Eliud Kipchoge raced to Olympic glory in the men’s marathon on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro after a master class in distance running.
The Kenyan was immaculate throughout the 26.2-mile course, coming home in a time of two hours, eight minutes and 44 seconds. Trailing him was Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa and Galen Rupp of the United States, who grabbed silver and bronze medals, respectively.
On the final day of the Games it was a performance to remember from the Kenyan. Here is the result from this gripping marathon and a closer examination of how Kipchoge secured his triumph.
|Men's Marathon Results|
|Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2:08:44||Feyisa Lilesa (ETH) 2:09:54||Galen Rupp (USA) 2:10:05|
Kipchoge the Class of the Field
The sunny skies that had lit up Rio in the previous days had been replaced by wind and rain on Sunday as the marathon got started, making for difficult running conditions.
Indeed, sports analyst Ross Tucker suggested the weather would make this Olympic marathon more unpredictable than usual:
With no pacemakers, there was a sizable leading group through the 10-mile mark, including all the pre-race favourites for the gold medal. Kipchoge, with his effortless style, seemed to be dictating matters in the pack, with compatriot Stanley Biwott and American hope Rupp close by.
While some unfamiliar faces came through to lead the race on occasion, these main contenders started to turn the screw and what was a substantial amount of runners up front was whittled down.
At halfway, the pace wasn’t blistering, although it suggested some of the contenders may have been considering a negative-split tactic. Per Athletics Weekly, there was no letup in the difficult conditions either:
After some hesitancy to increase the pace, with around 10 miles remaining, Kipchoge went to the front and injected some world-class speed into the pursuit. It meant the lead group was soon in single figures, and the race for the medals started in earnest.
Biwott was the first of the main contenders to falter, as the leading crew shrunk to just four. BBC Sport summed up the scenario with 20 miles gone:
Kipchoge, Rupp and Lilesa ran away from Lemi Berhanu, meaning the three medalists seemed to be sewn up. The American looked content with a medal of any colour, as he was disconnected from the front two and seeking to conserve energy.
Meanwhile, Kipchoge still seemed at total ease, and when Lilesa opted not to run alongside him, the Kenyan left him trailing, quickly building up a significant margin. Running coach Steve Magness thinks he needs to be considered among the best ever with this triumph:
Eventually, Lilesa did enough to clinch the silver medal, while Rupp clung on to bronze despite a mammoth late effort from Eritrea's world marathon champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie.
For Rupp, the medal had plenty of meaning.
“I was watching Happy Gilmore the other day,” Rupp told NBC’s Lewis Johnson after the race (via Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo Sports). “He fights being a golfer for awhile, saying he’s a hockey player. I fought being a marathoner and wanted to run on the track, but maybe this is my best event.”
Rupp finished a disappointing fifth in the 10,000-meter race earlier in these Olympics.
Kipchoge, meanwhile, had to battle for this victory. The marathon is always a grinding event, although given the rain, wind and humidity, this one was especially difficult. The Kenyan showed magnificent determination to cross the line first and belief in his own ability.
Kipchoge has been so dominant in marathon running since trading the track for the road in 2012, only failing to win on one occasion over the distance. This was a ruthlessly efficient performance from the Kenyan and total vindication for the bold decision he made four years ago.