History awaits Olympic champ Kipchoge in Tokyo

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge (white jersey) runs during his attempt to bust the mythical two-hour barrier for the marathon on October 12 2019 in Vienna.[Courtesy]

Eliud Kipchoge has written history before, but his next challenge to become only the third man in history to successfully defend the Olympic marathon title is aspiring.

For a man, who only jumped to the marathon after missing out to make Kenya team to London Olympics back in 2012, to revolutionise the sport and leave fans dreaming of how fast the human species can run, Tokyo Olympics will certainly be of importance to him.

The men’s marathon will be held on the final day of the competition on August 9. Moreover, marathon races on the July 24 to August 9 Olympic Games have been shifted from Tokyo to Sapporo city.

This is to protect the athletes against sweltering heat and high levels of humidity expected in the Olympics’ host city. 

But even that does not worry Kipchoge, who says if it will be hard for him, so will it be to other athletes.

“It is down to working hard. To ensure that the team achieves what is required in Sapporo. We shall come with medals,” Kipchoge said. 

“For now, the Olympics looks like a long shot far away and in sports, anything can happen. But the focus is there and spirit is willing. Keep us in your prayers.”

For now, Kipchoge will be happy to focus on his immediate task, retaining his London marathon title, which is just two months away on April 26.

While focus will be on Kipchoge’s imminent clash with Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele in London and possible in Tokyo, the silk of World Championships bronze medalist Amos Kipruto and Boston and Chicago Marathon champion Lawrence Cherono may help shield the legendary athlete from direct coalition as they too stand a huge chance to run away with the title. 

Kenyan’s world half-marathon record-holder Geoffrey Kamworor, a former world 10,000m silver medallist, will however not run the marathon despite winning in New York last November.

Instead, Kamworor has opted to try one more time to win gold at the Olympics in the 25-lap race. He however, has the small matter of securing the ticket through the explosive Kenyan trials in June.  

Meanwhile, Nike Inc. will put on sale this month a version of the running shoe Eliud Kipchoge wore when he broke the two-hour marathon barrier last October, the US sports equipment manufacturer said.

The Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% has 3.95-centimeter thick sole, making it compliant with new rules introduced by World Athletics last week that prohibit shoes with soles that are 4 cm deep.

The World Athletics rules also stipulate that from April 30, only shoes that have been available for purchase by consumers for at least four months can be used in competition, enabling the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which open on July 24.

The controversial, noticeably chunky-soled running shoe that is slated for market release on February 29, incorporates a carbon fiber plate fused with a foam layer that acts like a spring and ostensibly propels runners forward with each stride.

The shoes have caused an uproar in the running community with critics categorising them as a form of mechanical doping which gives current athletes an unfair advantage over their predecessors, and the times they set using inferior footwear.

The availability of the difference-making technology to all runners was also raised as an issue.

“We are pleased the Nike Zoom Vaporfly series and Nike Zoom Alphafly Next% remain legal,” a Nike spokesperson said.

“We will continue our dialogue with World Athletics and the industry on new standards.”

A prototype of the shoe was worn by Kenya’s Kipchoge at a marathon event in Vienna, Austria, where he clocked an unofficial world record marathon time of under two hours, the first time any person has broken the mark.

“For runners, records like the four-minute mile and two-hour marathon are barometers of progress...When someone like Eliud breaks them, our collective belief about what’s possible changes,” said Tony Bignell, Nike’s vice president of footwear innovation.

“Barriers are inspiring to innovators. Like athletes, when a barrier is in front of us, we are challenged to think differently and push game-changing progress in footwear design.”

The new rules prohibit shoes with more than one plate, unless the second plate only functions to attach spikes to the shoe.

The shoes worn by Kipchoge is said to have three plates.