Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge has won the Olympic men’s marathon with a commanding performance in Japan’s Sapporo.
The world record holder clocked 2 hours, 8 minutes, 38 seconds to win gold in Sunday’s marathon.
It was one minute 20 seconds ahead of runner-up Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands, who finished just ahead of Belgium’s Bashir Abdi.
Kipchoge, 36, is now the third runner to win back-to-back gold medals in the Olympic men’s marathon, joining Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila (1960, 1964) and East Germany’s Waldemar Cierpinski (1976, 1980).
“I think I fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time,” he said following his win.
“That’s my total happiness, my inspiration for the next generation.”
Kipchoge now has four Olympic medals overall, having also taken 5,000m silver in 2008 and bronze in 2004.
He expressed his appreciation that organisers could make the Olympics happen as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It means a lot to me, especially at this hard time. Last year was postponed, and now it has happened,” he said.
Sunday’s race saw 106 runners representing 45 countries and the Olympic Refugee Team set off from Odori Park in the heart of Sapporo in temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit).
Kipchoge showed why he was the man to beat when he took full control as he pushed ahead of the pack after the 30km mark.
By the 35km stage, he had jumped out to a lead of 27 seconds from a virtual tie 5km earlier and extended it to one minute and 17 seconds by 40km.
His victory margin of 80 seconds was the biggest since Frank Shorter’s win in the 1972 Munich Games.
Immediately after his finish, Kipchoge held up two fingers to acknowledge his back-to-back marathon titles.
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe called Kipchoge “a hero”.
“You only have to see the emotional appeal he has … he thoroughly deserves it.”
The real race was for the other medals.
Nageeye, feeling strong and looking solid for silver, spent time urging his training partner, Abdi, through the latter part of the course and into bronze.
“I wait for him to get close and see he was next to me and then I sprinted and he was able to follow me,” explained Nageeye. “It’s amazing we can share this moment. It’s crazy.”
Some 30 runners failed to finish Sunday’s race amid humid and windy conditions.
Two early casualties of note were Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, who was the gold medallist at the 2012 London Games, and Ethiopian Shura Kitata Tola, winner of last year’s London Marathon.
World champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Kenya’s Amos Kipruto also exited the race early.