Olympics-Athletics-Kenya's Kipchoge ready to defend marathon gold

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By Chris Gallagher

SAPPORO, Japan (Reuters) - Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge said he was prepared to defend his Olympic marathon gold medal as the clock ticked down to the marquee event scheduled for Sunday.

If Kipchoge successfully defends his Olympic marathon title, he would become only the third runner to have achieved this, further cementing his place among the all-time greats.

The 36-year old holds the world record with a time of 2:01:39 set in Berlin in 2018 and became the only man to break the two-hour barrier at an unofficial race in 2019.

"I am very excited to be here in the Olympic village in Japan," Kipchoge tweeted along with a photo of himself taken in front of the Olympic rings in the village.

"It is great that we are able to run the Olympic marathon in these unusual times. On Sunday, I will try to defend my Olympic marathon title from Rio de Janeiro. I cannot wait to witness a wonderful event.

"Niko tayari," he said, meaning "I am ready" in Swahili.

If successful, Kipchoge would join Ethiopia's Abebe Bikila (1960 and 1964) and East Germany's Waldemar Cierpinski (1976 and 1980) as the only runners to win two consecutive gold medals on the Olympic stage.

The marathon events will take place in Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido, starting with the women's race on Saturday.

Organisers decided in 2019 to move the venue from Tokyo to escape the worst of the summer heat in the Japanese capital, although Sapporo has been experiencing a recent heat wave.

(Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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