Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Kenenisa & Kipchoge – will Paris 2024 be final showdown?


One of the great athletics rivalries of all time will be renewed at Paris 2024 after Kenenisa Bekele was named in Ethiopia’s marathon squad.

The 41-year-old is a three-time Olympic champion over 5,000m and 10,000m but has not appeared at the Games since London 2012, when he finished fourth over the longer distance.

However, his second-placed finish in the London Marathon last month means Bekele will come up against Kenyan great Eliud Kipchoge on 10 August.

Former marathon world record holder Kipchoge, 39, is aiming to become the first person to win three successive Olympic marathons after his victories at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

His rivalry with Bekele stretches all the way back to their first meeting in a final, also in Paris, at the 2003 World Championships.

On that occasion Kipchoge took gold in the 5,000m, with Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj in second place and Bekele taking bronze.

A year later at the Olympics in Athens, Kipchoge would have to settle for bronze over the same distance as Bekele took silver behind El Guerrouj, with the Ethiopian then clinching gold over 10,000m gold.

Four years on at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Bekele would again get the better of Kipchoge at the Games as the pair finished first and second in the 5,000m and Bekele defended his 10,000m title.

Kipchoge has established himself as an all-time great since switching to marathon-running in 2013, winning 11 major races alongside his two Olympic gold medals.

Bekele produced the sixth-fastest debut over 26.2 miles (42.16km) when he made a winning marathon debut in Paris in April 2014, but his career since then has been hampered by injuries.

Now, 21 years on from their first battle in the French capital, this could be the final time Bekele and Kipchoge go head-to-head.

The ‘Ronaldo and Messi’ of distance running

Kenenisa Bekele’s return to the Olympics after a 12-year gap has caused high levels of excitement among athletics fans.

One of the sport’s all-time legends, who turns 42 next month, is getting his last crack on the greatest stage.

He and Eliud Kipchoge have transformed distance running and defined an era.

It is safe to say that these two are the Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi of distance running.

There is so much at stake in terms of their rivalry, with Bekele largely dominating on the track before Kipchoge established primacy over the marathon field.

The Kenyan held the world record until last October and in 2019 become the first to run the distance under two hours – albeit not in open competition and using rotating pacemakers.

The last time they raced together was the London Marathon in 2018, when Kipchoge won, and Bekele will be looking to spoil the party as Kipchoge aims to make history with his third Olympic win.

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