London, England – Uganda's Stephen Kiprotich outdueled a pair of Kenyan runners to win gold in the men's marathon on the final day of the London Games.
Kiprotich finished the race in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 1 second, and Kenya's Abel Kirui was 26 seconds behind. Kirui's countryman Wilson Kipsang, winner of the London Marathon earlier this year, claimed bronze with a time of 2:09:37.
It's just the second gold for Uganda and the first since John Akii-Bua won the men's 400-meter hurdles at the 1972 Munich Games. The African nation's last medal of any kind was a bronze in the men's 400 meters at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
"I can say I am very happy to win a medal for my country," said Kiprotich. "I love my people."
American runner Meb Keflezighi, silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Games, placed fourth, finishing 1:29 after Kipsang. Ryan Hall and Abdihakem Abdirahman of the United States failed to complete the race.
Kipsang held a lead of about 16 seconds halfway through the race, but Kirui and Kiprotich caught up with him shortly after the 25km mark.
All three men ran together until the Ugandan began to fall back at 35km. At first it appeared the two Kenyans would battle each other for gold the rest of the way, but Kiprotich had plenty left for a counter and began to pull away from Kipsang and Kirui with a little more than five kilometers left.
The Kenyans never recovered after that and Kiprotich built his lead to 19 seconds over two-time reigning world champion Kirui with a little more than 2km left in the race.
Just before the finish line, Kiprotich grabbed a Ugandan flag from a spectator and threw it around his shoulders before officially winning gold.
"The pace was too fast and I knew I couldn't run away from them, so I just had to keep up with them," Kiprotich said of his strategy. "I tried to settle and then I had to break away because I wanted to win this medal."
The race began and finished on the Mall, not far from Buckingham Palace. During the grueling event, runners passed by other famous landmarks like Big Ben, the Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral.
Kenya's team was running in memory of Samuel Wanjiru, who won the event four years ago in Beijing, but died last year after falling from a balcony. He was only 24 years old.