Stephen Kiprotich emerged as Uganda’s best finisher in fifth place at the NN Mission Marathon in Enschede, Netherlands, yesterday but the country’s most decorated athlete will miss the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The London 2012 Olympic gold medalist needed to produce a time at least under 2hr, 8mins and 25 sec to beat permutations for one of three Uganda’s available marathon tickets to Tokyo.
But a return to where he debuted over the 42km race 10 years ago didn’t yield the desired target even if he posted a respectable 2hr, 09min and 04sec.
As the sun rose, it, too, similarly had appeared rosier for Kiprotich when he powered over the final lap of eight on the looped course set on the Twente Airport runway to overtake his counterparts Filex Chemonges and Geoffrey Kusuro.
But, when the wait for the 32-year-old exceeded three minutes after Kenyan great Eliud Kipchoge had crossed the tape to win in 2hr, 04mins and 30sec, the hope for the ticket to Tokyo vanished.
Kiprotich is, however, a positive man.
“I am happy with my time, being a season best,” he said. “It was 5-10 degrees Celsius but it didn’t affect me much.”
Covid-19 lull hits hard
Owing to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, this was Kiprotich’s first 42km race since finishing 18th at Doha World Championships in October 2019.
Due to that lull, it would have taken some remarkable feat for Kiprotich to get a sub-2:08 hour performance since the body had been away from serious competition for too long.
Even the trio that currently occupies the three coveted slots to Tokyo; Chemonges, Fred Musobo and Solomon Mutai all couldn’t better their qualification times set before the pandemic.
In Enschede, Chemonges, ranked second behind Kipchoge pre-race because of his personal best and national record of 2hr, 5min and 12sec from the 2019 Toronto Marathon in Canada, finished eighth in 2hr, 9min and 59sec.
His Toronto time keeps the slot to Tokyo intact, so does Musobo’s time of 2hr, 6min and 56sec set when he came second at the 2019 Daegu Marathon in South Korea.
Mutai’s 2hr, 8min and 25sec from the 2019 Vienna Marathon was under threat when Kiprotich set out in Enschede and since it wasn’t bettered, he remains third. And he is poised to run a championship marathon for a seventh straight time since the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
Mutai suffered a stitch after 33km and failed to finish while Musobo came 14th with 2hr, 8min and 24sec at the Tuscany Marathon in Siena, Italy, eight days ago.
The Olympic qualification window closes on May 31. But Kiprotich doesn’t have a chance to run another qualifier to make it to the August 8 Gold event.
The 2013 world champion can however, luckily win a third straight Olympic appearance – which will be the first ever by a Ugandan marathoner – in case any of Chemonges, Musobo or Mutai fail to make it to Tokyo