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The Ugandan Athletics Federation chose 2012 London Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich to compete in Tokyo this summer in the marathon.
The 32-year-old also won gold during the 2013 Moscow World Athletics Championships marathon. For him, it all started at the age of 17 when he moved to Eldoret, Kenya to train with Eliud Kipchoge. Since then he has also competed in three World Championships and set his personal best in 2015 in Tokyo at 2:06:33.
Kiprotich will toe the line in Sapporo, Japan, on August 8 with fellow Ugandans Fred Musobo (2:06:56) and Filex Chemonges (2:05:12). Chemonges holds the national record, which he set in Toronto two years ago.
The selection of Kiprotch was a surprise as Solomon Mutai has run faster during the qualification period. The 2016 Rio Olympian, however, does have a personal best that is two minutes slower than Kiprotich at 2:08:25.
In London, the silver and bronze medals were earned by Kenyans Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang, who finished in the time of 2:08:27 and 2:09:37 respectively.
The qualification time for the Tokyo Olympic marathon is 2:11:30. The marathon will be run 800K north of Tokyo in Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido to avoid the potential summer heat of Tokyo, after the 2019 Doha World Championships fiasco, where several athletes ended up in ambulances and taken to hospital as temperatures hovered up to 38 degrees with humidity.
Uganda first participated in the Olympics in 1956. Kiprotich’s gold is the only gold medal for Uganda since the 1972 Munich Olympics. The country has won seven medals total, two gold, three silver, and two bronze. Three of the medals are from athletics while the remaining four in boxing.
Currently, Sapporo residents are concerned about the pre-Olympic test event to be run in their city, which will include a half-marathon and 10K road race. The event is to be Tuesday starting from Sapporo’s Odori Park. Olympic organisers had to calm residents by reducing the participants from over 2500 down to just 93. The concerns were due to the current rise in COVID-19 infections in Japan. According to Worldometers, Japan sits 38th in total number of cases to date, however, are experiencing a third wave. Cases per one million in population are at 4,779, which is relatively small in comparison to the U.S. at 99,908/million or France at 86,490/million.