Tag: Olympic Marathon

SHOULD THE MARATHON CONTINUE AS A MEDAL SPORT?

Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich shocked himself, his nation, and the marathon world with his gold medal run at this year’s London Games.  His win over the superstar Kenyan team — two of whom, Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang, took home the minor medals  — and the inexperienced Ethiopian squad — all three of whom dropped out — made Uganda the 17th nation to have produced an Olympic Men’s Marathon champion since the Marathon was first introduced at inaugural modern Games in Athens 1896.

Though trained in Kenya, and from the larger Kalenjin community of nilotic ethnic speakers residing in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania — thus Stephen shares the Kiprotich surname with Kenya’s bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich — the surprising Ugandan victory also continued Kenya’s own Olympic Marathon frustrations.

While Ethiopia leads all nations with four Olympic Men’s Marathon titles, to date, only the late Sammy Wanjiru has mined gold for Kenya, that in Beijing 2008.  Notwithstanding the anomalous Kenyan Olympic performances again manifest in London, the nation’s overall dominance of the sport paced on unabated.

In 2011 Kenyan runners commanded the marathon like never before, notching the top 20 official times of the year, taking the top two spots at the World Championships, while representing 65 of the fastest 100 performances.  Now, as we complete the 2012 calendar we can see that their traditional East African rivals from Ethiopia returned fire these past 12 months, placing seven in the year’s top 10 performances — though Kenyans Geoffrey Mutai and Dennis Kimetto held down the top two places (2:04:15 & 2:04:16) from their pas-des-deux in Berlin.

A deeper dive into the 2012 marathon stats shows that the two East African juggernauts combined for 89% of the year’s fastest marathons, Kenya with 58, Ethiopia with 31.  In comparison the fastest American of the year, Dathan Ritzenhein, languished back in 69th position off his 2:07:47, ninth-place finish in Chicago in October, yet still making him the fourth fastest American in history.  Meb Keflezighi’s Olympic Trials victory in Houston in January, a PR of 2:09:08, pushed him to # 128 for the year, while Ryan Hall’s 2:09:30 in Houston nestled him back into 154th position world-wide. The top non-African born runner on the list was Poland’s Henryk Szost in position 59 off his 2:07:39 second-place finish in Otsu, Japan in March.

According to the IOC, a sport or discipline may be included in the Olympic program if the IOC determines that “it is widely practiced around the world, that is, the number of countries and continents that regularly compete in a given sport is the indicator of the sport’s prevalence”.  With millions of marathon finishers across the globe, there is no doubt the marathon is widely practiced.  What is in doubt is whether that practice is at all competitive anymore.

Therefore, with tongue ever so gently in cheek, I wonder whether the marathon deserves its inclusion on the Olympic calendar in ensuing years, or should it be consigned to the non-medal “Demonstration” category, notwithstanding the Kenyan futility.  After all, the Olympics has a long history of adding and subtracting sports. (more…)

Advertisements

ATHLETICS KENYA ANNOUNCES NEW POLICY FOR OLYMPIC MARATHON SELECTION

     In the whirl of travel and press duties for last weekend’s Chicago Marathon, the following notice slipped into my mail bag with little notice.  In the wake of Kenya’s disappointing performances at the London Olympic Marathons, Athletics Kenya (AK) has announced a new policy for Rio 2016 which it hopes will give the nation its best chance to secure what has been an elusive goal, the men’s and women’s Olympic Marathon gold medal.

After a contentious and controversial selection process in 2012,  the highly touted Kenyan men’s Olympic Marathon team took home the Olympic silver and bronze medals in London via Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang, but lost in defense of Sammy Wanjiru‘s 2008 gold to Uganda’s surprising Stephen Kiprotich.  In the women’s marathon, Priscah Jeptoo won the silver medal, while pre-race favorites Mary Keitany and reigning World Champion Edna Kiplagat could only manage fourth and 20th places.

In the aftermath of those letdowns, AK has announced that in order to represent the crossed spears over shield flag in Rio de Janeiro 2016, all provisionally selected marathoners will not be allowed to compete in another marathon six months in advance of the Games. This new policy would eliminate the 2016 spring calendar of marathons including Boston, Rotterdam and London, all which played a major role in the 2012 selection process. (more…)

OLYMPIC PETITION – ROAD RACING

PETITION BACKGROUND (Preamble)

Since its rapid growth during the so-called Running Boom of the 1970s and early 1980s, the sport of Road Racing has become a world-wide phenomenon.  Participation has expanded into the tens of millions as people on every continent and of every ethnicity, background and age have joined its ranks.

With the development of road racing over the last 40 years, we have witnessed the emergence of distance running athletes whose particular skills, interests, passions and careers have found their highest expression in the sport of road racing.  Yet with 24 men’s and 23 women’s events on the Olympic athletics (track & field) schedule, only the marathon – perhaps the most iconic of all Olympic events – is offered to road race athletes.  Thus,  while there is a distinction made between 100 and 200 meters, 400 and 800, 5000 and 10,000 on the track, no such distinction is allowed between 10,000 meters on the track and 42,195 meters on the road. Though one most decidedly does exist.

Furthermore, with the on-going epidemic of childhood obesity continuing to exact its tragic toll in many developed countries of the world, and distance running’s proven impact on the health and well-being of its practitioners, the sport of road racing is missing the status that an Olympic imprimatur would confer upon it in the minds of government officials, school administrators, potential sponsors and fans.   Therefore,

PETITION

We, the undersigned, petition the International Olympic Committee to grant the distinct sport of Road Racing the recognition it merits and truly deserves by extending Olympic medals to the top three-person teams beginning at the 2020 Olympic Marathon – as determined by a combined-time format.  Further, we petition for the addition of a team-based Road Relay to the Olympic schedule, also beginning in 2020.

The inclusion of Olympic Marathon team medals and the addition of an Olympic Road Relay would serve as a perfect showcase to elevate the sport of Road Racing to the station it both deserves and has earned in world sport.

Sincerely,

To date this petition has been signed by, among others, Bill Rodgers, Joan Samuelson, Anne Audain, Geoffrey Mutai, Sharon Cherop, Catherine Ndereba, Cosmas Ndeti, Lucy Kabuu and Coach Renato Canova (I was recently in Kenya).  It is currently being circulated with its own Facebook page in the offing.  Comments and additional electronic signatures are welcome and encouraged.

PETITION

END

KENYAN OLYMPIC MARATHON TEAMS ANNOUNCED

     Well, the word has come down from on high, and a little earlier than expected at that.  Originally scheduled to be announced April 30th, today at a packed news conference in Naiobi, Athletics Kenya named their highly anticipated Olympic Marathon squads.

Men: Wilson Kipsang, Abel Kirui, Moses Mosop

Women: Mary Keitany, Edna Kiplagat, Priscah Jeptoo

“We have selected the athletes based on their individual performances after the major Marathon races they have participated in this season with a lot of emphasis on experience,” AK President Isaiah Kiplagat told the gathering.

The women’s selection held no surprises, top three at London, all of whom have performed well in recent performances before that, including reigning World Champion Edna Kiplagat and silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo. Two-time London champion Mary Keitany is, of course, the lioness herself.

The only other candidate with claim might have been Boston champ Sharon Cherop, the bronze medal winner in Daegu. But even her own team knew her Olympic chance came and went in Dubai in January where, though she ran a PR 2:22:39, it only harvested seventh place.  Regardless of her win in Boston, AK was not going to put someone on the team whose third marathon of the year would be the Olympic Marathon.

Men’s team was always the more intriguing selection.  But of the six provisional picks, only Wilson Kipsang performed at his best this spring, winning London handily.

M. Mosop 2:05:02 – 3rd, Rotterdam
G. Mutai DNF, Boston
W.Kipsang 2:04:44 – 1st, London
A. Kirui 2:07:56 – 6th, London
E. Mutai 2:08:01 – 7th, London
P. Makau DNF, London
(more…)