Taste of Greatness: Galen Rupp’s bronze a sign of things to come

RIO DE JANEIRO — Coming off a water station in the rainy, soggy and humid men’s marathon on Sunday morning, Eliud Kipchoge surged to the front of the lead pack. It was brief as he turned to American Galen Rupp and told him not to worry because he did not plan on taking off yet. Rupp chuckled and stayed with the Kenyan for 35 of the 42 kilometers en route to a bronze medal finish behind Kipchoge and Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa.

Kipchoge is arguably the best marathoner in the world at the moment. As he’s done in seven of the eight career marathons where he’s finished first, Kipchoge beamed with a smile and waved to the crowd as he entered the Sambódromo, a parade area built for carnivale, and crossed the line in 2:08:44.

Kipchoge now owns an Olympic gold medal as well as a bronze and silver medal from his days on the track running the 5,000 meters in 2004 and ’08. His personal best of 2:03:05 is the third best all-time. Before he threw down a 14:25 split for the 5K between 30km–35km, Rupp was one of the few who was able to stay on his heels.

“He’s the greatest marathoner there is right now given the consistency that he’s shown over the last couple races. It’s not like he’s a one-hit wonder,” Rupp says. “He’s done it over and over and over again. Whether it’s in fast races or a tactical race like today.”

Feyisa Lilesa says after marathon: “If I go back to Ethiopia, the government will kill me”

While Kaptagat, Kenya, and Portland, Ore., are separated by thousands of miles and the Atlantic Ocean, there are some similarities to the development of Kipchoge and Rupp as respective stars in their country.

Kipchoge spent 10 years training under coach Patrick Sang and competing on the track before transitioning to the roads in 2012. With Sang, Kipchoge earned two Olympic medals and two world championship medals while running in circles on the track. Rupp shares the track pedigree with his own silver medal from the 10,000 meters at the 2012 London Olympics.

Rupp, who turned 30 in May, has been working with coach Alberto Salazar since he was a teenager but now finds himself at the point in the career where he could leave the track. Salazar, a three-time New York City Marathon champion who placed 15th at the 1984 Olympic marathon, believes the plan would be for Rupp to try and compete in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at next summer’s London world championships before a full focus is made on the marathon in 2018.

Sunday provided a glimpse of the future of American marathoning. Jared Ward, a former NCAA standout at BYU, went out with the leaders before settling into his own pace and finished sixth in 2:11:30 for his Olympic debut.

“To be able to medal in an event that is historically dominated by East African runners and have an American up there representing us at the highest level in the marathon bodes well for the future of our sport,” Ward says. “We have Meb [Keflezighi] who is running here and has been an iconic runner for the U.S. for years. Now we’ve got more stepping up, we’ve got a deep pool of American distance runners ready to fill those spots for the next 10 years. American marathoning is in good hands.”

Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles while dominating his competition in a 100-meter semifinal race.

Michael Phelps at the start of the 200-meter butterfly.

As his teammates watch, Neymar scores the winning goal on penalty against Germany for the first soccer gold medal in the country's history.

Katie Ledecky of the U.S. swims in the opposite direction, far ahead of her competition, during the 800-meter freestyle final.

A birds-eye view of the beach volleyball venue at Copacabana Beach.

Team USA's Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian, Laurie Hernandez, Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas bite their gold medals during the presentation ceremony after the Women's Team All-Around Final.

Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas dives to win the gold medal in the women's 400-meter final, with Allyson Felix of the U.S. getting silver.

Ashton Eaton competing in the shot put portion of the decathlon.

Carlos Zenon Balderas Jr. of the U.S. lands a punch on Kazakhstan's Berik Abdrakhmanov.

Yana Kudryavtseva of Russia during the Rythmic Gymnastics competition.

Ethiopian steeplechaser Etenesh Diro finished seventh in her steeplechase semifinal despite running the last 800 meters of the race with only one shoe.

The view from the women's 3000m Steeplechase final.

Chinese diver Qin Kai proposes to silver medalist He Zi of China on the podium during the medal ceremony for the women's Diving 3m Springboard Final.

Action from the table tennis competition.

Ireland's Fiona Doyle competes in a heat of the 200-meter breaststroke.

You Hao of China on Rings during Artistic Gymnastics competition.

Usain Bolt takes photos with fans after winning perhaps his last individual Olympic race.

                            An underwater shot at the 10m platform diving pool.

Hiromi Miyake hugs her weights after winning a bronze medal in the 48kg division.

Haley Ruth Augello of the U.S. (blue) competes against Japan's Eri Tosaka during the women's 48-kg freestyle wrestling competition.

A panoramic image of the beach volleyball arena at Copacabana Beach.

Lauren Hernandez of the United States competes in the Balance Beam Final, in which she won silver.

Michael Phelps celebrates with his mom, Debbie, and fiancee Nicole after winning the 200m Butterfly final.

Doaa Elghobashy of Egypt celebrates during a Beach Volleyball match against Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy.

Davit Chakvetadze of Russia lifts and scores three points on Zhan Beleniuk of Ukraine during their 85kg Greco Roman wrestling title match.

Russia vs. Ukraine in the women's sabre team final.

United States' Karsta Lowe, left, Rachael Adams, and Courtney Thompson stand for introductions ahead of a women's preliminary volleyball match against China.

The U.S. vs. China in water polo.

Venezuela's Albert Ramon Ramirez picks up Algeria's Abdelhafid Benchabla as they fight during a light heavyweight bout.

Juan Matin Del Potro after defeating Rafael Nadal in a semifinal tennis match.

April Ross of the U.S. eyes a ball during a beach volleyball round of 16 match against Italy.

Allison Pineau of France shoots past Macarena Aguilar Diaz  of Spain during a quarterfinal handball match.

Usain Bolt and Andre de Grasse of Canada having a little fun as they cross the finish line first and second, respectively, in their 200-meter qualifying heat.

Bronze medalist Kristi Castlin (left), gold medalist Brianna Rollins (center) and silver medalist Nia Ali of the United States celebrate after sweeping the 100-meter hurdles.

China's Chen Long celebrates after winning his badminton singles final match against Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei.

Competitors in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

A photo shows a face painted onto the helmet of China's Zhong Tianshi as she waits with other cyclists to compete in the Keirin second round track cycling event.

Sam Willoughby of Australia in a Cycling BMX seeding run

Thirty-five-year-old Anthony Ervin made history by winning the 50m Freestyle on Friday, becoming the oldest individual swimming gold medalist in the Olympics.

Patrick Constable of Australia at the Keirin competition at the Velodrome.

Jerry Tuwai of Fiji in action during a quarterfinal match against New Zealand.

The United States' Courtney Hurley reacts while competing against South Korea's Injeong Choi during the women's epee team fencing competition.

Monica Puig of Puerto Rico reacts in disbelief after winning the gold medal in the tennis singles.

The underwater view shows team Ukraine competing in the Teams Technical Routine Final during the synchronised swimming event.

Brazil's Robson Conceicao celebrates winning against Uzbekistan's Hurshid Tojibaev in a quarterfinal bout.

Simone Manuel (left) of the United States touches the wall to win gold in the 100m Freestyle Final, becoming the first African-American woman to win an individual goal for the U.S.

Players of Russia try to block the shot of Linnea Torstensson of Sweden during a handball match.

Greco Roman wrestling between Artur Aleksanya of Armenia vs Cenk Ilden of Turkey.

scar Figueroa after winning gold in the 62kg weightlifting event.

Germany's Erik Pfeifer rearranges the face of Clayton Laurent Jr. of the  U.S. Virgin Islands.

Mexico's Misael Uziel Rodriguez has his face temporarily rearranged by Bektemir Melikuziev of Uzbekistan.

Canada's Kelly Russell takes down Great Britain's Katy McLean on a day in which the Canadian sevens rugby team won over the first ever bronze medal in women's rugby.

A pair of fencers in Rio.

Elaine Thompson of Jamaica winning the 100-meter final.

Katie Ledecky wins her second individual-event gold medal, taking the 200-meter freestyle.

Carmelo Anthony appears to tower over Gragory Vargas of Venezuela during a 113-69 win by the U.S.

David Boudia and Steele Johnson of the United States on their way to a silver medal in the Diving Synchronised 10m Platform.

Michael Phelps prepares to compete in the 100m Butterfly, a race in which he would tie for a silver medal.

The scene from the opening ceremony.

Ibtihaj Muhammad of the United States celebrates victory over Olena Kravatska of Ukraine during the Individual Sabre. She is the first woman to compete for Team USA wearing a hijab.

Usain Bolt does his popular lightning bolt pose.

Usain Bolt's gold-colored shoes moments after he won the 100-meter dash for the third consecutive Olympic Games.

Usain Bolt crossing the finish line in the 100.

Simone Biles smiles with teammates during the Team All-Around Final.

A team of divers hit the water in the Synchro 10m Platform competition.

Japan's Kaho Minagawa performs during the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around qualifications.

Thailand's Peamwilai Laopeam right bows to judges as Colombia's Ingrit Lorena Valencia Victoria celebrates after winning a women's flyweight 51-kg quarterfinal boxing match.

New Zealand's Valerie Adams competes in the final of the shot put.

Opening Ceremonies of the Rio Olympic games viewed from Manguiera Favela.

Tyson Gay reacts after learning that the U.S. 4x100 relay had been disqualified and stripped of its third-place finish in the final.

Michael Phelps competes in the 200m Butterfly semifinals.

Team USA's Michael Phelps and Caeleb Dressel celebrate after winning the 4x100m freestyle relay final.

Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps and Simone Biles during their SI cover shoot.

Team USA takes bronze in the men's foil match against Italy.

Netherlands' Kitty van Male is hit on the face by Argentina's Agustina Habif during a quarterfinal field hockey match.

Aniuar Geduev of Russia, who won silver in the 74kg freestyle wrestling competition.

Etenesh Diro of Ethiopia at the finish of a 3,000m steeplechase heat.

U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas competes in the uneven bars event final.

The Great Britain team.

Russia's Timur Safin (left) competes against France's Jeremy Cadot.

Gwen Jorgensen of the U.S. reacts as she crosses the finish line to win the gold medal in the triathlon.

Competitors in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Estonia's Magnus Kirt competes in the  javelin throw qualifying round.

The U.S. vs. France in Rugby Sevens.

Sweden's Sofia Magdalena Mattsson celebrates after winning the bronze medal during the women's 53-kg freestyle wrestling competition.

China's Wang Yan performs on the floor during the artistic gymnastics women's apparatus final.

Brazil vs Australia in water polo.

(From left) Haiti's Jeffrey Julmis, Cuba's Yordan L. O'farril, Spain's Orlando Ortega, Hungary's Balzs Baji, USA's Ronnie Ash and Britain's Andrew Pozzi compete in a 110m hurdles semifinal.

Russia's Alexey Cheremisinov celebrates after winning a team foil semifinal bout against the U.S.

Yang Sun of China during a heat of the 400m Freestyle.

A general view during Saturday's tennis matches.

David Florence of Great Britain in the Canoe Slalom.

Carolina Marin of Spain celebrates her win over Ji Hyun Sung of Korea during a quarterfinal match.

Norway's pivot Heidi Loke (left) shoots while getting taken down by Russia's Ekaterina Ilina.

An underwater view of Michael Phelps taking part in a 100m butterfly semifinal.

The start of the triathlon.

Nia Ali of the U.S. in the 100-meter hurdles.

Sofia Ennaoui of Poland after a semifinal of the 1,500-meter run.

Lopez Azcuy of Cuba.

Almir Velagic of Germany in the 105kg weightlifting competition.

Competitors during the Opening Ceremony.

The scene from the Opening Ceremony.

Fu HF/Zhang of China in a badminton match.

Sandi Morris of the U.S. at the pole vault.

Jordan Burroughs of the United States competes against Aniuar Geduev of Russia during a freestyle 74kg quarterfinal.

Jordan Burroughs of the United States during a 3-1 round of 16 freestyle wrestling win Augusto Midana of Guinea-Bissau.

An underwater view of a diver.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus after Brazil won an early round match.

The U.S. 4x100 medley relay team of Michael Phelps, Nathan Adrian, Cody Miller and Ryan Murphy celebrate their victory.

Zhong Tinashi of China in the Keirin Finals.

Travis Stevens of the U.S., who won silver in judo.

The competitors leave their blocks at the start of the 100-meter dash.

Cyclists compete in the men's Omnium Scratch race track cycling event.

South Korea wins its preliminary doubles badminton match against Australia.

Colombia's Leidy Yessenia Solis Arboleda competes in the 69kg weightlifting competition.

A Rugby team from Argentina poses for a photo.

A pair of boxers at the Rio Games.

Badminton practice

Simone Biles of the U.S., who won four gold medals in Rio.

Astier Nicolas of France riding Piafde B'Neville in an Equestrian event.

Canoe competition at Whitewater Stadium.

Croatia vs Qatar in handball.

A view from the cycling track.

Anthony Ervin of the U.S. warms up for the 50m freestyle.

Mohamed Mahmoud of Egypt during the 77kg Group A weightlifting competition.

Simone Biles in the gymnastics qualifying.

Will Claye of the U.S. in the triple jump.

A heat of the 5,000.

Cheick Sallah Junior Cisse of Ivory Coast after winning told in the 80kg division of Taekwondo.

Mihail Dudas of Serbia in the decathlon long jump.

Athletes lined up for a heat of the 5,000.

Mo Farah of Great Britain winning the 10,000-meter final.

Team Ukraine in synchronized swimming.

Team Ukraine in synchronized swimming.

Sailing in the Finn Class.

Simone Biles smileing during a medal ceremony.

Super model Gisele during the Opening Ceremony.

Mo Farah of Great Britain after adding the 1,500-meter gold to his list of accomplishments.

An overview of Usain Bolt in the 100.

Allyson Felix rejoices while finishing the last leg for the U.S.A.'s victorious 4x400 relay team.


Rupp’s bronze medal was also the first medal by an American man in the marathon since compatriot Keflezighi’s silver at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The 41-year-old Keflezighi stopped seven times throughout Sunday’s race, struggled with cramping and keeping down fluids, but still finished 33rd in 2:16:46 for his final Olympics. Keflezighi plans to run two more marathons next year at 42 to honor the 42-kilometer distance that he has been running.

Back in 2001, he shared a vision with coach Bob Larsen, Joe Vigil and former training partner Deena Kastor, whose bronze medal in 2004 is the last won by an American woman in the marathon. Meb approached various shoe companies and expressed his hope for the resurgence of American distance running. As the United States leaves Brazil with seven medals in distance running—a gold in the men’s 1,500 meters (won by Rupp’s training partner Matthew Centrowitz), a silver in the men’s 800 meters, a silver in the men’s steeplechase, a silver in the men’s 5,000 meters (won by Rupp’s other training partner Mo Farah of Great Britain), a bronze in the women’s 1,500 meters and a bronze in the women’s steeplechase—it’s clear he was onto something.

“That dream has come true for me,” Keflezighi says. “To be part of it and witnessing it has been a huge reward. I hope I was a small part of it but that was my goal. Now we have depth and we’re trying to be the best in the world.“

Kipchoge and Rupp smiled as they bit their medals at the Maracanã during the closing ceremonies on Sunday—just a taste of greatness between two stars of now and tomorrow.

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