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Monday, August 13, 2012 - Page updated at 09:00 p.m.
Unexpected Ugandan breaks tape in men's marathon
By Jere Longman
The New York Times
LONDON — The East Africans were heavily favored to win the Olympic marathon Sunday, but they happened to be Kenyans and Ethiopians, not a Ugandan named Stephen Kiprotich.
On a hot, humid day, Kiprotich cleverly surged into the lead on a turn at 23 miles and pulled away to win in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 1 second. His victory provided Uganda's first gold medal at the London Games and second in Olympic history, 40 years after John Akii-Bua won the 400 hurdles at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
If others did not expect Kiprotich to win, he did not either. Uganda is so lacking in athletic facilities that Kiprotich does his training in neighboring Kenya. He is only 23, and this was but his fourth marathon.
"Being unknown, now I am known," the gentle and gracious Kiprotich said. "I am happy now that I am a known athlete."
Abel Kirui, a two-time world champion from Kenya, took the silver in 2:08:27. And Wilson Kipsang, the prerace favorite from Kenya who forcefully moved to the front at seven miles but could not hold on, took the bronze in 2:09:37.
If Kiprotich's victory was surprising, it also represented the vagary and possibility of running 26.2 miles. Nothing is assured in a race this long, especially in wilting heat and on a loop course loaded with so many turns that it could feel at times like a slalom run.
"It's the Olympics, it's the marathon," said Jos Hermens, Kiprotich's agent. "Anything can happen."
Meb Keflezighi of the United States, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist who had been bothered by a strained gluteus muscle, could not cover an early move by the leaders. But he continued to run steadily and with resolve. He moved up from 17th at the midway point to finish fourth in 2:11:06.
"I would never want to finish fourth at the trials, but fourth at the Olympic Games, I'll take that," Keflezighi, 37, said.
Otherwise, it was a disappointing day for the U.S.
Ryan Hall, who had experienced plantar fasciitis in his left foot and inconsistent training recently, dropped out after 11 miles when his right hamstring tightened. Abdi Abdirahman also left the course after feeling a pop in his knee.
"As marathoners, you train so hard, these things come up," said Hall. "Unfortunately, it's part of our sport, but something I never experienced to this extent before. I've never finished outside the top 10. I've always finished. This is my first DNF in my life."
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