Track & Field Day 10: Kipchoge chases marathon title defense

Posted at 1:07 PM, Aug 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-07 14:20:03-04

Day 10 of track and field at the Tokyo Olympics is Sunday in Japan, and includes only a single morning event, therefore it's Saturday night stateside.

The only event, maintaining tradition: the men's marathon.

Men's Marathon

Final (6:00pET)


Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya returns to defend his Olympic marathon gold from Rio in 2016, attempting to become just the third man in history to win two Games titles in the event — Ethiopia's Abebe Bikila won at the 1960 Rome and 1964 Tokyo Games, and East Germany's Waldemar Cierpinski won at the 1976 Montreal and boycotted 1980 Moscow Games.

The 36-year-old boasts an incredible eight major titles – four in London, three in Berlin, one in Chicago – and has two 5000m medals from previous Olympics in which he competed on the track: a Beijing silver and an Athens bronze.

His 2018 Berlin crown was perhaps the most memorable of the bunch as he took down Kenyan Dennis Kimetto's four-year-old marathon world record of 2:02:57 by more than a minute, clocking 2:01:39. That result and his 2019 London Marathon win of 2:02:37 rank as the first- and third-best times of the leadup cycle to Tokyo since Rio.

SEE MORE: Eliud Kipchoge shatters world record at 2018 Berlin Marathon

In October 2019, Kipchoge became the first person in history to break the elusive two-hour mark, running a non-world record eligible 1:59:40 in Vienna with a pace car and a team of pacers.

After a surprise, eighth-place finish at the 2020 London Marathon in 2:06:49, many questioned whether he'd still be a favorite heading into Tokyo, but he returned emphatically six months later to win the NN Mission Marathon in 2:04:30.

SEE MORE: Eliud Kipchoge returns with airport marathon win

Amos Kipruto, the 2019 world bronze medalist, and two-time major winner Lawrence Cherono will join Kipchoge in Tokyo representing Kenya.

Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa, the reigning world champion, leads Ethiopia with 2020 London champion Shura Kitata and Sisay Lemma. Notably absent: Kenenisa Bekele, who ran the second-fastest marathon in history to win the 2019 Berlin Marathon in 2:01:41, but hasn't competed at the distance since and didn't run at Ethiopia's trials.

Osako Suguru has an outside chance at earning Japan its first in the men's event since 1992.

American Galen Rupp won bronze in Rio, becoming the first American to win a men's marathon medal since Meb Keflezighi's silver in 2004. He, 44-year-old Abdi Abdirahman and Jake Riley make up the U.S. contingent.