MARATHON OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS (XXXV) – London 2012: STEPHEN KIPROTICH (1989-)

Kiprotich heading towards the finish line (photo by Peter Mooney)

The conditions were hot and humid but they were the same for everyone.   Determination is what matters.

Stephen Kiprotich

The marathon of London 2012 was run on the last day of the Olympics over a course of one small lap of a short circuit and 3 loops of a longer 13k circuit.

Among the favourites was the powerful Kenyan team, and especially Wilson Kipsang, who had won the London Marathon in April and had a PB of 2.03.42, second fastest marathon ever, obtained in Lake Biwa in 2011. His other teammates were Abel Kirui, who had won the 2009 and 2011 World Championships, and Emmanuel Mutai, winner of the 2011 London Marathon. Besides them was also returning the 2004 silver medallist Meb Keflezighi of the United States.

Stephen Kiprotich was the youngest children in a family of farmers from the Kapchorwa District, in Uganda. At 17 he quit school and moved to train to Eldoret, in Kenya, training ground of Eliud Kipchoge too. His previous experiences in the marathon were few. He debuted with 2.07.20 at the Enschede Marathon (Netherlands) in 2011, setting a new Ugandan record in the distance. In 2012 he had finished third in the Tokyo Marathon with 2.07.50.

Back in London, weather conditions offered for the day the highest temperatures of the 2012 Olympic Games: 23°C at the start and sunny skies. Because of this, runners decided to take easily those first few stages.  Brazilian runner Franck Caldeira tried his luck and crossed the 10k in 30.38 after opening a small gap of 8s from a large pack with more than 30 runners.

On getting to the kilometre 12 Wilson Kipsang moved to the front, increasing the pace and breaking up the group into a small one, most of them East Africans. Thus, he crossed the 20k in 59.57 with an advantage of 14s on his closest chasers.

Nevertheless Kipsang was unable of breaking completely the race. His gap decreased until Abel Kirui and Stephen Kiprotich made contact. The trio crossed the 30k in 1.30.15.

Kiprotich seemed to fall slightly behind, but soon recovered and getting to the 37k he made a move, sprinting to the front. Looking relaxed and in control he started to increase his lead, unanswered by the Kenyan runners. At 40k (2.01.12) he had opened a 20s gap with Kirui, while Kipsang was a further 32s behind.

That advantage would be enough for Kipotrich, who carrying a Ugandan flag crossed the finish line in 2.08.01, claiming the first medal for his country in Olympic Games since 1996. Second entered Kirui in 2.08.27 and third Kipsang in 2.09.37.

Also worth to mention the US runner Keflezighi, who being 17th at the 20k run a strong second half to finish 4th in 2.11.06. The Brazilian team was capable of having his 3 runners in the top-15. On the contrary it was a failure for Ethiopia: none managed to reach the finish line.

As for Kipotrich he claimed the victory in the World Championships of Moscow 2013. The next year he won the New York Marathon with 2.10.59. In 2015 he finished second the Tokyo Marathon, improving his PB to 2.06.33. At Olympic level he was unable to repeat his success in Rio de Janeiro 2016 or Tokyo 2021, which was his last marathon to date.

A moment of the London 2012 Olympic Marathon (photo by Peter Mooney)

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