Stephen Kiprotich will join a select band of athletes to compete at three straight Olympic Games after he was chosen as one of Uganda’s three representatives in Tokyo this year.
Last week, the Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) technical committee led by Faustino Kiwa sat and chose Kiprotich for one of the three quota slots.
The 2012 champion will line up for the 42km race in Sapporo, Japan, on August 8 alongside Fred Musobo and Filex Chemonges.
Kiprotich’s selection follows a heated quest for three places where nine men had beaten the 2:11:30 qualification mark over two periods.
The qualification window was open from January 1, 2019 to April 5, 2020 and upon postponement of the quadrennial Games due to the coronavirus pandemic, it reopened from December 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.
However, Kiprotich was still fourth in terms of best time behind Chemonges, Musobo and Solomon Mutai before Covid-19 pandemic. But UAF chose the 2013 world marathon champion thanks to a respectable show where he finished fifth with 2:09:04 at the NN Mission Marathon in Enschede, Netherlands on April 18.
“There was a comparison of performances before and after (the pandemic),” explained UAF’s secretary general Beatrice Ayikoru.
Before Covid-19, Chemonges had produced a national record of 2:05:12 in third place at the Toronto Marathon in Canada on October 20, 2019. Musobo, too, had a personal best of 2:06:56 in second place at the Daegu Marathon in South Korea on April 7, 2019.
On the same day, Mutai posted a PB as well, in third place at the Vienna Marathon in Austria yet Kiprotich’s best time was 2:08:31 at the Hamburg Marathon in Germany on April 28, 2019.
“We had made it clear that those who qualified in 2019, we could not start selecting the team with 2019 qualification,” Kiwa said.
“We made it clear to all of them that they had to run afresh. So we used that for selecting. 2019 is long past, you can’t tell if one is still fit or not,” he added.
Post-pandemic, Kiprotich delivered a controlled race in Enschede ahead of compatriots Geoffrey Kusuro (2:09:53) and Chemonges (2:09:59), who finished sixth and eighth, respectively.
A week before Enschede, Mutai was undone by a stitch after 33km but Musobo braved the cold to post 2:08:04 in Siena, Italy.
Kiprotich will become the first Ugandan to compete at three successive Olympic editions but his inclusion also means that 2015 world bronze medallist Mutai will miss a seventh straight 42km championship race.
Uganda Marathon Team
Filex Chemonges 2:05:12
Fred Musobo 2:06:56
Solomon Mutai 2:08:25*
Stephen Kiprotich 2:08:31