Kiprotich upsets Kenyans to win Olympic marathon
Stephen Kiprotich delivered Uganda’s first Olympic athletics gold medal in 40 years by stunning the Kenyan challenge in the London marathon.
The 23-year-old followed in the footsteps of his late compatriot John Akii-Bua, 400 metres hurdles champion in Munich in 1972.
He burst past Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang around the 38km mark to leave his two rivals trailing and crossed the finish line on the Mall in two hours eight minutes and one second to become only his country’s second ever Olympic champion in the sport.
"I never saw John Akii-Bua run, but there are a lot of memories of him. I have been dreaming, ‘Can I be like John Akii-Bua?’," he said.
"There is a time for everything, a time to train and a time to relax. I think today I joined the champions, so I am happy."
Kirui took the silver, 26 seconds adrift, and long-time leader Kipsang finished with the bronze.
"When the race started I thought the Kenyans would win," Kiprotich added.
"I kept in touch and then I thought, ‘Let me move’, so I moved. When we came to within three miles, then I started to go on strongly."
Kipsang, the London Marathon winner, made an early move to try to break up the lead group, building a 21-second lead at one point.
It was a high-risk strategy in such warm conditions, though, and he paid for it as the race went on as he started to look less and less comfortable.
He missed a drinks stop and by the 25km mark his advantage was down to seven seconds.
Kenyan world champion Kirui and Kiprotich soon joined the leader to make it a three-way battle for the gold medal.
Kiprotich looked to be starting to struggle, holding the back of his leg, but he suddenly produced a big surge, leapt to the front and pulled away.
And in front of packed crowds rows deep all along the looped central London course, the Ugandan, who moved to Kenya as a teenager to train, started smiling and pointing his finger into the air as he closed in on victory before draping himself in the Ugandan flag as he crossed the line.
Kirui admitted he did not expect the Ugandan to feature in the closing stages.
He said: "When Kipsang and I were together, I thought we were the only ones who would fight for the gold.
"I thought I was going to sprint with Kipsang in the final kilometres.
"Surprisingly, I saw Stephen with us and it was difficult to make a move. He stayed with us for a long time and he made a stronger move in the end.
"We were closing the gap but couldn’t catch him. I am happy for him."