Kenya will hold an Olympic Trials marathon to select the members of next summer's marathon team headed to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, officials told The Times of India and Kenya's Capital FM.
“The marathoners who would like to participate in Olympics must run their last race in February and the rules that will follow will be developed by the Board and technical officials,” Athletics Kenya's Administration and Competition director David Okeyo said.
Athletics Kenya will be moving away from a selection committee that has previously determined the national team based off performances at World Major Marathons and other large-scale marathons in Rotterdam, Paris and Rome.
Athletics Kenya looks to target a February 14 marathon with the course yet to be determined in order to select three athletes bound for Rio De Janeiro.
Another reason for change could be to avoid another disappointing finish at a global championship after Mark Korir was the lone Kenyan to finish the 2015 IAAF World Championship marathon in Beijing this August. World record holder Dennis Kimetto and Wilson Kipsang dropped out. No Kenyan man has medaled at the IAAF World Championships since 2011.
Kenyan women have seen some success at the global championships as Helah Kiprop took silver for the marathon in August. Edna Kiplagat won gold at the 2011 and 2013 IAAF World Championships. A Kenyan woman has never won gold at the Olympics.
The late Sammy Wanjiru, who died mysteriously in 2011 after falling from a balcony, is Kenya's only gold medalist in the marathon with his Olympic record 2:06:32 victory at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
At the 2012 Summer Olympics, Kenya took silver and bronze as Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang finished second and third respectively behind Uganda's Stephen Kiprotich.
Kenyans have dominated the World Marathon Majors this fall as Eliud Kipchoge and Gladys Cherono won September's Berlin Marathon before Dickson Chumba and Florence Kiplagat claimed their own crowns in Chicago this past weekend. Kipsang is a favorite for the New York City Marathon on Nov. 1.
At last week's Chicago Marathon press conference, 2012 Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir said he remains unclear on how the team will chosen.
“For the last Olympics, they used to choose from Boston,” Korir said. “If you win Boston, you’ll go to the Olympics. I won Boston and I never went to the Olympics.”
A Feb. 14 race could also impact the World Marathon Majors fields as the London Marathon has attracted the fastest fields of the year for its April running. The Boston Marathon also balances a strong international field with Kenyans, Ethiopians and Americans in the spring. If a top Kenyan like Wilson Kipsang or Eliud Kipchoge is selected for the Olympics, they would also likely be out of consideration for the Berlin Marathon in September, which would be just weeks after Rio de Janeiro.
- Christopher Chavez