LONDON - A runner named Kiprotich winning the Olympic marathon? Hardly a surprise. That he was the one from Uganda and not Kenya? Big surprise.
Stephen Kiprotich rounded a corner with three miles left and simply took off, turning the last mile into a victory lap as he easily captured the marathon Sunday, along with the first medal for Uganda at the London Games.
"People didn't expect Uganda. They thought Kenya, Ethiopia," Kiprotich said. "Being unknown, now I'm known."
Kiprotich won in 2 hours 8 minutes 1 second as he pulled away from the Kenyan duo of Abel Kirui and Wilson Kiprotich Kipsang, who was the "Kiprotich" favored in this race. Kirui ended up with the silver while Kipsang held on for bronze just ahead of American Meb Keflezighi.
On a warm afternoon, the marathoners ran past Big Ben, St. Paul's Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, London Bridge and the Tower of London before finishing near Buckingham Palace.
For Uganda, this was the country's seventh Olympic medal in any sport and second gold. John Akii-Bua, a 400-meter hurdler, won the other gold 40 years ago in Munich.
"They (Kenyans) didn't expect me to win. I was keeping behind them, keeping the fire burning. When they go, they thought they'd left me, but I was there. I kept in touch. Later, I said, 'I believe in myself.' Then, I made my move."
Within seconds of each other, U.S. marathoners Abdi Abdirahman, a former UA runner and Tucson High grad, and Ryan Hall were out of the Olympic race.
First, Hall dropped out around the 11-mile mark with a tight right hamstring. Then, Abdirahman called it a day because of an aching right knee.
"I felt like I was favoring my stride and didn't want to get injured," said Hall, who lives in Flagstaff.