Unheralded Ugandan pulls surprise in men's marathon


LONDON - A runner named Kiprotich winning the Olympic marathon? Hardly a surprise.

That he was the one from Uganda and not Kenya? Major surprise.

Stephen Kiprotich rounded a corner with three miles left and simply took off, turning the last mile into a victory lap as he easily captured the marathon Sunday, along with the first medal for Uganda at the London Games.

"People didn't expect Uganda. They thought Kenya, Ethiopia," Kiprotich said. "Being unknown, now I'm known."

He sure is.

Kiprotich won in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 1 second as he pulled away from the Kenyan duo of Abel Kirui and Wilson Kiprotich Kipsang, who was the "Kiprotich" favored in this race. Kirui ended up with the silver, 26 seconds later, while Kipsang took bronze in 2:09:37.

American Meb Keflezighi took fourth in 2:11:06.

On a warm afternoon, the marathoners wound their way through a scenic route packed with swarms of fans, breezing past Big Ben, St. Paul's Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, London Bridge and the Tower of London before finishing near Buckingham Palace.

By the time he neared the finish line, Stephen Kiprotich had such a commanding lead that he grabbed a flag from the stands and wore it on his way to gold.

After finishing, he dropped to his knees, bowed, then raised his hands high over his head.

A moment to cherish because these haven't happened all that often for Uganda. This was the country's seventh Olympic medal in any sport and second gold. John Akii-Bua, a 400-meter hurdler, won the other gold 40 years ago in Munich.

"I made history with my people," Kiprotich said. "They didn't expect me to win. I was keeping behind them, keeping the fire burning. When they go, they thought they'd left me, but I was there.

"I kept in touch. Later, I said, 'I believe in myself.' Then, I made my move."

The Kenyans, who were looking at a possible podium sweep, just couldn't keep up. Kirui and Co. were competing in memory of the late Sammy Wanjiru, who won the country's first Olympic marathon four years ago in Beijing. Wanjiru died last year after a fall from a second-story balcony during a domestic dispute.

While other runners wore the colors of their countries, Guor Marial donned a predominantly gray and black uniform with "I.O.A." printed on it. He wound up 47th, 11:31 behind the winning time.

Marial competed as an independent runner under the banner of the International Olympic Committee after fleeing a refugee camp in what is now South Sudan during a civil war more than a decade ago.

The 28-year-old landed in the United States, seeking asylum. The IOC cleared him last month to compete in the Olympics as an independent athlete after he didn't qualify for Sudan, South Sudan or the United States under its rules.

Marial had run only two marathons in his life, but finished both in Olympic qualifying times. His second was just two months ago in San Diego.

"I was not able to get them a medal today, but the finish was the most important," Marial said. "I felt like the world was watching."

Within seconds of each other, U.S. marathoners Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman were out of the Olympic race.

First, Hall dropped out around the 11-mile mark with a tight right hamstring. Then Abdirahman called it a day because of an aching right knee.

WRESTLING

Jake Varner gave the U.S. men's wrestling team multiple gold medalists for the first time since 1996. Varner got the team's second gold when he won four straight matches to take the 96-kilogram freestyle, beating Valerie Andriitsev of Ukraine 1-0, 1-0 in the final.

Varner fell to his knees once the clock ticked to zero, soaking in the fact he had just accomplished the biggest goal of his life. He soon found Cael Sanderson, a gold medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics who helped coach him to the title, and thanked him with a leaping bear hug.

BOXING

Britain's final gold of the games went to super heavyweight Anthony Joshua, who rallied from a late deficit to upset defending champ Roberto Cammarelle of Italy on a tiebreaker.

Joshua's big finish in the tournament's glamour division allowed him to match the titles won by bantamweight Luke Campbell and women's flyweight Nicola Adams, part of Britain's five-medal boxing haul that included Freddie Evans' welterweight silver from Sunday.

Also winning divisions were: Ukrainian lightweight Vasyl Lomachenko, flyweight Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba, welterweight Serik Sapiyev of Kazakhstan and Russian light heavyweight Egor Mekhontsev. Sapiyev was honored as the tournament's best boxer.

VOLLEYBALL

Russia won its first men's volleyball gold in 32 years by rallying past Brazil in five sets.

Second-ranked Russia dropped the first two sets and faced two match points before putting together an impressive comeback in a 19-25, 20-25, 29-27, 25-22, 15-9 victory.

GYMNASTICS-RHYTHMIC

The Russians won their fourth straight Olympic gold medal in the group event, easily beating Belarus. With Evgeniya Kanaeva winning the individual all-around Saturday, Russia has now won both rhythmic titles at every Olympics since the 2000 Sydney Games.

CYCLING-MOUNTAIN BIKE

World champion Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic won a two-man sprint to take the gold medal in the men's mountain bike race.

Kulhavy made the most of a final steep ascent on the technical circuit in the English countryside to move ahead of Nino Schurter of Switzerland.

Schurter won the silver, and Marco Aurelio Fontana of Italy took bronze.

ELSEWHERE IN LONDON

France won its second consecutive gold medal in men's handball with a 22-21 victory over Sweden. ... Croatia won its first Olympic gold in men's water polo, pulling away from Italy for an 8-6 win. The U.S. lost 10-9 to Australia to drop to eighth place. ... Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu topped the men's 66-kilogram freestyle wrestling division, beating Sushil Kumar of India to give the Japanese their first Olympic title in the sport in 24 years. ... Laura Asadauskaite of Lithuania captured the women's modern pentathlon. Samantha Murray of Britain was second, and Brazil's Yane Marques won the bronze.

BOLT PARTIES

Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt hotfooted it from Olympic Stadium after Saturday night's record-setting 4x100 relay victory, hitting a party nearby in East London and turning DJ to entertain the packed club at Jamaica's Olympic party base.

"He came onstage and grabbed the mike," DJ Manny Norte told The Associated Press. "The energy went up tenfold - it was electric. Everyone was very excited to see him."

After attending his sponsor's party in East London's Brick Lane neighborhood, Bolt dashed to a glitzier nightclub, Movida, in London's West End.

Club spokeswoman Martina Pokorna said the group included Bolt's teammate Yohan Blake and British swimmer Rebecca Adlington. Pokorna said they were given a Nebuchadnezzar - the equivalent of 20 bottles - of Ace of Spades champagne. It has a retail price of 80,000 pounds ($125,000).

"They left at 6 o'clock this morning," she said.

DOPING CONTROLS

IOC president Jacques Rogge said efforts to fight doping at the Olympics were a success.

Through Sunday morning, only one athlete tested positive for a banned substance on the day of competing at the London Games. Seven more were caught in doping controls conducted since the official testing period for the games began July 16. One of the seven competed in London before her test result was known.

 

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