As the calendar turns to 2016, another Olympic year is off and running. The United States will select its marathon team for this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles on Feb. 13.
“It all comes down to Feb. 13, who can be competitive and brings their A-game,” Keflezighi said on a conference call on Thursday.
The top three finishers in the men’s and women’s races will punch their tickets to the Games.
The United States has not won an Olympic medal in the marathon since 2004, when Meb Keflezighi took silver and Deena Kastor bronze in the Athens Games.
Here is how the most recent U.S. Olympic marathoners have fared in the sport since their races in the 2012 London Games:
Meb Keflezighi, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials champion
At the 2012 Olympics, Keflezighi surprised the world and provided flash backs to his silver medal run in Athens as he pushed to a fourth-place finish behind a trio of East Africans.
Keflezighi may be 40 years old heading into the trials in Los Angeles but over the past four years he has been the most popular—and successful—of all the U.S. Olympic 26-milers from 2012.
Following his fourth-place finish in London, Keflezighi struggled to stay healthy at first and withdrew from the 2013 Boston Marathon due to injury. He returned to action that fall in the New York City Marathon but suffered another injury within the race that slowed him to a 2:23:47 finish for 23rd place. Keflezighi was in tears after the race having dedicated his performance in honor of the cancellation of the 2012 New York City Marathon due to Hurricane Sandy and the victims of the terrorist attacks at that April’s Boston Marathon.
Critics may have been quick to discount Keflezighi, believing that the end was nearing for his career. The 2014 Boston Marathon could have been his swan song in the sport but that talk was dashed as he took off from the pack of African runners at eight miles and was never caught. Keflezighi became the first American to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years.
Keflezighi’s winning time of 2:08:37 was a personal best and the second fastest by an American since since 2011. His victory catapulted Keflezighi to greater fame, earning him a nomination for SI’s Sportsman of the Year award in 2014.
Since his victory in Boston, Keflezighi has strung together consistent performances with top American finishes at the 2014 (4th place, 2:13:18) and 2015 (7th place, 2:13:32) New York City Marathons. He finished 8th in April’s Boston Marathon in 2:12:42 after having to stop to throw up in the closing miles.
A healthy Keflezighi in February has a very good chance of becoming the United States’ oldest Olympic runner.
Ryan Hall. 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials runner-up
London 2012: Four years earlier, Hall had finished 10th at the Olympics in Beijing. He had run the fastest time as an American with a 2:04:58 at the 2011 Boston Marathon. But in London, by the 10th mile, Hall felt tightness in his right hamstring and was forced to drop out.
Since the trials, Hall has completed just one marathon. He ran 2:17:50 for 20th place at the 2014 Boston Marathon.
Listing his lone result is a lot easier than noting that he withdrew from the 2012 New York City Marathon, ’13 Boston Marathon, ’13 New York City Marathon and dropped out of the ’15 Los Angeles Marathon. Hall has struggled to stay healthy and revealed that he is dealing with low testosterone issues.
Once the fastest marathoner in the United States, Hall has suffered an even quicker fall from grace. February’s race could provide Hall one last chance to prove himself against the country’s best. At the same time, given his reputation, a failure to appear at the starting line is not be out of the question.
His wife, Sara, will be racing in the women’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
Abdi Abdirahman, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials third-place finisher
London 2012: Abdirahman sat in 10th place after the first 15 kilometers before dropping out by the 10th mile. He felt something pop in his right knee and was forced to withdraw from the race.
Much like Hall, Abdirahman has contested the full marathon distance just once since the 2012 Olympics. His 2:16:06 performance for 16th place at the ’14 Boston Marathon was just slightly better than Hall’s. Abdirahman, nicknamed “The Black Cactus” for his tall and lanky build, has not received as much flak for his lack of marathon appearances because he still races often at other distances, with 17 other races since the Olympics.
Abdirahman looks to make his fifth U.S. Olympic team in Los Angeles, which would make him the second American to do so for track and field and the first distance runner. He surprised many in 2012 by running his second-fastest performance and making the team after not having run a marathon in two years.
Shalane Flanagan, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials champion
In just her third marathon, Flanagan finished 10th in London in 2:25:51 just ahead of her compatriot and training partner Kara Goucher. Flanagan was among the leaders for the first half of the race but failed to hold onto the pace as it quickened in the later stages.
Following her Olympic performance, Flanagan ran for the first time in her hometown Boston Marathon and finished fourth overall in 2:27:08, which only fueled her desire not just to make the podium but to win the 2014 edition of the race. She put forth a valiant effort to do just that, aggressively leading the first 30 kilometers of the race before being overtaken by East Africans including, two-time champion Rita Jeptoo who would test positive for EPO at the year’s end. Flanagan set a personal best of 2:22:02 and became the fastest American woman to run the historic course.
The personal best would drop even more as she attacked the American record but fell just short and placed third at the 2014 Berlin Marathon. Her time of 2:21:14 is just two minutes shy of Deena Kastor’s U.S. record.
Flanagan’s last marathon before the Olympic Trials was a ninth-place finish at the 2015 Boston Marathon in 2:27:47.
Desiree Linden (née Davila), 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials runner-up
Linden toed the starting line in London having nursed a hip flexor injury in the lead-up to the race. She failed to reach the five-kilometer mark and limped off the course.
Linden struggled with injuries in 2013 but has since returned to form and was the fastest American woman over 26.2 miles in ’15. Linden has steadily improved since her stress fracture, placing 10th at the 2014 Boston Marathon, 5th in 2014 New York City Marathon and fourth at the 2015 Boston Marathon.
Much as they did in the 2012 trials in Houston, Flanagan and Linden are expected to go blow-for-blow in Los Angeles.
Kara Goucher, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials third-place finisher
Goucher had the world at her heels as she led for a portion of the Olympic marathon. She pushed the pace in the early parts of the race alongside Flanagan, who she trained with in the lead-up to the Olympics. She would finish 11th in 2:26:07, which was just a minute off her personal best.
Goucher’s most notable accomplishment of 2015 came off the track and roads when she came forward as a whistleblower, alleging that her former coach Alberto Salazar pushed the boundaries on doping rules to gain a competitive advantage by encouraging the use of prescription medication and therapeutic use exemptions.
Goucher has never tested positive for performance enhancing drugs but she told BBC and ProPublica that Salazar encouraged her to take Cytomel, a synthetic thyroid hormone, after giving birth in 2010.
Goucher’s last marathon was a 14th-place finish at the 2014 New York City Marathon, where she ran 2:37:03 in cold and windy conditions. She was the third American woman across the finish line in the slowest marathon of her career.
The two-time Olympian focused on the track in 2015 and finished 18th in the 5,000 meters at the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships while also addressing the Salazar allegations. Goucher returned to the roads in the fall and showed promise with two half-marathon victories in under 72-minutes.