Kenyan star runner Eliud Kipchoge says 2020 Olympics postponement is ‘shocking but noble’

Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge, October 12, 2008. Photo by The Wolf at / CC BY 2.0.

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Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge became the first man in the world to run a marathon in two hours last year.

He was looking forward to competing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, but the games have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When he received the news, Kipchoge told Global Voices that the postponement was “shocking” but “trusts it’s a noble idea” taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The 34-year-old who ran 42.2-kilometer race in 1 hour 59 minutes in Austria last October was hoping to defend his 2016 Rio Olympics title this July; however, he will have to wait until summer 2021.

Kenya joins several other African nations with strict measures in place to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. The Kenyan government has imposed curfews, shut borders, closed schools, and banned public gatherings to encourage “social distancing.”

The nation currently has 42 confirmed coronavirus cases as of March 29, 2020.

From his home in Kenya, Kipchoge expressed astonishment with the IOC decision but believes it is for the greater good. He told Global Voices via WhatsApp on March 25:

I received the news about the postponement in a shocking way, but I trust and think it’s a noble idea for IOC to come into agreement to postpone the Olympics.

Health is an important priority…a firm decision … because as human beings, we need to respect this pandemic which has hit the whole world in a hard way.”

The organizers of the Olympics in Japan had come under pressure to postpone the mega-event that was expected to attract 11,000 athletes, as Canada and Australia pulled out in the wake of more deaths and more people testing positive of the coronavirus.

The IOC had said it needed time to take the final decision on holding the Games, yet they were rushed by international pressure.

Kipchoge thinks the decision was a bit hastened:

I didn’t expect the suspension of the Olympics as early as this. I thought it [the decision] will come in the next one or two months as we are struggling to get rid of this virus. We live in a world of uncertainties.

Kipchoge, who formerly ran the men’s 5,000 meters, won the bronze in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, before winning silver four years later in Beijing.

Kipchoge said he is confined at home during this period:

I am staying at home with my family – playing with the kids and trying to read some books to get some knowledge and make my mind healthy. I also watch some movies to create more connection with my family.

Kiphchoge, who has inspired thousands with his discipline, is keeping “training-from-home” video diaries to keep fans motivated — and “kill time” on his farm, a place he usually doesn't get to spend much time.

He continues to be a voice of hope and goodwill during this global crisis, posting empowering messages to all those determined to keep running:

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