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April 18 (Reuters) - Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, the Olympic marathon champion and world record holder, sent a warning to his rivals ahead of this year’s Tokyo Olympics by cruising to victory in the NN Mission Marathon in Enschede, the Netherlands on Sunday.
In his first outing since a shock defeat at October’s London marathon, where he came eighth, Kipchoge finished the marathon at Twente Airport with a time of two hours four minutes and 30 seconds to reaffirm his status as hot favourite for the Olympic race in Sapporo in August.
Jonathan Korir of Kenya was second with a personal best of 2:06.40 and Goitom Kifle of Eritrea third in 2:08.07.
In the women’s race, Germany’s Katharina Steinruck prevailed with a personal best 2:25.59 ahead of Portugal’s Sara Moreira in 2:26.42 and Rabea Schoneborn (2:27.03).
Considered one of the greatest ever marathon runners, Kipchoge suffered his first defeat since 2013 in London. The 36-year-old, who had previously won 10 straight races, suffered from a blocked ear that affected his breathing and cramp in his hip.
The Kenyan was at his dominant best in Enschede, however, going past the halfway mark in a little under 62 minutes before pulling away from Korir around the 95-minute mark to secure a comfortable victory.
The race was originally scheduled for April 11 in Hamburg but postponed over COVID-19 restrictions before being relocated.
“It’s mission accomplished. Thank you to the great men and women who organised this race in less than 10 days,” Kipchoge said. “It was in a different environment, in the midst of a pandemic to tell people you can still run.
“This was the real test towards the Tokyo Olympics, to test your fitness.” (Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Ed Osmond)