Majestic marathon king Eliud Kipchoge wins Kenya’s sixth gold
Eliud Kipchoge completed his set of Olympics medals and closed Kenya’s campaign in resounding fashion when he took gold in the final event of the programme -the men’s marathon- in another display of crushing dominance over his rivals, stopping the clock at 2:08:44 for glory.
The two-time London Marathon champion fulfilled his favourite role to perfection, winning his country her sixth gold as the 31st edition of the Games came to a close on Sunday, becoming the second Kenyan male after the late Samuel Kamau Wanjiru to land the ultimate distance Olympics title.
Behind him Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa and American Galen Rupp came for silver and bronze in 2:09:54 and a lifetime best of 2:10:05.
And just as in the corresponding women’s race won by Jemimah Jelagat Sumgong who opened the country’s gold account, Kipchoge was left to pursue glory all alone after compatriots, Wesley Korir, Team Kenya captain and New York Marathon winner, Stanley Biwott started strongly before fading out in the closing stages for DNFs.
It was the first time in history of Olympic marathon that Kenya completed the sweep as the class of 2016 matched that of Beijing 2008 by winning six gold, six silver and a bronze despite the mayhem that rocked the team.
Importantly, Kipchoge’s latest and biggest triumph of his garlanded career brought him the only medal that has eluded him after winning bronze in Athens 2004 and silver in Beijing 2008 when he was one of the most accomplished 5000m runners in the world.
It was a fitting conclusion for the man who turned to the marathon after failing to make Kenya’s team for London 2012 to pursue his cherished dream of striking Olympics gold and on the day, no one could deny him as he provided another masterclass in his slowest marathon victory.
He did so in style, posting a huge negative split where he ran 65:55 for the first half, 62:49 for the second.
The final event of the Rio 2016 Olympics programme started under a slight drizzle with the Kenyans opting to wear hats with bills to keep their vision clear as they battled their East African neighbours Ethiopia and Eritrea who also fielded strong teams.
With 155 athletes in the official start list, this was the biggest field ever assembled for an Olympics marathon with Burundi’s Abraham Niyonkuru taking the early lead as he led a big leading pack past 5K in 15:41.
The next five kilometre split was reached in 31:08 with Eritrean world champion, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (2:11:44) who finished just outside the medals in fourth, in the lead.
Uganda’s deposed champion, Stephen Kiprotich who finished 14th (2:13:32), a training partner of Kipchoge started becoming prominent at the 15K mark where the London winner took the field past in 46:53 as he showed his intent.
At this point, they were in the middle point of the loop they repeated thrice after starting in Sandrolomo that had more spectators but not as many as the women race enjoyed when they went out in scorching heat.
Ethiopia’s Lemi Berhanu was in charge at 25K, timing 1:18:12 after taking over the front running from Cherangany Member of Parliament, Korir who took them through halfway in 1:05:55 and it did not take long for the Kenyans who included New York champion Biwott to take command of the race.
Kipchoge and Korir took to the front with Ghebreslassie and American Rupp who was doubling after featuring in the men 10000m final where he placed fifth on their heels.
The Kenyan trio – Kipchoge, Korir, and Biwott – moved faster to reduce the pack to under a dozen as they approached the next split.
And it was soon down to 11 as they approached 30K with Kipchoge, Korir, Rupp, Berhanu, Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia) among those in contention for the medals.
Berhanu took the next s split in 1:33:15 and as they came to the next fluid station, Kenyan born Turk, Kaan Kigen Ozbilen was among the leaders as they thinned to seven as the medal chase gathered steam.
At this point, Korir and Biwott fell back at the aid station but they were soon up and running to rejoin the leaders who filed past in the order of Berhanu, Kipchoge, Lelisa, Korir, Munyo Solomon Mutai of Uganda, Biwott, and Rupp.
As the business end approached, the Kenyans abandoned their hats to step on the gas as Rupp got a new one as he had done at every fluid station.
-Turn of speed-
Not soon after, Kipchoge then injected the decisive turn of speed that took Rupp on his shoulder and Desisa as Berhanu fell further back, with Korir, Kiprotich and Biwott left training on their wake.
The London champion and world leader then started striding confidently up front with Rupp and Desisa battling to keep up as the leader crossed 35K in 1:47.40 while Biwott and Mutai caught the tiring Berhanu and moved up to fourth and fifth.
The London champion and world leader who had won five of six races coming to Brazil then started stamping his dominance by striding confidently up front with Rupp and Desisa battling to keep up as the leader crossed 35K in 1:47.40 while Biwott and Mutai caught the tiring Berhanu and moved up to fourth and fifth.
Having dropped Rupp, Kipchoge then beckoned Desisa to take up the front running duties before he stepped on the accelerator to power away from the Ethiopian as he looked to be at complete ease with the race.
The Ethiopian was grimacing and Kipchoge moved over to try to get him to take the lead, but instead realised he could break him with a hard move then and the closing stages of the race were a procession to crown his expected glory as he finally landed the medal that eluded him in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
*DNF (Did Not Finish)
- 2680 Eliud Kipchoge KEN 2:08:44
- 2398 Feyisa Lilesa ETH 2:09:54
- 3097 Galen Rupp USA 2:10:05 PB
- 2339 Ghirmay Ghebreslassie ERI 2:11:04
- 2964 Alphonce Felix Simbu TAN 2:11:15
- 3103 Jared Ward USA 2:11:30 PB
- 2947 Tadesse Abraham SUI 2:11:42
- 3023 Munyo Solomon Mutai UGA 2:11:49 SB
- 2459 Callum Hawkins GBR 2:11:52
- 2198 Eric Gillis CAN 2:12:29
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