Eliud Kipchoge Heads 2016 Kenyan Olympic Marathon Team
According to Reuters, Kipchoge and Jemima Sumgong, who won the London Marathon women's title last month, lead a preliminary list of candidates which will be pared down to the final three men and women on Tuesday.
Rio would be the third Olympic Games for the 31-year-old Kipchoge, who won 5000m bronze in Athens in 2004 and 5000m silver in Beijing four years later. After failing to make the Kenyan squad for London at 10,000m in 2012, he switched to the marathon.
Over the last four years, Kipchoge has been nothing short of dominant on the roads, winning six of his seven marathon starts while placing second in the other. All seven times he has finished faster than 2:05:30, including last month's London Marathon victory, which he completed in a course-record 2:03:04, the third-fastest time ever and just eight seconds short of the world record.
Kipchoge is focused on winning the Olympic gold medal that has eluded him to this point in his career. Kenya's lone Olympic marathon champion is the late Sammy Wanjiru, who took the gold in Beijing in 2008 in what ranks as one of the most brilliant runs in marathon history.
"I really need that thing," he told Reuters in a phone call from Eldoret. "I am fit and I will train normally because I have to remain fit now and everything will fall in place."
Kipchoge's teammates will be chosen from a pool that also includes Stanley Biwott, the 2015 New York City Marathon champion and twice runner up in London; Dickson Chumba, who has won the Chicago, Tokyo, Rome and Eindhoven Marathons; Cyprian Kotut, winner of this year's Paris Marathon; Martin Lel, a three-time London and two-time New York City Marathon champion; and Wesley Korir, winner of the 2012 Boston Marathon and a member of Kenyan parliament.
A member of the selection panel told Reuters that Kipchoge, Biwott and Korir will be the likely selections.
Absent from the list are Dennis Kimetto and Wilson Kipsang, the current and former world record holders in the event. Gerard van de Veen, the manager for both athletes, told FloTrack yesterday that both runners removed their names from consideration due to the anticipated heat and humidity expected in Rio. He pointed to both Kimetto and Kipsang being forced to drop out of the World Championships in Beijing last summer under similar conditions.
On the women's side, Sumgong has emerged as a strong candidate the last two years, finishing fourth in Boston, second in New York, and fourth at Worlds before winning in London last month, when she recovered from a fall and still clocked in at 2:22:58.
Sumgong's teammates will come from a pool that includes Mary Keitany, the 2014 and 2015 New York City Marathon champion and a fourth-place finisher in the 2012 London Olympic Marathon; Florence Kiplagat, the 2015 Chicago Marathon champion and third-place finisher in London last month; Joyce Chepkirui, third-place finisher in the Boston Marathon last month; Visiline Jepkesho, winner of the Paris Marathon; and Helah Kiprop, who ran 2:21:27 to win the Tokyo Marathon in February.
Sumgong, Kiplagat and Kiprop are the favorites for Rio. Kenya has never won a gold medal in the women's marathon. Catherine Ndereba (2004, 2008) and Priscah Jeptoo (2012) each won silver medals.
"(Runners) have been given up to Tuesday to confirm availability in the team," Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei told reporters at the AK headquarters in Nairobi on Friday.