Kenya has produced so many superb athletes over the years; and marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge ranks in the top echelon of the country’s greatest sportsmen.
The East African nation had their best ever showing at the Olympics in Rio 2016, carting away six gold medals, six silver and a bronze medal; and they will hope to do even better when the Games return to Tokyo this summer.
Kipchoge was one of Kenya’s gold medalists from the last Olympics, and he again represents one of the country’s brightest hopes in Japan.
Kipchoge is not only the reigning Olympic marathon champion, he is also the world record holder at the event, having set a mark of 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon in 2018.
Since switching over from the track to road-running in 2012, Kipchoge has amassed an impressive record in the marathon, winning 12 of his 14 races.
The Kenyan superstar won 10 consecutive marathon races between 2014 and 2019, constantly threatening to dip below the two-hour mark, but his long winning streak came to an abrupt end in 2020, when he finished eighth in the London marathon- an event he had won on four previous occasions.
Defeat in London prompted many to question Kipchoge’s chances of successfully defending his Olympic title in Tokyo, but the athlete ran himself into some decent form in April, claiming victory at the NM Mission Marathon in the Netherlands to get back to winning ways.
“It is mission accomplished,” Kipchoge said after the race- his last before the Olympics. “The race was really perfect. The NN Mission Marathon was a real test before Tokyo. It was so good a marathon happened a few months before the Olympics to test our fitness.”
Curiously, Kipchoge is way down in 9th position in the world marathon rankings, but he goes into Japan as arguably the favourite to win the August 8 race in Sapporo. The bookmakers certainly think so, with Olympics betting sites like betway fancying the Kenyan to defend his crown.
Not many people have managed to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the marathon. The last man to achieve the feat was Waldemer Cierpinski back in 1980 in Moscow.
Such is the size of the task before Kipchoge in Tokyo.
Kipchoge’s quest for more Olympics glory has been boosted by the absence of one of his main rivals, Kenenisa Bekele. Ethiopian great, Berkeley came agonizingly close to breaking Kipchoge’s world record at the Berlin Marathon in 2019, missing out by just two seconds.
Indeed, his 2:01:41 is the second-fastest of all time.
Bekele will not be part of the Games after sitting out the Ethiopian trials in protest of the selection process for the Ethiopian marathon team.
Apart from Kipchoge, Kenya will present a number of top marathon runners in Japan. Half of the current top ten in the world rankings are Kenyan. There is a good chance that the compatriots may draw up a race strategy to allow Kipchoge, the most accomplished member of the group, to win the race.
Things are generally looking up for Kipchoge, as he attempts to become the first man in over four decades to defend an Olympics marathon title.