Published August 12, 2012
Stephen Kiprotich has won Uganda's first-ever medal in the Olympic marathon, taking the gold Sunday morning in London. Kiprotich, 23, crossed the line in 2:08:01, the third-fastest marathon time in the history of the Olympic Games.
Kiprotich used a viscous 24th mile -- run in 4:42, the fastest mile of the race -- to pull away from a pair of Kenyans, Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich and claim a surprising victory. Kirui finished 26 seconds behind Kiprotich for the silver medal while Kipsang, the leader for much of the race, settled for bronze (+1:36) after losing touch over the final 5k.
American Meb Keflezighi finished in fourth place with a time of 2:11:06, using a big push over the final 5k. The 37-year-old's time was actually 23 seconds faster than what he turned in at the 2004 Summer Olympics, when he won the silver medal.
Keflezighi was the highest-placed American finisher ... because he was the only American finisher. The other two members of Team USA, Ryan Hall and Abdihakem Abdirahman, both dropped out with injury around mile 11.
Brazil's Franck de Almeida surged ahead and at the 10k mark, running the first 6.2 miles in 30:38 (that's a 4:56/mile pace). He was being chased by a pair of Kenyans, Emmanuel Mutai and Abel Kirui. Keflezighi was in 16th place, eight seconds back, while the third American, Ryan Hall, was already struggling, in 38th place, and seven seconds off the back of the pack.
Things changed quickly in the seventh mile, for it was then Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich made an early move, separating himself from the field with a 5K stretch run in a blistering 14:11. At the 15k split, he had an 11-second lead on Kirui. The 44:58 split for the first 15k was the second-fastet ever in an Olympic marathon (only 2008 was faster). And that quickened pace was clearly hurting the Americans -- Meb was 39 seconds back, Abdi 1:10 back and Ryan Hall, in 50th place, 1:59 off the lead.
Then disaster struck for the Americans at the 11-mile mark as both Hall and Abdirahman stepped off the course within seconds of each other, withdrawing from the race. This left Meb, who at 37 was the oldest member of Team USA, as the only American on the course. Shortly after he withdrew, Hall said he was "kind of in shock" at the first DNF of his life.
Meanwhile, on the course, Kipsang continued to push and was leading the race at the 20km mark and had turned in a 1:03:15 time at the halfway point. But his advantage was beginning to dwindle (perhaps he went too quick too soon?). At the 25km checkpoint, fellow countryman Abel Kirui was just seven seconds back. And that gap quickly disappeared as both Kirui and Stephen Kiprotich caught Kipsang and crossed the 30km time check together (1:30:15), 36 seconds ahead of the chase group. Meb was in 10th place, 2:02 back.
Around the 23-mile point, Kiprotich made his move and neither of the Kenyans could keep pace -- by the 40k checkpoint, he was on his way to gold with a 19-second advantage.
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