Athletics - Kenya's Kipchoge eyes historic Olympic marathon hat-trick

Paris 2024 Olympics - Nike Olympics Products Launch - Paris, France - April 11, 2024 Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge during an interview REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq

PARIS (Reuters) - Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge expects to make history with his third consecutive Olympic marathon gold medal at this year's Games in Paris, he told Reuters in a interview on Thursday, adding that there were no thoughts about retirement yet.

Ethiopia's Abebe Bikila, East Germany's Waldemar Cierpinski and Kipchoge are the only athletes to have won two Olympic gold medals in the marathon when they retained their titles.

"My huge expectation actually is to win the Olympics for the third time," said Kipchoge, who turns 40 in November and finished 10th at last month's Tokyo Marathon.

That result and his relatively vintage age has not made him doubt his chances in Paris, Kipchoge said.

"I think I just got tired ... I don't know what happened but it's life, it's sport, it's the beauty of sport."

As questions swirl over whether Kipchoge plans to retire soon, he reiterated his commitment to trying to inspire people of all levels to keep on the move, saying: "If you can convince me that the moment I will be crossing the finishing line the whole world has become a running world then I will retire."

Asked whether he could race at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, Kipchoge said: "You know in Kenya we say you don't chase two rabbits at a time, you will miss all of them. You chase one. So the rabbit of the Olympic Games is what I'm chasing now. After that I go back to the drawing board, see what's in my bucket list and start again to chase the next."

In 2019 Kipchoge became the first person to cover the 42.2km marathon distance in under two hours, though the record was unofficial as he had teams of pacers and was not in open competition.

Athletics Kenya named their marathon shortlist for Paris last week, including Kipchoge, Benson Kipruto and Timothy Kiplagat, and defending women's marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir alongside Birgid Kosgei and Hellen Obiri.

A tragic absentee was Kelvin Kiptum, who died in a car crash in Kenya's Rift Valley in February and, having destroyed Kipchoge's world record by over half a minute last October with a time of 2:00:35, had been widely seen as the sport's best hope to break the two-hour marathon mark in an official race.

Asked whether he sees that milestone being hit soon, Kipchoge said: "We have a lot of talented athletes ... first is to dare to think to break, secondly is to dare to do it. I have shown them the way."

In a first for the Olympic Games, the head of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, announced on Wednesday that athletics gold medallists in Paris will earn $50,000 each, with silver and bronze also set to get prize money from LA 2028 onwards.

"I don't run because of money but I run because I want to perform," Kipchoge said, adding: "It was a great idea for Seb Coe and World Athletics ... for the young generations I think it's a good idea to develop - it makes sport more interesting."

(Reporting by Helen Reid and Vincent Daheron, Editing by Mitch Phillips and Ken Ferris)

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