A dominant display sees the Kenyan get gold on the roads of Rio, as Britain’s Callum Hawkins secures top 10 spot
Eliud Kipchoge dominated the men’s marathon on Sunday to claim the final athletics gold medal of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
On a wet and humid morning, Kenya’s two-time London Marathon winner pulled away over the last 10km to run 2:08:44 and beat Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa and USA’s Galen Rupp. It might have been his slowest ever winning time by over three minutes, but Kipchoge judged the race to perfection, clocking splits of 65:55 and 62:49 to leave his rivals trailing in his wake.
“This is history, the first time the women and the men win and it is the best moment of my life,” said Kipchoge, with his fellow Kenyan Jemima Sumgong having secured success in the women’s race a week earlier.
“It was a championship and it was a bit slow so I decided to take over. Maybe it was the rain, maybe not. Everyone wants a medal. I was coming here for gold.”
When it comes to dominance, times and now global medals, Kipchoge is by far the greatest marathon runner of the current generation as the 31-year-old, who just missed the world record with his winning time of 2:03:05 in London in April, has claimed victory at seven of his eight marathons since his debut in Hamburg in 2013. He also adds Rio marathon gold to his two Olympic medals won on the track – 5000m silver in 2008 and bronze in 2004 – to complete the set.
His winning margin in Rio was 70 seconds, with Rupp, who had also placed fifth in the 10,000m, a further 11 seconds back. On his approach to the finish line, Lilesa had raised his arms and crossed them above his head in a protest against violence back home in Ethiopia.
Eritrea’s world champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie finished fourth in 2:11:04, while Eritrea-born Swiss athlete Tadesse Abraham was the top European with 2:11:42, two places ahead of Britain’s Callum Hawkins with 2:11:52. The Scot had led for periods of the race and showed superb pace with splits of 65:57 and 65:55.
“Top 10 was the big goal and to get that in my first Olympics is really good,” said Hawkins. “It’s a bit annoying that my legs were going, as aerobically I’ve got it, but I think I need another couple of years at the marathon.
“The plan next is to move back down to 10km to have a break from marathons as I’ve done three in ten months which is quite a lot for a 24-year-old,” he added.
With high humidity on the marathon course and heavy rain during the opening stages, the conditions were challenging in a different way to those of the hot and sunny women’s event the weekend before.
A large group of 103 covering 24 seconds went through 5km with the leaders at 15:31, with the race having featured the biggest ever marathon field of 155 athletes. Hawkins, wearing a backwards baseball cap, passed that point in 69th.
Ghebreslassie took a lead group of 68 through 10km on 2:11 pace, with 31:08 on the clock. Hawkins was 10 seconds back, while his GB team-mates Tsegai Tewelde and older brother Derek Hawkins clocked 31:40 and 33:36.
Kipchoge moved to the front and led through 15km in 46:53 before, after being six seconds behind at that point, Hawkins moved into the lead at 16.5km. The Scot continued to spearhead the group with Kipchoge and Rupp for the next couple of kilometres before dropping back to mid-pack as Kenya’s Wesley Korir took over at the front through half way in 65:55.
An injection of pace with a 4:43 mile saw a lead group of seven start to string out after 30km and over the next 2km the lead group was down to four – Kipchoge, Lilesa, Rupp and Ethiopia’s Lemi Berhanu.
The eventual medallists broke away from Berhanu and Rupp was then dropped as 35km was passed in 1:47:40.
Zig zagging across the road to prevent Lilesa from drafting, Kipchoge created a crucial gap on the Ethiopian and with 2km to go the Kenyan had 36 seconds on Lilesa.
Looking strong, Kipchoge continued to power away, increasing his advantage to over a minute by the finish.
After stopping part way through the race and then slipping at the finish, USA’s 2004 silver medallist Meb Keflezighi was 33rd in 2:16:46, one place behind Kent AC’s Irish athlete Paul Pollock, who clocked 2:16:24. Derek Hawkins was 114th in 2:29:24.
Kenya’s 2015 New York Marathon winner Stanley Biwott, Korir, Italy’s European champion Daniele Meucci and Britain’s Tsegai Tewelde were among the 15 athletes who did not finish.