Kenyan Olympic Marathon Team
Kenya has gotten itself into a bad situation choosing their men’s marathon team this year. Kenya has a major problem in the marathon; they have a ton of very good athletes with no real guarantees that any single one of them can win on any given day. Kenya has 340 athletes who have run the “A” standard for the marathon, but a country is only allowed to send 3 athletes who have achieved the “A” standard.
Kenya’s boundless supply of elite marathoners has allowed it to dominate marathons over the last 20 years. Looking at the World Marathon Majors, Kenya has won:
I claim that it is Kenya’s depth that allows it these wins, not the consistency of a single runner. Compare to Haile Gebrselassie, who, as I noted, won Berlin for four years in a row, showing a consistent dominance of his competition. During this same time, he won the Dubai Marathon 3 times in a row.
To further emphasize their depth, let’s look at the latest running of each of the Marathon Majors for Kenya’s placement:
And the winners of these races (all Kenyan):
- 2012 Boston Marathon: Wesley Korir
- 2012 London Marathon: Wilson Kipsang (4 seconds off Course Record)
- 2011 Berlin Marathon: Patrick Makau (World Record)
- 2011 Chicago Marathon: Moses Mosop (Course Record)
- 2011 NYC Marathon: Geoffrey Mutai (Course Record)
Five different winners in five different marathons full of elite athletes from all over the world, setting course records on three of them, one a world record.
Despite this dominance, Kenya has only won an Olympic Gold in the marathon once. I’ll argue this is because Kenya is only able to send 3 runners, so it can’t take advantage of its depth.
Back in January, Kenya announced the three it would choose would come from a list of six athletes. Let’s review these six and their recent performances:
- Patrick Makau: Set the world record in the 2011 Berlin Marathon, but dropped out of the 2012 London Marathon today, lost a half marathon in February
- Geoffrey Mutai: Ran the fastest marathon ever in the 2011 Boston Marathon (Boston does not qualify for world records), set the course record in the 2011 NYC Marathon, but dropped out of the 2012 Boston Marathon last week
- Moses Mosop: Ran the second fastest marathon ever in the 2011 Boston Marathon, set the course record in the 2011 Chicago Marathon, but came in third behind two Ethiopians in Rotterdam last weekend
- Emmanuel Mutai: Set the course record in the 2011 London Marathon, but came in seventh at the 2012 London Marathon today behind three other Kenyans, an Ethiopian, and two Moroccans.
- Wilson Kipsang: Won the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon only 4 seconds off the World Record time set by Makau a month earlier, won the 2012 London Marathon
- Abdel Kirui: has won the Marathon World Championships in 2009 and 2011, but no one real races those and he came in sixth at the 2012 London Marathon today.
Among these are the three fastest marathoners ever, but two of them have dropped out of marathons in the last week and the other one lost a marathon last weekend. Luckily, Keny has the fourth fastest marathoner ever in Wilson Kipsang, who did win a marathon today. And the other two placed behind Ethiopians and Moroccans at the London Marathon today.
So, Kenya has the fastest marathoners of all time, but they have no consistency; all but one has underperformed in 2012. No matter who Kenya chooses, they will be criticized, and Kenya has no guarantees the athletes will show up able to win, particular if there is any adversity in the weather on the day of the marathon. Without entering ten runners, Kenya’s ability to win becomes a craps shoot.