NAIROBI (Reuters) - World marathon record holder Patrick Makau, who was omitted from Kenya’s Olympic team, did not run hard during last month’s London race because he believed he had already been selected for the Games, the athlete said on Wednesday.
“When I went to the London marathon last month, I knew I was already in the team for the Olympic Games as promised by Athletics Kenya last year,” the 26-year-old told Reuters.
“It is not practical, not even advisable, to run hard in the London marathon or Boston or even Rotterdam in April and expect to recover in time for the Olympics three months later.”
“So even as I was going to London, I knew deep inside that I was not going to finish the race,” said Makau, who pulled out after 16 km.
Makau said he had been told he would be in the Olympic team after setting a world record of 2:03:38 in Berlin last September, and had reduced his appearances to prepare for the London Games.
Athletics Kenya last week selected London marathon winner Wilson Kipsang, twice world champion Abel Kirui and Moses Mosop, who was third in Rotterdam for their men’s marathon team.
Makau said he would not contest the decision and had no ill-feelings towards Athletics Kenya, but hoped they would still consider him.
“It was them who told the world that I would get a wild card to the Games. It is them who can fulfill the promise,” he said
With such a depth of talent available, the Kenyan marathon selection was always going to prove a headache.
Last year, Kenyan men won all six world marathon major titles, sweeping the medals in three, and setting course records in London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York.
Samuel Wanjiru won the country’s first men’s marathon Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008 but he died last year after jumping from the first floor balcony of his home.
Makau has support for his inclusion in the team from compatriot and former world record holder Paul Tergat.
“I personally would have wanted Makau in the team. He should even have been there as a reserve. Marathon training is tough and anything can happen to the three athletes already selected,” Tergat told Reuters.
“After all, (Athletics Kenya) paraded him after he broke the world record in Berlin last year and announced to the world that he would be in the team for the Olympics,” said Tergat, who won silver in the 10,000 meters at the 1996 and 2000 Games.
He said Ethiopia’s marathon runners had shunned competitive races in recent months and could be in fine form come July, unlike the Kenyan runners picked after the London race.
”I am not doubting their maturity, experience and capability. But our running and training schedule is very different from the Ethiopians and I fear that we may be in for a shock.
“We have run in many races lately compared to the Ethiopians and the team that ran in London may not have enough recovery time to put up a strong fight in Olympic Games in July,” said Tergat, whose world record of 2:04:55 set in Berlin in 2003 lasted until 2007.
“The Ethiopians’ last serious marathon was in Dubai (in January). That’s where they selected their team for the Olympics. They ran 2:04 there and they started preparations for the Olympics then,” he said.
However, Tergat was confident the Kenyan women could sweep the marathon medals in London.
Mary Keitany, world champion Edna Kiplagat and Priscah Jeptoo were selected for the team after taking the top three places in the London marathon.
“Our women are set. They have come of age and may even beat our men to the medal haul in the London Games,” said Tergat.
“It is inspiring to see our women compete and beat the world. This was not the case some 10 years ago.”
Editing by David Clarke and Alison Wildey