SAPPORO (AFP, REUTERS) – Eliud Kipchoge became just the third man to win back-to-back marathon gold medals at the Olympics on Sunday August 8, as he won the 16th and final day of full competition of the Tokyo Games in an early and electric way. start.
The Kenyan put in an impressive performance under difficult circumstances in Sapporo to cover the 42.195 km in 2 h 8 min 38 sec and consolidate his place among the greats of the sport.
Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands won silver and Belgium’s Bashir Abdi won bronze.
Kipchoge’s margin of victory of 1 min 20 sec was the largest since Frank Shorter’s victory at the Munich Games in 1972.
“I was really happy, I can’t describe it,” Kipchoge said of his feelings as he crossed the finish line raising two fingers to signify his two gold medals.
“I think I fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time. It is my total happiness, my inspiration for the next generation.
He also expressed appreciation that organizers could ensure the Olympics go ahead as the world continues to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It was really tough last year, that (the Olympics) was postponed. I’m happy for the local organizing committee that made this race possible. It’s a sign that shows the world that we are going into the right direction – we are on the right transition to a normal life, ”he said.
“Very important to me.
The 36-year-old’s victory was his 13th win out of 15 marathons he has run since 2013.
He joins the Ethiopian Abebe Bikila (1960 and 1964) and the German Waldemar Cierpinski (1976 and 1980) as the only runners to have won two consecutive gold medals on the Olympic stage.
The world record holder has now won four Olympic medals in total, having also won silver in 2008 and bronze in 2004 in the 5,000m.
Kipchoge showed why he was the man to beat heading into Sunday’s race when he took full control as he took the lead after the 30km mark.
In the 35km stage, he had taken a 27-second lead over a virtual tie 5km earlier and extended it to 1:17 over 40km.
Kipchoge, who in 2019 became the first man to break the two-hour marathon barrier in a specially organized race that doesn’t count for records, was aiming for gold to solidify his status as the greatest marathon runner in all of the world. time.
“My real enthusiasm in Tokyo is no longer to compete in the Olympics, but to leave a legacy,” he told the official Olympic Games website ahead of the race.
Unlike Tokyo, where strict Covid-19 restrictions forced the Games to be held behind closed doors, thousands of spectators marched through the streets of Sapporo, the host city of the 1972 Winter Olympics, located more than 800 km north of the capital.
Organizers’ decision to move the race to the city backfired, however, with unusually hot and humid temperatures there creating grueling conditions for the runners.
Sunday’s race saw 106 runners representing 45 countries and the Refugee Olympic Team set off from Odori Park in the heart of Sapporo in temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius and 80 percent humidity that saps stamina.
Several of the big names gave up in wet and windy conditions.
World champion Lelisa Desisa from Ethiopia, her compatriot and winner of the 2020 London Marathon Shura Kitata, 2012 Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich from Uganda and Kenyan Amos Kipruto were among the 29 runners who left the race. earlier.
“The weather was better than the last few days but it’s still humid and it’s a strange feeling, you think it’s cold but at the same time you lose water very quickly and that’s why I had a cramp, ”said bronze medalist Abdi. , who had to struggle with a right hamstring cramp towards the end of the race.