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Benson Kipruto Leads Kenyan Sweep of Podium at Tokyo Marathon

Double Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge fades to 10th at the Tokyo Marathon, while Japan's Yusuke Nishiyama misses out on a Paris Olympic spot.

Benson Kipruto of Kenya won the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, March 3, denying double Olympic marathon champion and compatriot Eliud Kipchoge a chance to win the race for a second time.

Kipruto pulled ahead of compatriot Timothy Kiplagat to take the sole lead at 38 kilometers and held on to cross the finish line in front of Tokyo Station with a time of 2 hours, 2 minutes and 16 seconds, setting a race record.

Kiplagat was second, 39 seconds back while Vincent Kipkemoi Ngetich made it a Kenyan sweep of the podium with a time of 2:04:18 for third.

Kipchoge was 10th for his lowest finish in 20 career marathons.

Tokyo Marathon
Ethiopia's Sutume Kebede triumphs in the women's race at the Tokyo Marathon. (©SANKEI)

Ethiopia's Sutume Kebede won the women's race in 2:15:55, also a race record, 19 seconds ahead of defending Tokyo champion Rosemary Wanjiru of Kenya.

Kenya's Amane Beriso Shankule took third in 2:16:58.

Hitomi Niiya was the top finisher among Japanese women, placing sixth with a time of 2:21:50.

Tokyo Marathon
Hitomi Niiya competes in the women's race. (KYODO)

Sifan Hassan, the Ethiopian-born Dutch distance star who won in her first two marathons in 2023, placed fourth.

After winning the women's race, Kebede reacted with infectious joy.

"I am so happy, I don't really have words for it," Kebede told reporters through an interpreter. "It's my first victory and I don't have the words to express how happy I am about that."

Tokyo Marathon
The Tokyo Marathon gets underway in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. (©SANKEI)

How the Tokyo Marathon Men's Race Unfolded

In the men's race, Kipchoge fell back of the leading pack at the 20-kilometer mark and never recovered.

The 39-year-old Kipchoge is bidding to be the first man to win the Olympic marathon gold three times.

"I was fit enough, but something happened around the middle of the race," Kipchoge said, according to Kyodo News. "I think it's too early to say [about the Olympics] now. I'm going to go back, relax and start training."

By 25 kilometers, Kiplagat, Ngetich and Kipruto moved into the lead as it became an intense three-man race.

Kiplagat took the sole lead at 27 kilometers but Kipruto took over for the first time around 30 kilometers.

Ngetich dropped back at 33 kilometers as Kiplagat and Kipruto battled it out.

With four kilometers left, the 32-year-old Kipruto kicked it into high gear in the Ginza district and comfortably crossed the finish line, adding to major wins in Boston (2021) and Chicago (2022).

The Tokyo Marathon is the first of six World Marathon Majors. The other five are Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York.

"I didn't know that it would be a course record but I am so happy with today's run," Kipruto said, according to the World Athletics website.

'I Was Ready for Everything'

The topic of the Tokyo Marathon starting out with a world record pace was brought to Kipruto's attention after the race.

What were his thoughts on the matter?

"I was ready," he was quoted as saying by World Athletics before adding, "I knew it was so fast, I trained for it and I was ready for everything that could come."

Tokyo Marathon
Yusuke Nishiyama runs near the 29-kilometer mark. (Representative photo/via Sankei)

Yusuke Nishiyama finished ninth and was the top finisher for Japan with a time of 2:06:31, short of the Paris Olympic qualifying time of 2:05:50 set by the Japan Association of Athletics Federations.

For Nishiyama, the result was a huge disappointment.

"Without beating the qualifying time, the result is meaningless," Nishiyama said, according to Kyodo News. "My only goal was Paris, so it's hard to think of any other goal."

Tokyo Marathon
Two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge (second from right) competes in the Tokyo Marathon. (Representative photo/via Sankei)

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Racing in the Aftermath of a Recent Tragedy

It was Kipchoge's first race since the death of compatriot Kelvin Kiptum, who died in an auto accident on February 11 at the age of 24.

Kiptum died just months after beating Kipchoge's world record with a time of 2:00:35 at the Chicago Marathon in October 2023.

Kipchoge won Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics and again five years later at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games.

He won the 2022 Tokyo Marathon with a then-race record time of 2:02:40. Kipchoge did not return to the Japanese capital last year to defend his title.

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Sports editor Ed Odeven contributed to this report.

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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