Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge repeats as Olympic champion in men's marathon
Netherlands' Nageeye claims silver ahead of bronze winner Abdi of Belgium
Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge claimed his second straight Olympic gold medal in the men's marathon at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.
The 36-year-old world record holder finished with a time of two hours, eight minutes and 38 seconds at Sapporo Odori Park, fighting through unforgiving heat and humidity on a 42.195-kilometre course largely absent of shade.
Kipchoge is just the third person to ever win back-to-back Olympic marathons, joining Ethiopia's Abebe Bikila (1960, 1964) and East Germany's Waldemar Cierpinski (1976, 1980).
Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands claimed silver (2:09:58) ahead of bronze winner Bashir Abdi of Belgium (2:10:00) following a sprint finish.
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"I think I have fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time, back-to-back. I hope now to help inspire the next generation," Kipchoge said.
"It means a lot for me, especially at this time. It was really hard last year, it [Tokyo 2020] was postponed. I am happy for the local organizing committee who made this race happen. It is a sign that shows the world we are heading in the right direction - we are on the right transition to a normal life."
Kipchoge won Olympic gold at the marathon in Rio and went on to shatter the world record two years later with an astonishing time of 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon.
He now has four Olympic medals, having previously won silver in 2008 and bronze in 2004, both in the 5,000m.
Canadian men's marathon record holder Cam Levins from Black Creek, B.C., got off to a strong start and remained close with the lead pack throughout the first half of the race.
But the two-time Olympian fell off the pace and faded down the stretch, while Milton, Ont., native Ben Preisner emerged as the top Canadian to finish 46th in his Olympic debut (2:19:27).
106 athletes from 46 different countries competed in the event on the final day of Tokyo 2020, with 76 persevering across the finish.
Jeison Suárez emerged at the head of a crowded lead pack in the early stages. The group remained quite large at the 5km mark, with Suárez and Amanal Petros of Germany in front.
Levins was four seconds behind as the top Canadian through 5km. Hofbauer and Preisner were 30 and 50 seconds back, respectively.
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Kipchoge pulled to the head of the big lead group at 10km (30:53), with Levins just one second back.
2012 Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda was forced to stop with an apparent injury near the 12km mark.
A section of the front group finally started to gain separation around the half-way mark, but Levins remained in the mix. South Africa's Stephen Mokoka was at the front (1:05:13) with Levins dropping back slightly at eight seconds behind.
Rio bronze medallist Galen Rupp of the U.S. took his turn at the front entering the 25km mark. But Kipchoge quickly regained control, with fellow Kenyans Lawrence Cherono and Amos Kipruto remaining directly behind him.
Levins fell 45 seconds behind, while Hofbauer and Preisner were over two minutes behind at 25km. Kipchoge led the Kenyan trio through the 30km mark with a time of 1:32:31, with Levins 3:43 behind as the top Canadian.
Kipchoge put his foot on the gas entering the final 10km, leading in front of a chase group consisting of just five athletes.
He established a 27 second lead over the group and was in full control down the final stretch. Preisner pulled ahead of Levins as the first Canadian to hit 35km (1:52:48), but he was still 5:49 behind Kipchoge.
"I wanted to create space to show the world that this is a beautiful race," Kipchoge said. "I wanted to test my fitness, I wanted to test how I'm feeling. I wanted to show that we have hope in the future."
Cherono was at the head of a four-man chase group battling for podium position. It then turned into a sprint finish, with Nageeye surging ahead for silver and Abdi stealing bronze from Cherono.
In 2019, Kipchoge became the only person to ever finish a marathon in under two hours at the Ineos 1:59 Challenge, an event created so he could break the mark. Kipchoge achieved a time of 1:59:40, but it did not count as a world record as it was not an open event with standard rules.
Levins, 32, made his marathon debut in 2018 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, where he set a new Canadian record that still stands (2:09:25). He beat Jerome Drayton's 43-year-old mark by 44 seconds while finishing fourth as the top Canadian.
Kenya took gold and silver in yesterday's women's marathon, with Peres Jepchirchir winning the race ahead of women's record holder Brigid Kosgei.
Kelowna, B.C., native Malindi Elmore wrapped up her incredible Olympic comeback by finishing ninth in the event for the best-ever result by a Canadian woman at a non-boycotted Games (2:30:59) — 17 years after her last Olympic appearance.
WATCH | Jepchirchir wins gold, Elmore claims historic finish in women's marathon: