It will be a battle of former Bank of America Chicago Marathon champions in the Tokyo Olympics Saturday.
All eyes will be on world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya and Team USA’s Galen Rupp in the men’s marathon.
Kipchoge will try to become only the third man to win back-to-back gold medals in the marathon. The feat was last accomplished in 1976 and 1980 by East German Waldemar Cierpinski.
The Kenyan elite took the crown at the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon and then went on to become an Olympic gold medalist in the 2016 Rio Games, finishing with a time of 2 hours, 8 minutes and 44 seconds.
Americans Rupp, Jake Riley and Abdi Abdirahman will race for Team USA.
In 2017, Rupp became the first American to win the Chicago Marathon since Khalid Khannouchi. He then went on to win the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Riley, who finished in ninth place in the 2019 Chicago Marathon, finished in second place in the U.S. Olympic trials.
The Tokyo Games mark Rupp’s fourth Olympic appearance and it comes just weeks before he returns to Chicago for another shot at a marathon medal.
“Winning in Chicago, I think taught me so much and gave me so much confidence because I was running against a great field and there was a lot of back and forth, you know, throughout the race and learning to be patient, pick your spots and then, you know, when it’s time to go, be very decisive in that move,” he said. “Those are all tremendous things that I took away from victory in Chicago in 2017 that I think are really going to serve me well.”
Rupp’s 2017 Chicago victory was followed by a rough journey back to the top as he suffered an injury and underwent Achilles tendon surgery in 2018 before he went on to win the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
“I ran in the Chicago Marathon in 2019, but you know, that didn’t go great,” he said. “I just don’t think I was ready and I thought I was at the time but, you know, in the race my body just wasn’t able to hold it up and I had to stop and drop out, you know, around mile 20. So there was a lot of nerves definitely headed into the trials, but since then it’s been really good. I’ve definitely tried to take advantage of this extra time.”
Given the hot, humid conditions in Sapporo, where the marathon was relocated to in futile hopes of cooler temperatures, it’s difficult to predict how the men will fare on Saturday night.
“The conditions could be pretty similar [to Chicago],” Rupp said. “When I won [Chicago], it was definitely a little muggy and it’s going to be a little hot and humid in Japan as well over in Sapporo.”
Already, Brigid Kosgei, a two-time Bank of America Chicago Marathon winner, earned a silver medal in the women’s marathon event.
HOW TO WATCH: Watch on USA network at 5 p.m. CT or stream here.