He proudly grabbed the national flag as he headed for the home stretch and Uganda’s Victor Kiplagat is the new world marathon men’s champion.
The 23-year-old gallantly protected his lead to win his country’s second ever world marathon title in 2 hours 8 minutes 53 seconds on Sunday (27 August) at the 2023 World Athletics Championships, exactly 10 years after compatriot Stephen Kiprotich won the title in Moscow in 2013.
Israel Maru Teferi suvived a fall after the 30km point to finish second in a season best of 2:09:12, as Ethiopia’s Leul Gebresilase took bronze in 2:09:19.
Kiplangat added a world marathon gold to the Commonwealth Games title he clinched last year in Birmingham on the final day of the championships, on what is expected to be the hottest day this year in the Hungarian capital.
So hot were the conditions that were championship organisers reduced the 10km mass run that also began on the same course after the official men’s marathon race at Heroes’ Square to 6km “to protect the health of the participants”.
With the temperature at about 25 degrees and a humidity of 65 percent at the finish, Kiplangat, the World Mountain Running champion in 2017, was part of a group that caught up with early breakaway leader just before halfway point and was able to control the pace when he took charge at the 37km mark until the end.
But even the heat couldn’t hold back Kiplangat from making history. He comfortably rushed to the finish line, grabbing the Ugandan flag from his team officials and waving it across the finish line, celebrating his biggest career victory.
“It was my day today, it was hot but the weather favoured me. I got a lot of experience from running in Birmingham and it was what helped me here,” said the winner, who is a half-brother to Jacob Kiplimo, the world half marathon champion.
“This medal is for my family, especially my last born who is just one month old,” said the father-of-five. “When I was coming here Kiplimo told me I should go out there and defend the family, and the nation, as he was not able to come because of (his) injury. I was having too much pressure, because he missed the 10,000m and I had to come here and fight for the medal, and today we have got a gold medal.”
Danish-based Omar Hassan, running for the Athlete Refugee Team, was 41st.
“There was a lot of cheering but last part was very challenging so I am grateful I even finished. This is my first world championships marathon, it was tough but I believe I will come back even stronger for the next time,” he said.
Early breakaway leader Ser-Od Bat-Ochir, the five-time Olympian from Mongolia who led until the 10km mark, dropped off with what appeared to be a muscle pull as Kenya’s Timothy Kiplagat caught up with him and eased past.
Bat-Ochir later ended his race, the first time he has failed to finish the race after 11 previous apperances at the World Athletics Championships.
With the lead pack back together, it was Kenya’s Timothy Kiplagat – second in Rotterdam this year – kicking in first past the 20km point in 1:01:36 alongside Rwandan John Hakizamana and Andrew Kwemoi from Uganda as they hydrated and sponged down to keep up with the fast-warming conditions.
Timothy Kiplagat managed to scuttle the thinning field as the approached the 30km mark at the Chain bridge that spans the Danube River between Buda and Pest.
Victor Kiplangat, second in Tokyo last February, led a surge as they headed to the Heroes Square for the penultimate loop, with last year’s winner Tamirat Tola and Gebresilase following closely, just as his compatriot Stephen Kissa stumbled.
Kissa impressively picked himself back up and closed in on the lead pack for fifth behind Lesotho’s fourth-placed Tebello Ramakongoana. But the Ugandan could not match the pace of Israeli Teferi, who upped the pace in the last two kilometres for second after survining a fall at the 30km mark.
“Today, it was very hard for everybody so I tried to do my best in this hot weather and I am grateful I managed to finish with the silver medal,” the Ethiopian-born Teferi said after the race.
“I wanted to get the best of me and this competition was my biggest target this season so I am glad I managed to fulfil my dream. I fell down after the 30th km and tore my t-shirt. I think somebody touched me and I just fell but I tried to move on to finish the race in the best possible condition.”
Ethiopian Tola did not finish the race.
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