What makes Feyisa Lilesa different in today’s Olympics Marathon

Athlete Feyisa Lilesa, who clocked 2nd and took Silver in this year’s Rio Olympic in men’s Marathon, crossed the finishing line with his hands crossed, a sign that is now widely recognized as a symbol of civil resistance in Ethiopia, a country gripped by successive anti-government protests which began in Nov. 2015, Via Addis Standard
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1 Eliud KIPCHOGE KENKEN 2:08:44
2 Feyisa LILESA ETHETH 2:09:54
3 Galen RUPP USAUSA 2:10:05

Feyisa Lilesa (born 1 February 1990, Jeldu, Oromia) is a male long-distance runner from Oromia, Ethiopia. He became the youngest man to run under 2:06 hours when he set his personal best (2:05:23) in the men’s marathon at the 2010 Rotterdam Marathon. His personal best of 2:04:52 (set in 2012) ranks him in the top ten fastest marathoners ever.

Feyisa Lilesa during 2013 London Marathon

He won the Dublin Marathon in 2009 in his debut race and then won the Xiamen International Marathon in 2010. He was the bronze medallist at the 2011 World Championships Marathon.

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  Ethiopia
2009 Dublin Marathon Dublin, Ireland 1st Marathon 2:09:12
2010 Xiamen International Marathon Xiamen, China 1st Marathon 2:08:47
Rotterdam Marathon Rotterdam, Netherlands 4th Marathon 2:05:23
2011 World Championships Daegu, South Korea 3rd Marathon 2:10:32
2012 Chicago Marathon Chicago, USA 2nd Marathon 2:04:52
2016 Olympics Rio de Janeiro, BRA 2nd Marathon 2:09:54

REPORT: MEN’S MARATHON – RIO 2016 OLYMPIC GAMES

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(IAAF) — Eliud Kipchoge confirmed his status as the most commanding marathon runner of the current generation when he produced a superb run over the final 15 kilometres to fulfil his status as many people’s favourite for the gold medal by winning in 2:08:44.

The statistics about Kipchoge in the context of this race can be just reeled off.

He had the biggest Olympic winning margin since Frank Shorter won in 1972; he has now won seven of his eight marathons since his debut at the 2013 Hamburg Marathon, all of them high class races; he added Olympic gold to his 5000m title at the 2003 world championships as an 18-year-old, a 13-year-gap between his global title, current bookends of a long and, generally, illustrious career that is far from over.

However, perhaps the most telling one about his Rio run that gives a quick demonstration of how he won the race is that he ran the second half of the race more than three minutes faster than the first, 1:05:55 and 1:02:49, a negative split no other runner else could match by a very long way.

“It was a championship and it was a bit slow so I decided to take over. Maybe it was the rain, maybe not. Everyone wants a medal. I was coming here for gold. This is history, the first time the women and the men win (from the same nation at the same Olympics) and it is the best moment of my life,” said a thrilled Kipchoge.

The opening half of the race was conducted with the rain falling; most of the Kenyan and Ethiopian runners unusually, for them wearing hats to keep the precipitation out of their eyes.

The opening 5km after the gun went in Sambodromo was in a relaxed 15:31.

The 10km checkpoint was passed in 31:08 with IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 gold medallist Ghirmay Ghebreslassie from Eritrea at the front of a big leading group. There were still over 60 runners – and all the expected main contenders –within 10 seconds of the lead at this point.

Pre-race favourite and 2016 London Marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge started to show at the front regularly during the next five kilometres and 15km was passed in 46:53.

EASY FIRST HALF

Very little of substance happened during the next five kilometres as the pace remained steady and on for a finish around 2:11:00 – with the expectation that there was going to be a negative split at this pace – with 20km passed in 1:02:77 and 48 men still within the spread 10 seconds from the lead.

The halfway point was reached in 1:05:55 and 25km in 1:18:12 with 37 men still within 10 seconds of the lead at this point.

Shortly afterwards, one of the expected medal contenders, Ethiopia’s 2016 Dubai Marathon winner Tesfaye Abera stepped to the side of the road and retired.

At around 27 kilometres, the Kenyan trio of Kipchoge, Wesley Korir and Stanley Biwott – who had been working together and clearly communicating during the race up to this point – started to surge and the leading pack quickly slimmed down to nine over the next two kilometres with 30km passed in 1:33:15.

Kipchoge made his decisive move and started to crank up the pace. By 32km, the leading group was down to four: Kipchoge, Ethiopian pair Feyisa Lelisa and Lemi Berhanu as well as USA’s Galen Rupp, who had only run one marathon before today at the US Olympic Trials in February and who finished in the Rio 2016 10,000m.

Berhanu started to fall back just before 34km but the other three, with Kipchoge dictated the tempo, stayed together through 35km in 1:47:40.

Rup was the next to fall back shortly after this checkpoint. A little further down the road, a small but significant incident occurred.

Just before 36km, Kipchoge motioned Lelisa to take up some of the running but must have seen that although the Ethiopian was on his shoulder, he was having to work very hard to stay with him.

It’s impossible to say for sure what went through Kipchoge’s mind, but within 100 metres or so he surged again, clearing recognising that this was the moment when he could make his bid for glory.

KIPCHOGE MAKES DECISIVE MOVE

A gap soon appeared between the leading pair and with Kipchoge’s track record, the gold seemed to be as good as his as Lelisa and Rupp were faced with the challenge of hanging on to take their place alongside him on the podium.

Kipchoge passed 40km in 2:02:24 with Lelisa 36 seconds back and Rupp another 12 seconds in arrears

The gap continued to grow in the final two kilometres.

Somewhat unnecessarily, with the line in sight, Kipchoge started to look around in the last 400 metres of the race but he would not have seen Lelisa or anyone else as they had still not gone around the final bend.

His uncertainty assuaged, in the final 200 metres he put on a spurt for the line before easing up and giving the thumbs up to the crowds in the stands in the Sambodromo, getting the greatest athletics triumph of his life in the slowest marathon time of his career.

Lelisa trudged tiredly home 1:10 behind Kipchoge, crossing the line in 2:09:54, but still had enough in the tank to hold off Rupp by 11 seconds.

Rupp was unable to close the gap but got his bronze medal in a personal best of 2:10:05 while Beijing 2015 champion Ghirmay Ghebreslasssie finished fourth in 2:11:04.

Among the record 140 finishers, London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist and 2013 world champion Stephen Kiprotich was 14th.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF

One Response to What makes Feyisa Lilesa different in today’s Olympics Marathon

  1. Keerensso August 21, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    Excellent Job done our Hero !!!! Dhugaa ummatta keettii goottumaadhan agrsiifte. Jiraadhau !

    Congratulations for this glorious achievement at Rio2016, too !

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