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Freshly minted London Marathon champions Wilson Kipsang and Mary Keitany will front Kenya’s Marathon team to the Olympics as Athletics Kenya (AK) announced the long awaited line-up on Wednesday (25).
Two-time World champion, Abel Kirui, who slumped to sixth in Sunday’s race at the Olympics city as well as the Chicago Marathon title holder Moses Mosop complete the men's squad with Daegu gold winner Edna Kiplagat and silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo sealing the women’s trio.
"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 a packed media conference.
The selection of Mosop, who finished third at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2:05:02, was perhaps the surprise inclusion in a squad that was whittled down from 12 probables named by the federation in January.
"If you look at the time posted by Mosop, although he was third in Rotterdam he has done much better than most athletes as well as Kipsang who was four seconds shy of the record in London hence we believe this is the best team to represent us in London," Kiplagat noted of last year’s Boston runner-up who breezed to 2:03:06.
London will add to his extended run on the national team that started at the 2002 World Cross in Dublin where he finished tenth in the junior race as well as mark his second Olympics appearance following a seventh finish over 10,000m in Athens eight years ago.
The runner known as 'Engine Kubwa’ (Big Engine) has won his country bronze (10,000m) at the Helsinki Worlds in 2005 as well as senior race silver at the Mombasa 2007 World Cross.
AK overlooked World record holder Patrick Makau who registered a DNF in London, the New York champion and 2010 Boston winner Geoffrey Mutai who also did not cut the tape in Boston, and London course record holder Emmanuel Mutai who were on their pre-selection list.
There were also no slots for this year’s Boston Marathon winners, Wesley Korir and Daegu bronze medallist, Sharon Cherop who was among the dozen pre-selected.
"It wasn’t an easy task picking the team since the expectation of Kenyans was for instance Marathon record holder Makau, New York champion Mutai to feature but with time the two could not make it," Kiplagat expressed.
In the men’s race, Kenya who are out to defend the title won in Beijing by the late Olympic record holder Samuel Wanjiru will see Kirui, who has bagged the last two world titles make his Olympics debut alongside Kipsang who has exploded onto the scene since last fall.
He laid the marker by falling four seconds short of Makau’s 2:03:38 world record at last year’s Frankfurt Marathon and last Sunday, he was shy by a similar margin in London as Mutai’s 2:04:40 survived his spirited assault.
In the women’s event, the country will hope that Keitany, who charged to her second successive London Marathon crown in a national record of 2:18:37 will team up with her bridesmaid Kiplagat and third finisher, Jeptoo to land a maiden Olympics marathon gold.
Twice silver medallist, Catherine Ndereba, still holds the standard at the event but after wresting back the world title in Daegu last year, selectors are optimistic the London trio can replicate the performance when they return to the city in the summer.
Besides Cherop, Berlin Marathon champion Florence Kiplagat and Lydia Cheromei, who placed fifth at this year’s Dubai race in January, will miss the London party.
However, there is a slim window of hope for those who missed out before the team leaves for the Olympics in July.
"We can still pick one more athlete before the June 23 deadline as part of the reserve just in case any of the six dropped out due to injury as we await a full report on (G) Mutai and Patrick Makau," Kiplagat said.