Kiprotich won the men’s marathon Sunday, earning Uganda its first Olympic medal since 1996 and only its second gold ever.
“Today I joined the champions,” he said, “so I am happy.”
Kiprotich won with a time of 2 hours 8 minutes 1 second, well ahead of silver medalist Abel Kirui (2:08:27) and third-place finisher Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich (2:09:37), both of Kenya.
Four years ago, Kenya and Ethiopia combined to win eight of the nine medals in the men’s marathon, 5,000- and 10,000 meter races, including all three golds. (The 2008 Olympic champion marathon champion, Kenyan Samuel Wanjiru, died after falling off a balcony following a domestic dispute last year.) In London, the two countries didn’t claim any of the golds, and won five men’s distance medals overall.
“It is not good that we lost the gold medal,” Kenya’s Kiprotich said, “but to get silver and bronze is still a major achievement.”
The lone American to finish the race was 37-year old Meb Keflezighi, a three-time Olympian who finished fourth in 2:11:06. A silver medalist from the 2004 Olympics, Keflezighi made a late charge but still finished more than three minutes behind the winner.
“Did I want to finish fourth? No,” he said. “But at the Olympic Games, I’ll take it.”
Keflezighi was born in the African nation of Eritrea but has lived in the United States since he was 12. He missed two months of training this year because of a foot infection but still seemed pleased with his performance Sunday. It was what happened before the race that bothered him.
Because there are more than 100 runners competing, race organizers introduced fewer than 10 to the crowd. With an Olympic medal and a New York City Marathon title on his race résumé, Keflezighi said he should have been formally introduced.
“I was very upset,” he said. “Shame on [International Association of Athletics Federations] on that one. . . . None of those guys have what I have. To not be introduced like that definitely hurts.”
His U.S. teammates, Ryan Hall and Abdihakem Abdirahman dropped out of Sunday’s race after about 10 miles. Hall, the 10th-place finisher at the Beijing Games, appeared to grab the back of his leg as he left the course and later said he had hurt his hamstring.
“It’s a real bummer to have such a bad day when it’s such an amazing atmosphere out there,” Hall said. ”There was the potential to do something really special today.”
Abdirahman, a four-time Olympian, barely made it 100 yards past Hall before he, too, pulled up. The pain in his knee had become too much, he said.