Athletics Kenya has announced the country’s Daegu World champions have been handed wild card entries to next year’s Olympic Games in London.
Also benefitting from the association’s largesse is the country’s new marathon World record holder, Patrick Makau, who erased Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie’s previous mark of 2:03.59 by running 2:03.38 at last Sunday’s 38th BMW Berlin Marathon.
With Daegu World marathon champion, Abel Kirui, also earning the early ticket, the Kenyan selectors will be at sixes a sevens in selecting the final men’s marathon slot for London from an embarrassment of talent.
“The final selection will be tough, considering the athletes’ good form and times, but it will also be easy to select the team to the London Games.
“Our only hope is for these athletes to uphold their form,” Athletics Kenya chairman Isaiah Kiplagat said in Nairobi while announcing the wild card selection.
“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,” added Kiplagat.
The gold medallists from Daegu who will benefit from the wild cards are Kirui, Edna Kiplagat (marathon), David Rudisha (800m), Asbel Kiprop (1500m), Vivian Cheruiyot (5000m, 10,000m) and Ezekiel Kemboi (Steeplechase).
Makau and Kirui welcomed the announcement, saying they would give 2008 Beijing Olympic Games champion, the late Samuel Kamau Wanjiru, a fitting tribute by retaining his title in Kenya at the London Games that will run from July 27 to August 12.
“I want to repay the gesture by dedicating my preparations for London by participating in selected road races and half marathons. I pray to God for good health,” said Makau, 26.
Kirui, who won gold in Daegu in 2:07:38, said the early selection gives them ample time to prepare for London.
“That is good news as it will give me ample time to train and focus well. What else will I want in this world with an Olympic Games medal hanging around my neck?,” said Kirui, whose gold in Daegu saw his employers, the Kenyan Administration Police force, elevate him from Sergeant to Chief Inspector of Police.
Edna Kiplagat, who led a Kenyan sweep in the women’s marathon at the Daegu Worlds, said the selection will give the ample time to prepare well.
“I now need to re-schedule and plan my races for the big battle. The Olympics is the first priority,” said Kiplagat, who is also the reigning New York Marathon champion.
“Our direct inclusion will definitely motivate runners to strive for the qualifying marks for the London Olympics. After our Daegu victory, we immediately requested AK to name the Olympic team early enough to allow us set the focus by cutting down the number of races,” Kiplagat, a mother of two said.
Kiplagat’s husband, Gilbert Koech, a former marathon runner, also welcomed the wild cards.
“Most of the European countries have selected their teams by now, with USA and Japan doing it in January. We are now well positioned for the Olympic glory.”
Athletics Kenya also said they will tear into Kenya’s performance in the 5000m and 10,000m, races in which the country has fallen short of medals lately, by forming a coaches’ commission to look into these performances.
Kenya did not win any medal in both the 5000m and 10,000m from the Worlds in Daegu and only got a bronze in 10,000m from Moses Ndiema Masai at the 2009 Berlin Worlds.
Eliud Kipchoge won silver in the 5000m and Martin Mathathi a bronze in the 10,000m at the 2007 Osaka World Championships.
Benjamin Limo is the last Kenyan to have won a 5000m World title at the 2005 championships in Helsinki which came after Kipchoge’s triumph in 2003 in France.
Elias Makori for IAAF