Meet little-known Mongolian marathoner set to beat Eliud Kipchoge’s Olympic record in Paris

Mongolian marathoner Ser-Od Bat-Ochir during past competitions. Photo: Imago

Meet little-known Mongolian marathoner set to beat Eliud Kipchoge’s Olympic record in Paris

Joel Omotto 07:18 - 14.06.2024

Eliud Kipchoge will be among the most experienced marathoners at the Paris 2024 Olympics but his appearance record is set to be beaten by a little-known runner from Mongolia.

Kenyan legend Eliud Kipchoge is seeking to make history by becoming the first man to claim three straight Olympic marathon golds at the Paris Games that start next month.

Kipchoge won gold in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 and victory in Paris would complete a rare hat-trick, further solidifying his status as the marathon GOAT.

Paris will also be Kipchoge’s fifth Olympics, having participated in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, as a 5,000m runner, when he won bronze and silver respectively, before switching to marathon to feature in Rio and Tokyo.

It means Kipchoge will be one of the most experienced runners in Tokyo, achieving a feat rarely managed by many.

However, Kipchoge’s appearance record is set to be beaten by a little-known marathon runner from Mongolia.

Ser-Od Bat-Ochir is a name few, if any, is familiar with. The 42-year-old Mongolian marathoner has been to every Olympics since 2004 and is set to make his sixth stab at the Games in Tokyo.

Bat-Ochir was set to miss out on this landmark feat but a late change of rules has seen him clinch a ticket to Paris.

While World Athletics’ qualification rules were based on rankings, with the top 80 marathoners in the world earning a spot to Paris, the International Olympics Committee added the universality places, which initially replaced some of the athletes hoping to qualify via the world rankings.

“Following a thorough analysis of athletes intending to participate in more than one event — it was determined that the quota would allow for some additional athletes to participate in the marathon,” World Athletics said in its explanation to over the rule change.

“Subsequently, five additional athletes were offered places; however, one member federation/NOC declined the opportunity, therefore four appear on the Road to Paris.”

Bat-Ochir is therefore among the university athletes added to the list and he will become the first runner to feature at six Olympic marathons.

However, unlike Kipchoge and the other top runners headed to Paris, for Bat-Ochir, it is all about fun.

He finished in position 75 in Athens 2004, in 52nd in Beijing 2008, 51st in London 2012, 91st when Kipchoge won in Rio and did not finish the race in Tokyo, also claimed by the Kenyan great.

“I’ll run for my own enjoyment, health and peace of mind. I’ll keep doing whatever I can, as long as I can,” Ziggy, as he is popularly known, told World Athletics in 2022.

Making a sixth Olympics appearance will not be the only milestone for Bat-Ochir this year. The veteran has competed at every World Championship marathon since 2003, meaning he would have run at 17 straight global events when he lined up in Paris in August.

That is some longevity for the 42-year-old who believes marathoners’ peak years are from 37-45 “when speed and stamina gels perfectly,” as he told Inside Hook.

In all his 16 championships so far, his best finishes have been 29th and 20th at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships in Berlin, Germany and Daegu, South Korea, respectively.

He has been on the podium twice at the Asian Marathon Championships, winning in 2013 after second place in 2008, and also finished second at the East Asian Games 11 years ago.

The 2013 Osaka Marathon champion has a personal best of 2:08:50, recorded in Fukuoka, Japan in 2014 and run a season’s best 2:10:10 in Osaka in February.

Heading to Paris, Ziggy will be leading a contingent of veterans as at 42, he slightly older than Ethiopian great Kenenisa Bekele (41) and Kipchoge (39), the only difference being that the other two will be among title contenders while he will just be a participant.

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