Kenya boasts more than 300 distance runners who could meet the Olympic standard, but with only six allotted spots, the world running power has been forced to make some very tough decisions.
The abundance of athletics talent in Kenya is such that even a world record holder can miss out a place in an Olympic team. Patrick Makau the world’s fastest man over the 42km event was not selected when Athletics Kenya named the team of six for the Olympics.
Double world champion Abel Kirui, London marathon champion Wilson Kipsang and Moses Mosop made the team in the men’s division. London marathon champion Mary Keitany, World champion Edna Kiplagat and Prisca Jeptoo are the women’s representatives. With over 100 athletes qualified in each category Athletics Kenya’s selection process was not easy.
The six will go into training in Eldoret and Iten, in North Rift Kenya, regions popular for training long distance runners. David Leting the national team coach for marathon allayed fears over the duration with which these athletes have to rest after running spring marathons before the Olympics.
In 2008 the late Samwel Wanjiru won Kenya’s first gold medal over the distance at the Olympic games setting a new Olympics record of 2:06.32 and the men’s team all of whom have run faster than this time will be tasked with defending the title.
Kenya is however chasing its first gold medal at the Olympics in the women’s race but the current form of the selected athletes suggests the wait could probably end on the streets of London.
Statues of two time world marathon champion Catherine Ndereba and former world record holder Paul Tergat outside Athletics Kenya’s headquarters is a symbol of Kenya’s great performance in marathon running. For the six selected to represent the country in the Olympics many are expecting nothing short of victory especially after a year when Kenya dominated road races.