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Marathon man Kiprotich ends Uganda's long wait for Olympic gold

updated 1:57 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda celebrates as he wins the men's marathon on Sunday.
Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda celebrates as he wins the men's marathon on Sunday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Uganda wins second gold medal of its Olympic history in men's marathon on Sunday
  • Stephen Kiprotich triumphs 40 years after the late John Akii-Bua won 400m hurdles in Munich
  • It was Uganda's first medal of any kind since Davis Kamoga won silver at Atlanta '96
  • Kenya's two-time world champion Abel Kirui is second and compatriot Wilson Kipsang third

(CNN) -- Stephen Kiprotich was born 17 years after Uganda won its first Olympic gold medal.

Fast forward another 23 years, and he has the honor of being the African nation's second athlete to triumph on sport's biggest stage.

"I never saw John Akii-Bua run, but there are a lot of memories of him," Kiprotich told reporters after claiming a surprise victory in the men's marathon on the final day of London 2012.

"I have been dreaming, 'Can I be like John Akii-Bua?' There is a time for everything, a time to train and a time to relax. I think today I joined the champions, so I am happy."

The late Akii-Bua won Uganda's first Olympic gold at Munich '72, when he triumphed in the 400-meter hurdles. Leo Rwabwogo won boxing silver at the same Games, having won bronze four years earlier in Mexico when Eridadi Mukwanga took home silver.

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For Ian Thorpe, watching the reaction from Bert Le Clos after his son beat Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, was "one of those moments that you can't help but love." Thorpe says: "This big, burly South African man -- who looked quite frightening -- crying, tears rolling down his face, screaming at the camera: "It's my beautiful boy." For Ian Thorpe, watching the reaction from Bert Le Clos after his son beat Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, was "one of those moments that you can't help but love." Thorpe says: "This big, burly South African man -- who looked quite frightening -- crying, tears rolling down his face, screaming at the camera: "It's my beautiful boy."
Memorable moments -- Ian Thorpe
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Emil Zatopek pushed himself to the limit in search of Olympic gold and world records. Emil Zatopek pushed himself to the limit in search of Olympic gold and world records.
Track and field legend
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Remembering a triple gold legend

But until Kiprotich's success on Sunday, its only other podiums were another runnerup placing in the ring for John Mugabi at Moscow '80 and bronze for 400m runner Davis Kamoga at Atlanta '96.

Coached by Benjamin Longiross, who placed 62nd for Uganda in the marathon at Seoul '88, Kiprotich denied Kenya -- a country where he has trained in recent years -- a second successive men's title.

Two-time world champion Abel Kirui had to make do with silver, while fellow Kenyan Wilson Kipsang claimed bronze.

Kiprotich made his move after 38 of the 42 kilometers, bursting clear before taking a Ugandan flag from the crowd as he crossed the finish line in a time of two hours, eight minutes and one second.

"When the race started I thought the Kenyans would win," Kiprotich said. "I kept in touch and then I thought, 'Let me move', so I moved.

"When we came to within three miles, then I started to go on strongly."

Kipsang, who won the London marathon in April, opened up a 21-second lead at one stage but later suffered in the hot conditions.

"When Kipsang and I were together, I thought we were the only ones who would fight for the gold," said Kirui, who finished 26 seconds behind Kiprotich.

"I thought I was going to sprint with Kipsang in the final kilometers. Surprisingly, I saw Stephen with us and it was difficult to make a move.

"He stayed with us for a long time and he made a stronger move in the end. We were closing the gap but couldn't catch him. I am happy for him."

The race also featured U.S.-based South Sudanese runner Guor Marial, who finished 47th after entering as an independent competitor.

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