UGANDA’S Victor Kiplangat reacts after winning gold medal in the men’s marathon at the Commonwealth Games.—Reuters
UGANDA’S Victor Kiplangat reacts after winning gold medal in the men’s marathon at the Commonwealth Games.—Reuters

BIRMINGHAM: Victor Kiplangat took a wrong turn about a mile from the finish line but still managed to give Uganda their first-ever Commonwealth Games marathon gold in Birmingham on Saturday.

The 22-year-old barely put a foot wrong until his moment of confusion but he regathered himself and timed 2hr 10min 55sec, coming home with a broad grin on his face.

“The people riding the motorcycles were confusing me,” he said. “They told me to turn back. But I still made it to the finish.”

There were no such navigational problems for Australia’s Jessica Stenson, who turned two successive bronze medals into gold in the women’s race.

Despite his wrong turn, Kiplangat finished more than a minute and a half clear of Tanzania’s 2017 world bronze medallist Alphonce Simbu.

But for that slight detour he might have broken the long-standing Games record set by England’s Ian Thompson (2:09.12), set in Christchurch in 1974.

“I believed when I reached 35 kilometres that I had some hope [of beating it],” he said, adding that making history for his country was ample consolation.

“I believe Uganda is proud of me today. We have been waiting for this.”

Kiplangat, who was not selected in Uganda’s team for the recent world championships in Eugene, Oregon, was gushing with confidence after his win.

“I believe I shall be a great man like [Uganda’s] Joshua Cheptegei and [Kenya’s Eliud] Kipchoge,” he said.

Cheptegei is the Olympic 5,000m champion and two-time winner of the world 10,000m title while Kipchoge is a double Olympic champion in the marathon.

“We shall keep breaking records,” he said. “As long as we are healthy, everything is possible. I’m still young and still growing. I believe I can be even better.”

Kenya’s Michael Githae took the bronze medal, more than two minutes behind the winner.

For Githae — winner of the last-ever Fukuoka Marathon in December last year — the joy was even greater as he had been called up late to the team.

“I was still mentally prepared despite the late call-up,” he said. “I faced many challenges up and down. It was a very tough course.

“This is one of the best achievements of my career.”

Long-time pacesetter Liam Adams of Australia made a valiant effort at trying to give his country their third successive win in the event but had to settle for fourth.

In the women’s race, 34-year-old Stenson timed 2:27.31, finishing 29 seconds clear of Margaret Mariuki of Kenya.

Defending champion Helalia Johannes of Namibia produced a remarkable run at 41 to take the bronze.

Stenson whipped off her dark glasses with two kilometres to go as she powered to victory. Victory was all the sweeter for the Australian as she had contracted Covid-19 less than a month before the Games.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2022

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