially at this time," said Kipchoge on winning his second Olympic gold.

“It was really hard last year, it (Olympic Games Tokyo 2020) was 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 transition to a normal life.

“I can say congratulations to them that they made this Olympics happen."

Kipchoge, won bronze in Athens in 2004 and silver in Beijing 2008 in the 5000m, already has a full set of medals thanks to his marathon gold in Rio.

But this addition to his collection is Kenya’s fifth medal in the men’s Olympic marathon since the Games in Beijing in 2008.

With this win, Kipchoge joins a select group of runners who have successfully defended the Olympic marathon title. The others are Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila (1960 and 1964) and East Germany’s Waldemar Cierpinski (1976 and 1980).

“I think I have fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time, back-to-back,” Kipchoge added. “I hope now to help inspire the next generation.”

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Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The defending champion was one minute and 20 seconds ahead of the next closest finisher.

Kipchoge's winning margin is the biggest victory margin in an Olympics marathon since 1972 when Frank Shorter of the USA beat Belgium's Karel Lismont home by two minutes and 12 seconds in Munich.

The race for the silver and bronze came down to a sprint finish.

Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands outsprinted his training partner, Bashir Abdi of Belgium and Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono to claim the silver in a time of 2:09:58.

Bashir Abdi finished two seconds later in 2:10:00, for the bronze. Cherono, the winner of the Boston and Chicago marathons in 2019, was a further two seconds adrift in fourth.

"I love it. I don’t want to mention names but many people they had doubts,” said Nageeye on what winning silver means to him. “They never believed in me. I always believed in myself.”

"I was a nomad, I packed my bags and trained in France, America, Ethiopia, Kenya.

"People think I'm doing too many things (with training), but I just kept believing in myself.

"To stand on the podium with (former training partner) Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest of all time – we are still good friends. It is amazing."

Athletics Marathon - Olympics: Day 16
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

One hundred and five runners started the race in a hot and humid Sapporo, but the conditions soon took their toll, with many high-profile runners and pre-race favourites failing to finish the race.

Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, the London 2012 champion and Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata, the 2020 London Marathon champion, were just two of the runners that struggled in the humidity and withdrew in the first 15 kilometres.

Despite the gruelling conditions, Kipchoge, the world record holder, looked comfortable throughout.

In acts that embodied sportsmanship spirit at its finest, the Kenyan collected bottles of water and ice from tables and passed them to his rivals in the early stages of the race.

And in one of the moments to remember from the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Kipchoge was laughing and fist-bumping with Daniel Do Nascimento of Brazil.

"That smile is the happiness," said Kipchoge, explaining why he was grinning during the race.

“They say to enjoy this world is to be happy. While you are happy it helps you relax and enjoy the race.”

Having suffered a rare loss in the London Marathon in 2020, Kipchoge was clearly a man on a mission and seemingly back to his dominant best.

The Kenyan made his move at the 25km mark and added an injection of pace to stretch out the leading group of runners.

Seemingly unphased by going it alone in searing heat, Kipchoge continued to surge clear of the chasing pack, and had a gap of more than one minute with three kilometres to go.

As he approached the line, Kipchoge continued to make the race look easy following a masterful display of his abilities. He smiled and waved at the small, assembled crowd of spectators.

He even took the time to greet and congratulate his fellow marathon runners as the crossed the line for some time after he finished his own race - the epitome of good sportsmanship.

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