• Marathon stars eagerly await Olympics selectors call

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  • 2012 London Marathon champions Mary Keitany and Wilson Kipsang at Nairobi's JKIA on Tuesday.(Photo by Shutterspeed)2012 London Marathon champions Mary Keitany and Wilson Kipsang at Nairobi's JKIA on Tuesday.(Photo by Shutterspeed)
Apr 24, 2012-

Their return home was almost hushed, the usual pomp and colour absent when the conquering London marathoners strolled out of the arrivals lounge at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport early Tuesday.

The all-familiar strained sweaty faces cleaned up to bare contented looks complementing their poised guises.

There was an air of complete confidence, relief after surviving what had been touted as the ‘Kenyan Olympic marathon trials’ last Sunday.

“This race was very competitive from the start....how we set the pace, through to the end,” said two times World champion Abel Kirui his permanent smile spread across his face.

"It was one challenging run and from my own experience for sure a Kenyan will win the Olympic title,” said the 29-year-old obviously impressed with his sixth place finish (2:07.56), after pulling out of the London race last year.

The composed secure tone having conquered one of the finest fields ever assembled, giving you an idea about how thorny picking Kenya’s Olympic team of three will be for the selectors. Athletics Kenya will name the team on Wednesday, April 25.

“I think I stand a good chance to be at the Olympics after winning the race of the greats, it would be nice to wear the Kenyan colours for the first time,” said Wilson Kipsang the newly crowned London Marathon champion, still uncertain whether his 2:04.44 winning time will secure him a place in the cutthroat Kenyan team.

“Pacemakers were not really in a position to handle the pace,” a plausible argument that a course record would have automatically secured his position in the Olympics team.

“We were always trying to push them as some of us were even stronger and faster than the pace setters. If the pace was slightly faster we could have ran faster times.”

After a rather tactical race, the two-time Frankfurt marathon champion,the second fastest man in history behind World record holder Patrick Makau who dropped out on Sunday over a hamstring injury, knows that he will be the man to beat if he returns to London on August 12.

“If I make the team for Olympics it will be my duty to train and finish at the top because I know that if I prepare well I can do something big.”

Kipsang, 30, ran a solo race conquering the streets of London after speeding away at the half way point way ahead of three-times London champion Martin Lel (2:06.51), who beat Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede in a sprint finish.

The Olympic dream is equally high on Mary Keitany’s agenda after her outstanding 2:18.37 win, a new Kenyan milestone in the marathon.

“It was a sub 2:20 pace when we started and then at the 32km mark it was at 2:21.But when I remained alone at the 35k mark I saw the target was at 2:19.51,”she said clutching her three-year-old son Jared Kipchumba, who together with her husband Charles Koech were in London to cheer on their heroine to victory.

“As young and innocent as he is he understands when the mum is the winner,” explained Koech, who is also a long distance runner.

“At the 35km he was asking me why is mama not winning? I told him we have to cheer. So he kept urging her Go!Go!....When she won he knew it. He said my mother is number one.”

“I was surprised when I crossed the line at 2:18.37 that is when I realized I had broken Catherine Ndereba’s national record.” said the elated champion.

“After this race now it is making the Olympics and possibly win the Gold,” added Keitany , raising the stakes for the elusive Olympic Gold.

“No doubt it will be a Kenyan victory in London,” backed Priscah Jeptoo, the world silver medalist who finished third on Sunday in 2:20.14 a personal best behind Edna Kiplagat (2:19.50,PB) as Kenyans swept the top five positions.

Indeed, the performance in London has given the Kenyan marathoners a calm confidence and a palpable swagger heading into the Olympics.

“Clearly we have a very good team for the Olympics’!” summed up David Letting’, the Kenyan marathon Coach who has been following the runners across the city contests.



Evelyn Watta

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