Marathon: Belgium wins bronze medal at Tokyo Olympics


Bashir Abdi drew on the last of his physical resources to give Belgium a seventh Olympic medal. Koen Naert, another Belgian, finished in the top 10.

The marathon, considered the supreme event, traditionally closes each Olympic Games. There were three Belgians on the starting line for this long, 42.195km race through the streets of Tokyo.

Bashir Abdi was well placed in the peloton and found enough energy to stay with the favourites for the final victory. However, no one could withstand the final acceleration of Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge (2 hrs 8 mins 38 seconds) who obviously won gold, just as he did at the Rio Games five years earlier. It was during the sprint that the Ghent resident took a formidable third place in 2 hrs 10 mins, just ahead of his partner and training buddy, the Dutchman Abdi Nageeye (2 hrs 9 mins 58 seconds).

Koen Naert, European champion in 2018, also achieved a great performance, finishing 10th (2 hrs 12 mins 13 seconds). Dieter Kersten finished the race in 59th place in 2 hrs 22 mins 6 seconds.

Bashir Abdi, who was physically exhausted, said at the finish, "I fought like crazy. After 40km, I had cramps in both hamstrings. But I had worked so hard for this moment that giving up wasn't even an option. I continued to fight. Third place was the best I could aim for. I'm very happy with it. But I'll be back for the gold."

Having arrived in Belgium as a young man with his family, fleeing war-torn Somalia, he concluded with great emotion, "I always wanted to give a medal to my new country as a sign of gratitude."