NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 21 – Eliud Kipchoge closed the 2016 Rio Olympics in golden fashion for Kenya as the two-time back-to-back London champion destroyed the deep field to win the men’s marathon gold in 2:08:44.
Kipchoge the fastest runner this year in 2:03:05, reclaimed the title for Kenya that was last won by the late Samuel Wanjiru at the 2008 Beijing Games in an Olympic record.
Kipchoge’s win meant Kenya collected six gold medals all from athletics, a massive improvement from the 2012 games where they only won two gold medals.
Other Kenyans in the race reigning New York Marathon champion Stanley Biwott and 2012 Boston Marathon winner Wesley Korir, who is the Cherengany MP did not finish.
Kipchoge broke away from his rivals at the 35km mark and romped home to win more than a minute quicker than Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa, who took silver while American Galen Rupp took bronze a further 11 seconds back.
“It feels great,” he told said after winning Kenya’s sixth gold medal of the Games, all of them in athletics.
“I felt I had a little bit in the tank and it was comfortable, it was very comfortable. This is the best win of my life.”
Running under wet rainy conditions, Kipchoge produced a genius performance as he added gold to the 5,000m silver he won in Beijing in 2008 and his bronze from Athens 2004.
It was a seventh victory in eight marathons for the 31-year-old phenomenon, who won the London Marathon for the second year running in April, coming within eight seconds of compatriot Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57.
The race was still tight with no one ready to break up as the pack of 58 athletes approached the 15km mile mark in a split time of 46:53 with Kipchoge bossing the race.
Defending champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda was also among the lead pack, albeit hanging back and biding his time like so many of the medal hopefuls.
Covering the halfway mark in 1:05:55, Korir was leading the huge group with compatriots Kipchoge and Biwott hanging on.
However, the Ethiopian team suffered a blow as Tesfaye Abera found the going tough to drop from the race leaving only two of his compatriots Lemi Berhanu and Feyisa Lilesa in the race as Derek Hawkins of Great Britain led again as they approached the 25km.
The pack thinned out more to cut down the pack to 30 as Kipchoge and Korir stayed in the lead with reigning world champion Eritrean Ghirmay Ghebreslassie and Rupp on the Kenyans heels.
Down to 15 runners as they approached to 30km mark, Kipchoge, Korir, and Biwott took charge as Ghebreslassie faded from the leading pack.
At the 30km, the race shaped up as the seven athletes crossed in1:33:15 led by Berhanu followed by Lilesa but the Kenyan team kept on neck-and-neck.
However, Korir and Biwott fell back at the aid station with Berhanu, Kipchoge, Lelisa, Korir, Mutai of Uganda, Biwott, and Rupp hanging on.
The pack crystallized as those four, now. Kipchoge much in charge, Rupp on his shoulder, then Lelisa as Berhanu fell back.
The race was down to three, who were assured of a medal in Kipchoge, Rupp, and Lelisa in single file.
Kipchoge successfully winnowed away the rest of the contenders to look comfortable.
Kipchoge simply proved too strong, sprinting home along the home straight of the Sambadrome, home of Rio’s famed carnival, to loud cheers from Brazilian fans before dropping to his knees and crossing himself in celebration.