Say what you will about the American trials system for Olympic selection, how it discounts consistency or past excellence for a one-day, all or nothing performance, but how would you like to see a Kenyan Olympic Trials Marathon? Now that might be a marathon I’d pay to view!
Think about the Kenyan men’s team for London 2012. You can’t keep Abel Kirui, the two-time World Champion off the squad, can you? Not after he destroyed the field in Daegu this August. And after Patrick Makau’s world record performance in Berlin today, giving the 2010 World #1 three wins in his last four marathons – his only loss a third in London this spring after he took a hard fall at 22k - he has to be chosen, right?
Which means either Boston champion and course record holder Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02), or London champion and course record holder Emmanuel Mutai (2:04:40) isn’t going to make the cut! And that doesn’t even take into consideration three-time London champ and runner-up in 2011 Martin Lel, or Boston runner-up and track 30K world record holder Moses Mosop. And forget about relative old-timers like Duncan Kibet, James Kwambai, the two Robert Cheruiyots. But what about current killers like Wilson Kipsang (2:04:57, 1st, Frankfurt 2010), Wilson Chebet (debut winner in Rotterdam 2011, 2:05:27), and Vincent Kipruto (2nd in Rotterdam, 2:05;33)? How can they simply be dismissed? Then think of the guys like Sammy Kitwara who have yet to try a marathon, but are brutes in the half (PR 58:58), and who you know will be monsters in the full eventually? Talk about your embarrassment of riches!
But let’s wait till after this fall season, after Wilson Kipsang makes his defense in Frankfurt and Mosop and the Mutais show their wares, as well. Can you imagine the kind of performance it will take in Chicago or New York to stamp a visa for London?
And the women’s squad is no selector’s picnic, either. There’s 2011 world champion Edna Kiplagat. The Kenyen federation generally rewards those who run for the nation rather than rack up big city marathon wins. Recall that in 2000 the KAA kept that year’s Boston champion Catherine Ndereba off their Sydney squad even though she’d beaten defending Olympic champion and three-time Boston winner Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia. Instead they gave the nod to Ester Wanjiru who came in third place in Osaka at 2:23:31 just because that time was better than Ndereba’s in Boston. Ndereba heard about not making the team on the radio while waiting in line in a bank in Nairobi. Crazy.
So tell me how they can possibly keep 2011 London champion Mary Keitany off the squad now that she’s the second fastest Kenyan woman in history behind Catherine’s 2:18:47 from Chicago 2001? And today Florence Kiplagat delivered on her promise as World Half-Marathon champion and record holder with a 2:19:44 cruise job in Berlin, besting world record holder Paula Radcliffe (third in 2:23:47) and two-time World Marathon Majors series champ Irina Mikitenko of Germany (second in 2:22:18). How’s that for a top three?
That means women like Priscah Jeptoo and Sharon Cherop, the World Championships silver and bronze medalists ,may be on the outside looking in. And poor Catherine Ndereba, twice Olympic silver, and two-time World Champion is probably an afterthought again.
Please, Kenyan federation, forget the London Games. Stage a Kenyan-only marathon trials and let’s see if we can get Jim Lampley and the boxing boys from HBO to call it live on pay-per-view. Cause we’re not talking foot-racing, we are talking your heavyweight championship of the world!