Tuesday 27 September 2016

Kipchoge rules roost in marathon as Pollock leads home the Irish

Sean McGoldrick

Published 22/08/2016 | 02:30

Pollock: 32nd place. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Pollock: 32nd place. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

On a muggy morning in Rio, 31-year-old Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge brought his big-city marathon form to the Olympics when he secured the gold medal in the 26.2-mile event in a relatively modest 2:08.44 - more than five-and-a-half minutes outside his personal best.

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But championship racing is about medals, not times. Kipchoge always looked comfortable as he drove for gold in the closing kilometres before the finish in the Sambódromo, a custom-built parade area for the famous Rio Carnival.

Remarkably, Kipchoge is only the second Kenyan athlete to win the classic event - the late Samuel Kamau Wanjiru, who was the gold medallist in 2008, died three years later after he fell from a balcony at his home.

Kipchoge - now unbeaten in his last six marathon appearances having won the Rotterdam, Chicago, Berlin and the London (twice) marathons since 2014 - now has a complete set of Olympic medals having won bronze and silver in the 5,000m at the Athens and Beijing Games respectively.

Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa, who took silver in 2:09.54, caused jaws to drop in the mixed zone afterwards when he suggested that he could be killed or imprisoned on his return home because the Ethiopian government's repression of the Oromo tribe. As a 19-year- old, Lilesa won the Dublin City Marathon in 2009.

Mo Farah's training partner Galen Rupp, a silver medallist in the 10,000m four years ago in London, became the first American-born marathoner to win an Olympic medal since Frank Shorter's second place in Montreal in 1976, when he finished third in 2:10.05.

Rupp, who finished fifth in the 10,000m ten days ago, is a controversial figure who trains under coach Alberto Salazar.

As anticipated the Irish trio, Paul Pollock, Kevin Seaward and Mick Clohisey did not feature at the business end of the race in which all but 15 of the 155 starters finished.

After heavy rain in Rio which left surface waters on the roads around the city, it looked liked conditions might be ideal for Irish. But the 90pc humidity put paid to that notion.

Nonetheless, Holywood-born doctor Pollock again underlined his credentials as a top-class marathoner and utterly justified his disputed selection by securing 32nd place in 2:16.24 - just 46 seconds shy of his personal best.

He ran a tactically shrewd race starting off conservatively - he was lying 94th after 15km. Equally Clohisey had issues in the build-up with a virus and foot infection but dug deep to finish 103rd in 2:26.34. "It was tough out there. My family out supporting on the course got me through it," he said.

Moving steadily through the field, Pollock was the ninth European runner to cross the line. Even though he missed his target of a top-20 finish, he was satisfied. "A top-20 performance was the first goal," he explained.

"I went out 30 seconds to a minute slower for the first half than the plan had been, but the legs didn't come around until the second half. I came through strongly in the second half and this should give me a good platform to produce an even better performance in the major championships. It's been great to see the rise in the number of athletes get the marathon standards and I'm aiming for London (World Championships) in 2017."

It was Ireland's best performance in the Olympic men's marathon since Dick Hooper finished 24th at Seoul in 1988. But it is a measure of the rebirth of elite marathon running in the country that yesterday was the first time Ireland had a full compliment of male runners in the Olympics since 1992 in Barcelona.

The race proved a battle ground for both Seaward and Clohisey who were struggling for fitness coming into the event with various ailments.

"I picked up some kind of a bug a few days beforehand," said Seaward who finished 64th in 2:20.06.

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