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Rio de Janeiro • The six-plus months of waiting is over. Jared Ward is finally ready for his anticipated Olympic close-up.
The former BYU cross country and track and field star from Kaysville will, on what is forecast as a rainy, windy Sunday morning, hear the familiar bang of the race gun, signaling the start 2016 Olympic men's marathon in Rio.
Ward, 27, is one of 155 marathoners from around the globe set to run the 26.2 miles on the final day of the Olympic Games in Brazil. The adjunct statistics professor at BYU was one of the three Americans who qualified for Rio on Feb. 13, grabbing the final qualifying slot at the U.S. Olympic Trial marathon in Los Angeles.
The Davis High product arrived in Brazil on Aug. 4, a day before walking in the Opening Ceremony inside The Maracanã. Still a relative newbie to the sport, the Olympic race Sunday will be just his fifth-ever competitive marathon. In qualifying for Rio in February, Ward snagged the last spot by finishing in two hours 12 minutes and 56 seconds.
Ward finished behind Galen Rupp, silver medalist in the men's 10,000-meter in London four years ago, and 41-year-old Meb Keflezighi, who finished second. The former BYU All-American in the men's 3,000- and 5,000-meter events said last week that he took advantage of his lengthy stay during these Olympics, taking the opportunity to see a flurry of events after tapering off from his pre-Rio training routine.
The fan experience ended a couple of days ago. Ward said he would be staying off his feet as much as possible prior to Sunday's race.
"I've got to figure out how to keep myself occupied where I want to be more off my feet and I'm just resting and chilling," he said. "I'm sure I'll be doing a lot of watching the other events, reading my books."
Reigning Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda returns to defend his gold Sunday, but Kenyans Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, silver and bronze medalists respectively four years ago, will not run in Brazil.
Other medal contenders in Rio include Stanley Biwott, the 2015 New York City Marathon winner, and 20-year-old Eritrean Ghirmay Ghebrelassie, the 2015 World Champion.
Ward will be sporting bib No. 3103 in the race.
Jared Ward at a glance
Age » 27
Sport » Marathon
Hometown » Kaysville
High school » Davis High School
College » BYU
Running career » Four-time All-American at BYU (Outdoor 10,000 meters twice, cross-country, 5000 meters). Chicago Marathon, 2013 (2:16:17), Twin Cities Marathon, 2014 (2:14:00), L.A. Marathon, 2015 (2:12:56), U.S. Olympic Team Trials, 2016 (2:12:56)
Men's marathon in Rio » Sunday, 6:30 a.m. MDT