Uganda will enter a strong team of four runners in the Rio Olympics Marathon event due to the consistently good performance of the country’s long distance runners led by Stephen Kiprotich.
With a slot for defending Olympic champion Kiprotich guaranteed, four other Ugandans have in the past year beaten the qualifying mark of 2:19:00, leaving the Uganda Athletics Federation with a headache to pick the best three.
Kiprotich finished 4th at the IAAF rated Tokyo Marathon in a time of 2:07:46 on Sunday, well below his national record and personal best of 2:06:33 when he finished second last year. The result however confirmed his build up for the Rio Olympics in August is on track.
“I am satisfied with Kiprotich’s result in Tokyo. What I saw shows he is gradually improving and we have high hopes in him again,” said UAF president Dominic Etuchet.
“He had talked of wanting to improve his national record in Tokyo, but it is ok since every marathon comes with its unique challenges.”
Tokyo provided the launching pad for Kiprotich’s Olympic Gold medal assault in 2012. In 2012 he was selected based on his third-place finish in Tokyo.
The other marathoners in contention are Jackson Kiprop, Solomon Mutai, bronze medalist at last year’s World Championships in Beijing, Alex Chesakit, and 2014 Commonwealth games bronze medalist Abraham Kiplimo 2:12.23.
“We will pick the best depending on performance,” Etuchet said.
Since qualifying started in January 2015, Chesakit has run 2:13:06, Kiprotich 2:06:33, Mutai 2:10:42, Kiprop 2:15:16 and Kiplimo has a best time of 2:09:23 in 2014.
Reports indicate that long distance ace Moses Kipsiro will move from the 5,000 and 10,000, and will also take a shot at a marathon place. He is expected to to run the Hamburg Marathon next month.
The other Ugandans who have so far hit the qualifying mark for the Olympics are Adero Nyakesi in the women’s marathon, Joshua Cheptegei and Tim Toroitich in the 10,000m, Phillip Kipyeko in the 5,000m and Ronald Musagala in the 1500.
Uganda’s track and field team at the last Olympics in London was the biggest (11 out of 15), and Etuchet said it is likely to be bigger this time due to the stiff competition in long distance races.
Kiprotich’s gold in London 2012, was the first Olympic medal since Davis Kamoga’s bronze in 1992 and one of only two gold Uganda has won at the games. The first gold was by Akii Bua in 1972, one of only 7 medals Uganda has won at Olympics track and field.