Abebe Bikila 1960, 64& Feyisa Lilesa 2016


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kenya out to dominate marathon | thetelegraph.com.au

Wanjiru Death
National treasure: The late Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya.Source: AP
FEW nations could absorb the loss of an Olympic gold medallist and still feel confident of retaining the title at the next Games, but Kenyan faith that they will win the men's marathon again in London seems completely justified.
Raila Odinga, Kenya's prime minister, called Sammy Wanjiru "one of our sure bets for gold" in London and described his death last year as "therefore a big blow to our dreams".

Wanjiru rewrote summer marathon race tactics in becoming the first Kenyan man to win the Olympic road run at Beijing four years ago breaking a 24-year-old Games record in a time of 2hrs 06min 32sec.
He also won Chicago in 2009 (in 2:05:41) and London (2:05:10) the same year. At just 24, Wanjiru died in a fall from a balcony at home in his village; whether it was suicide, murder or an accident is still debated.

But, perhaps inspired by Wanjiru, Kenya's runners have gravitated to the marathon since the last Olympics and completely owned the event last year.
As of March 16 this year, Kenya had a mind-blowing 278 men and 61 women who have bettered the IAAF A-qualifying entry time for the Olympic marathon. The IAAF qualifying time for men is 2hrs 15min and 2:37:00 for women.
Athletics Australia controversially raised the bar to 2:12:00 for men and 2:32:00 for women. To date, since the Olympic qualifying period started in January 1, 2011, the only Australian male qualifier is Michael Shelley (2:11:23). There are three women: Benita Willis (2:28:24), Lisa Weightman (2:29:23) and Jessica Trengove (2:31:02).

Australia's choices for London are uncomplicated.
Not so straight-forward in Kenya, because in 2011 their men won every major big city marathon as well as the world title race and broke course records in all the majors as well.
The top 20 times in the world were run by Kenyans. That includes the world record 2:03:38 by Patrick Makau Musyoki to win Berlin last September. A month later Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich ran only 4sec slower in winning in Frankfurt.
Yet the two fastest times ever run are not even eligible for the world list because the famous Boston course fails to conform to record specifications.
So that eliminated Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02) and Moses Mosop (2:03:06) who dominated Heartbreak Hill to grab a quinella for Kenya in Boston last year.
But they are both still in the mix for the Kenyan team. The pressure for the third Kenyan men's marathon spot for the Olympics in August is extreme because official world recordholder Makau, and 2011 Daegu world marathon champion Abel Kirui have been selected.
Kenya will finalise its marathon selections after the northern spring marathon races wrap up, probably after the London city race on April 22. Boston will be run on April 16.
But Kenya's northern neighbour Ethiopia was never going to let such domination stand, especially in an event made their own by Olympic gold medallists Abebe Bikila (marathon winner Rome and Tokyo), Mamo Wolde (Mexico winner) and Haile Gebrselassie (world record breaker, first man under 2:04).
As of this week, Ethiopians hold eight of the world's top-12 fastest men's marathon times in 2012, including the top three marks by Ayele Abshero (2:04:23), Dino Sefir (2:04:50) and Markos Geneti (2:04:54). The times were all recorded at Dubai or Houston