Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich stunned a strong Kenyan team to win the men’s Olympic marathon yesterday, handing his east African nation only their second-ever gold medal.
Kiprotich timed 2 hours, 8 minutes, 1 second on the spectacular course around the streets of central London, with two-time defending world champion Abel Kirui claiming silver in 2:08.27.
Another Kenyan, long-time leader Wilson Kipsang, took bronze in 2:09.37.
It was Uganda’s second-ever gold medal after John Akii-Bua won the 400m hurdles in the 1972 Games in Munich, Germany, with the east African country’s only other medal a bronze from 400m runner Davis Kamonga in 1996.
Brazilian Franck De Almeida went through 10km in 30:38 in a race billed as a battle between Kenya and Ethiopia, but the Ethiopian team’s tactics were dealt an early blow when Dino Sefir fell well off the pace, as Kipsang reeled in the Brazilian pace setter.
Kipsang, the winner of this year’s London Marathon, then built up a lead, going through the halfway mark in 1:03.15, 16 seconds ahead of the chasing pack.
The Kenyan built that lead up to 30 seconds on the stunning course, designed to take in as many of the British capital’s main sights as possible.
By the 23km mark in sweltering conditions, a second Ethiopian, Getu Feleke, was beginning to flag and he had also fallen off the chasing pack’s pace.
In front of thousands of spectators packed 10 deep in some places, Kiprotich set off in pursuit of Kipsang, splintering the pack in the hunt for a podium place.
Kirui and Ethiopia’s Dubai marathon winner Ayele Abshero followed, and the trio cut Kipsang’s lead to just 11 seconds, and then pulled level at 25km.
Abshero struggled to stay level and dropped 36 seconds by the 30km stage, Brazilian Marilson Dos Santos overtaking him into fourth.
As the leading trio went through the gilded, covered Leadenhall Market for the final time with 7km to go, the Kenyans upped the pace to shake off Kiprotich.
Japan’s Kentaro Nakamoto and the sole American left in the field, Eritrean-born Meb Keflezighi, were in position to challenge for a podium place should anyone hit the wall in the final few kilometers, but up front, the two Kenyans were caught napping as Kiprotich showed a dramatic change of pace to surge to the front in an audacious ambush at 32km and he was quickly 200m ahead.
Kiprotich, who moved to the famed Eldoret region of Kenya’s Rift Valley to train with former world 5,000m champion Eliud Kipchoge, accelerated away, a brief look back over his shoulder confirming his position in the lead.
Going into the final 2km, he was 20 seconds ahead of Kirui and he had enough time to grab a Ugandan flag on his last time entering The Mall, in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, draping it around his shoulders as he crossed the line for a convincing victory.
Taiwan’s Chang Chia-che clocked 2:29:58 for 77th place.