KAMPALA – Uganda Athletics Federation – UAF has listed star runner – Stephen Kiprotich as one of three marathoners to represent the country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The event delayed for a year, due the Covid-19 pandemic, will officially start with an opening ceremony on July 23 in Tokyo.
Uganda was spoilt for choice after up to seven athletes hit the qualifying mark in the marathon category, ahead of deadline and officials had no option but zero on the latest form as the pick for the final team, UAF officials said.
Fred Musobo leads Uganda’s marathon team after posting the second best qualifying time of 2:06:56 set in April 2019. He however is top in current form, having run 2:08:24 from the recent Siena, Italy marathon last month.
Former Olympic champion – Stephen Kiprotich whose best qualifying time was 2:08:31 set in 2019, but managed the second best time of 2:09:04 at the NN Mission Marathon in Enschede, Netherlands last month is the second pick. At the April 18 race, Kiprotich became one of the top contenders beating Filex Chemonges and Geoffrey Kusuro.
He makes history, by joining Benjamin Kiplagat as athletes that have represented Uganda at three straight Olympics. Kiprotich, who won gold in 2012, managed a 14th podium finish in 2016; and now gets another chance at the Tokyo Games.
Kiprotich has also competed at four World Championships, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2019. He won gold in 2013.
Chemonges was handed the final slot of Uganda’s marathon team to Tokyo after posting a time of 2:05:12, which is also the national record set in October 2019, supplemented by the current form of 4th position at 2:09:59.
The long marathon qualification period, that started in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, saw seven Ugandans hit the mark ahead of the extended deadline of May 31, 2021.
“We focused mainly on current form to pick our team. We are confident about the three we have picked, and particularly for Kiprotich, who has continued to show great discipline and professionalism. He continues to be a good example to the young ones by constantly also competing in our local races like the cross country events,” said Dominic Otuchet – the UAF president.
Missing out is Solomon Mutai, who had the qualifying third best time of 2:08:25 set in April 2019, but has no current time and Geoffrey Kusuro, who had the third best current time of 02:09:53, but was edged by Kiprotich in their head-on race in Enschede.
“The marathon is not due until August 8, so those picked now have three months to get it right. They will soon be brought together with women – Juliet Chekwel and Immaculate Chemutai to train under Gordon Ahimbisibwe,” revealed Otuchet.
Otuchet also confirmed that athletes have stepped up preparations, and is confident Uganda will have at least 23 track and field athletes qualify – making it the largest group to the Olympics, in the recent past. There were 17 athletes represent Uganda at the field and track events, during the last Games in Rio, while only 11 in London 2012.
“Qualification runs until end of June, so I am optimistic we will have at least 5 more from the 20 who have already qualified. This should include Jacob Kiplimo who has not yet got a chance to run on the track since his injury in 2019,” added Otuchet.