Month: September 2011

IBRAHIM HUSSEIN CLARIFIES KENYA’S OLYMPIC MARATHON SELECTION

    The Daily Nation newspaper in Kenya reported yesterday that Athletics Kenya (AK) had pre-selected all the 2011 Kenyan World Championship gold medalists from Daegu, South Korea for the 2012 London Olympic team, New AK Olympic system stirs debate. The selection included World Championship Marathon winners Abel Kirui and Edna Kiplagat.  Considering the prestige of the World Championships, and how much stock federations put into athletes representing the country over their own interests, this can hardly be considered controversial.  Plus, anyone can understand the difficulty of choosing a three-person squad from such a deep pool of candidates, SELECTING KENYAN OLYMPIC MARATHON TEAM. 

However, according to the Nation, Athletics Kenya didn’t stop with their world champions. AK chairman Isaiah Kipagat also was quoted as acknowledging Olympic “wild-card” pre-selection for last weekend’s BMW Berlin Marathon men’s champion, and new world record setter, Patrick Makau.

“Makau’s feat is a reason enough to have him in the team while the fire from Daegu must at all cost be upheld towards the London Games,” Kiplagat was quoted by the Nation.

As the Daily Nation headline suggested, however, the story generated a strong reaction, inferring, as it did, that only one Olympic spot remained open for the remainder of Kenya’s great male marathon runners – many of whom had turned down selection to the Daegu World Championships team, ostensibly to participate in the more lucrative big-city marathons in Berlin, Frankfurt, Chicago and New York City later this fall.  This list included world 30K track record holder and Boston Marathon runner up Moses Mosop who will run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon October 9th, as well as London and Boston Marathon champions and course record holders Emmanuel and Geoffrey (no relation) Mutai who will compete at the ING New York City Marathon November 6th. It would also impact Wilson Kipsang, who will be defending his 2010 2:04:57 Frankfurt Marathon win on October 30th. What if he, or Mosop in Chicago, breaks Patrick Makau’s still wet world record of 2:03:38? Considering the roll Kenyan marathoners have been on this year, that possibility cannot be dismissed out of hand. Well, what if that did happen?  Would one or the other be selected for London 2012, thereby filling the Olympic Marathon team completely?

In order to come to a better understanding of the situation, I put these questions via Facebook to my old friend, and former New York City, Boston, and Honolulu Marathon champion Ibrahim Hussein, the Athletics Kenya assistant general secretary. Our exchange follows.

Toni Reavis

Ibrahim,  How does AK justify naming Patrick Makau to the 2012 Olympic team before Mosop runs in Chicago, Wilson Kipsang defends in Frankfurt, and the two Mutais battle in NYC?  You used Boston as a Trials in `92.

Ibrahim Hussein
o Hello Toni, We have not named the team yet but we are in the process of trying to identify those who might make the list for consideration by the selection panel. It is a little early for us to have a final list. We shall be monitoring all our top marathoners up to mid-April 2012 before we make a final decision.

Toni Reavis
o But what about the story in Daily Nation yesterday quoting Mr. Isaiah Kiplagat saying AK has pre-selected both Abel Kirui and Patrick Makau for London 2012? That would only leave one position open for the men. Was he misrepresented? Or was the pre-selection just for the “consideration list” not the actual team? Thanks.

Ibrahim Hussein
o It is for the consideration list. Newspapers can write what they want, look at standard newspaper from Kenya. I am the secretary of the selection panel.

Hopefully, Mr. Hussein’s response more clearly delineates the Kenyan selection process, and motivates the Kenyan men and women marathoners who will display their talents in the weeks to come.

END

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SELECTING KENYAN OLYMPIC MARATHON TEAM

     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?

Florence lets it flow in Berlin

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!

END

BERLIN MARATHON PREVIEW

     The Fall marathon season kicks off in Berlin Sunday morning with both world record holders on the line anxious to prove themselves ready for the run up to next year’s Olympic Marathon in London.  With Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie and England’s Paula Radcliffe sharing top billing, it marks only the third time in history that both the men’s and women’s world record holder will compete on the same day.  In 1989 Belayneh Densimo of Ethiopia and Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway ran in New York City, and in 2005 Kenya’s Paul Tergat joined Paula Radcliffe in London.

Sunday in Berlin, both record holders arrive with questions and high hopes.  The oft-injured Radcliffe is returning to marathon competition for the first time since finishing fourth in ING New York City Marathon in 2009 where she was compromised with tendinitis in her knee. In the mean time she has given birth to her second child, son Raphael, and then had to overcome post-partum hyperthyroidism and a bad disc in her back.  Haile Gebrselassie is making his first return to the distance since dropping out in New York City last November in mile, also due to a knee injury.  Though he rashly announced his retirement in the aftermath, Haille quickly reversed his decision, and even signed up for the February 2011 Tokyo Marathon.  Another knee problem in training, however, forced him to withdraw. But he comes to Berlin with his old smiling countenance and good cheer, a sign he is in form.

 This will be Radcliffe’s first go over the swift Berlin layout, while Haile has won four times in the German capital, and set two world records there, as well. (more…)

AWAITING THE MARQUEE MATCHUPS

Mayweather unloads on Ortiz
    I have been a boxing fan even longer than a track/running fan, watching Gillette’s Friday Night Fights with my father in those halcyon days when black and white television had the jittery faraway look of today’s USA 5 KM Championship internet coverage in Providence, Rhode Island.   But even now I find foot racing and boxing to be at least sporting second cousins. Both require rigorous training, and then the shared goal in competition of trying to stop the other guy from doing to you what you are trying to do to him.
Last night, in Las Vegas Floyd Mayweather Jr. remained unbeaten (42-0) with a controversial fourth round sucker-punch KO of Victor Ortiz to claim the portion of the world welterweight title Ortiz carried into the ring.  Today, in Providence Ben True of Maine bested six-time NCAA D2 champion Aaron Braun ex of Adam State and Kenya’s Sam Chelanga two-time D1 NCAA champion ex of Liberty University, while in Philadelphia Matthew Kisorio defended his Philly Half title against fellow Kenyan Sammy Kitwara in a U.S. all-comers record 58:45 (joined by New Zealand’s Kim Smith’s similar 1:07:11 record performance on the women’s side.) In a side-note, former multiple time NCAA champion out of Colorado, but long injured Adam Goucher qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston with his 1:04:53 time (needed sub-1:05).

Of course, the overt violence of boxing and mano-a-mano nature of the game separates it from the more subtle and less obvious violence of running where the pain and savagery is meted out using pace as the hammer (and head-butting and sneak punches aren’t an issue).  Another difference is that no runner on the planet – no, make that ALL runners together on the planet – don’t earn what Mayweather pulled down for the 11:59 of fighting last night, $25 million, a sum likely to rise when pay-per-view receipts are counted.  For reference, the Samsung Diamond League total payout for the 2011 track and field season is $8 million spread over 32 event champions.  Dartmouth grad Ben True earned the princely sum of $5000 for his USA 5 KM Championship.  (more…)

STEP BY STEP

     In the classic Three Stooges episode, Slowly I Turned, first Mo – then Larry – smashes, hits, punches, and tears poor Curly’s clothing before knocking him to the ground, all for reminding him of his confrontation with Larry (then vice versa) in Niagra Falls over a woman.   After Curly innocently utters the offending city’s name, triggering the attacks, Mo and Larry’s refrain goes, “Niagra Falls! Slowly I turned, and step by step, inch by Inch…”  (Of course, all men can recite Stooges episodes by heart. Women think they are dumb. Men agree, but then remind them, “stupidity is the point. It’s purposeful stupidity, a whole different animal than the unintentional kind most often voiced by candidates running for President).

Well, Galen Rupp might not wear his hair in a bowler like Mo or a frizzed out ‘fro like Larry, but step by step, inch by inch the 25 year-old from Portland, Oregon is proving the American distance running equivalent the Stooges’ classic set piece.

Yes, I questioned the London 2012 Olympic medal chances of Mr. Rupp upon his seventh place finish in Daegu at the World Championships 5000 meters (RUPP‘S DILEMMA), but today at the final Samsung Diamond League meeting of the year in Brussels Rupp took another stride in his step-by-step, inch-by-inch approach to the London Olympic podium in the 10,000 meters. (more…)