NAIROBI, July 9 (Reuters) – Reigning Olympic marathon champion and world record holder Eliud Kipchoge said Friday that he still feels like competing and that winning gold in Tokyo could be his greatest achievement.
Kipchoge, who became the first person to run the distance under two hours in an unofficial race, is one of the top draws for the Olympic Games, due to start on July 23.
He reminded his rivals of what they will face in Sapporo in August after driving to victory in the Netherlands in April, finishing in two hours, four minutes and 30 seconds to reaffirm his status as the man to beat after a shock defeat at the London Marathon in October.
“I’m still hungry to run in the Olympics and win a gold medal, so I feel fresh every time I wake up,” the 36-year-old told reporters on Friday in a briefing.
“If I win a gold medal, it’s the highest,” said Kipchoge, who won gold in Rio in 2016.
“I really appreciate the Olympics and I really fight for them and really train for them,” he added.
This year’s games will be different, Kipchoge admitted, as they have been postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will take place without spectators.
However, he said he was still excited to run in Sapporo and saw the games as a way to give hope to people who had to endure a tough year.
“My personal participation, our participation as a Kenyan team and the participation of all the countries that will take part in the Tokyo Olympics are a sign of hope for the whole world,” he said.
“It is a sign that we are actually preparing for the best moments ever, when we will have our normal lives again. So there is a light at the (end) of the tunnel. That is why we are going to Sapporo.”
‘SAME FRYING PAN’
Kipchoge added that he was ready for the Sapporo heat and that it wasn’t a big deal as everyone is faced with the same conditions.
“We’ll all be in the same skillet,” he said. “The best will win.”
He was disappointed with the decision not to have fans at the Games, which on Tuesday urged spectators to stay away from the marathon and running path at the Olympics. Continue reading
“I would be more happy if all these challenges weren’t there and the fans could actually line up on the streets to cheer us on, give us hope, we give them hope for the world, running is hope, we respect the authorities “, he said.
When asked if the Sapporo race would be his last, Kipchoge said he was just focusing on winning gold for now.
“The end of my career will come automatically, that’s for sure, I have that in the back of my mind, but right now I want to compete more,” he said. “I still want to go and run around the world, inspire people.”
The Kenyan said he was inspired by athletes in other sports such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, tennis star Roger Federer and basketball legend LeBron James, but Japanese tennis youngster Naomi Osaka also earned his admiration.
“Naomi Osaka, a newcomer to tennis, is a great motivator to see young people and take the sport to the next level,” he said.
Reporting by Omar Mohammed Editing by Christian Radnedge
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