When Stephen Kiprotich chose to switch to marathon with a debut victory in Enschede, Netherlands on April 17, 2011, he did not envisage that this discipline would grow to this magnitude.
Kiprotich then powered to Olympic marathon gold in 2012 and since, the men’s 42km road race has produced four more championship medals.
Now, nine Ugandan male marathoners are in line for three quota placings available to the July’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
Uganda Athletics Federation’s (UAF) selection format is down to the best qualification time under two hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds. As it stands, Kiprotich is ranked fourth with 2:08:31 set from third place at the 2019 Hamburg Marathon.
This is why the 2013 marathon world champion will need to deliver one of his career best races at the NN Mission Marathon in Enschede today to book a ticket to Tokyo.
“I am ready,” Kiprotich said this week before departing for Enschede in company of compatriots Filex Chemonges, Jackson Kiprop, Victor Kiplangat, Geoffrey Kusuro and Bernard Cheptoch.
Chemonges currently leads the quest for the three tickets with his national record (NR) of 2:05:12 set when he finished third at the 2019 Toronto Marathon.
Fred Musobo’s 2:06:56 from the 2019 Daegu Marathon comes second while Solomon Mutai’s time of 2:08:25 from the 2019 Vienna Marathon ranks him third.
Most important race
This could be Kiprotich’s most important race in his career with a qualification deadline imminent but he has a simple plan. “To run a good time for the Olympic games,” said the 32-year-old. Kiprotich is encouraged by 1:04:12 he posted to finish fourth at the Source of Nile Half-Marathon in Jinja on March 7.
And, by race organisers NN Running Team and Global Sports Communication postponing the event by a week from Hamburg, Germany to the Twente Airport in Enschede due to prevailing Covid-19 restrictions, Kiprotich is feeling positive.
“I am back to my roots,” he posted on his Facebook page. Whereas he needs to at least beat Mutai’s time, Kiprotch has not posted a sub-2:08 hour marathon since taking fifth place at the Hamburg Marathon on April 29, 2018.
He faces an elite 35-man field led by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, who holds the world record at 2:01:39.
Kipchoge, who stripped Kiprotich of the Olympic title in Brazil five years ago, is out to recover from a shock at the London Marathon last October.
There are 12 pacemakers including Victor Chumo and Philemon Rono to push Kipchoge, who will become the first runner to use a biosensor that provides glucose level monitoring.
In terms of time, Chemonges is Kipchoge’s biggest rival on paper.
96 Days to go: Best times- Ugandans
Oct 20, 2019: Filex Chemonges - Toronto Marathon (3rd, 2:05:12)
Apr 7, 2019: Fred Musobo - Daegu Marathon (2nd, 2:06:56)
Apr 7, 2019: Solomon Mutai - Vienna Marathon (3rd, 2:08:25)
Apr 28, 2019: S.Kiprotich - Hamburg Marathon (3rd, 2:08:31)
Jan 19, 2020: Jackson Kiprop - Mumbai Marathon (4th, 2:08:41)
Oct 27, 2019: Robert Chemonges - Rennes Marathon (1st, 2:09:03)
Apr 14, 2019: Alex Chesakit - Dakar Marathon (3rd, 2:16:05)
Nov 22, 2020: Phillip Kiplimo - Dodoma Marathon (1st, 2:17:26)
*Dotted line denotes cut off
NN Mission marathon
Date: April 18
Venue: Enschede, Netherlands
Course: Looped 10.5-km city centre course
Star Name: Eliud Kipchoge
Ugandans: S. Kiprotich, F. Chemonges, J. Kiprop, V. Kiplangat, G. Kusuro, B. Cheptoch
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