Why Kenya's marathon big guns won't fire

Kenya's Ruth Chepng'etich competes in the Women's Marathon at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha on September 27, 2019.

Photo credit: Karim Jaafar | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Most have opted to compete in World Major Marathons races among other top paying races across the world.
  • It will be the third time Kamworor is competing at the world event.

Kenya’s leading marathon runners were missing when Athletics Kenya (AK) on Thursday named the country's teams for the World Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games.

AK President Jack Tuwei said they settled on the current team after some of the top athletes requested to be exempted from selection due to various reasons.

Most have opted to compete in World Major Marathons races among other top paying races across the world.

“We had written to all the top athletes but we only settled for those who were willing to compete. It has taken us almost four months to come up with the teams. We can't force them,” said Tuwei during a press conference at Riadha House, Nairobi.

“Some of their reasons are genuine considering that most have competed in few races for the last two years owing to Covid-19. Remember, running is a livelihood to most of them,” explained Tuwei.

Opted out

Olympic marathon champions Peres Jepchirchir and Eliud Kipchoge, Olympic women's marathon silver medallist Brigid Kosgei and world marathon bronze medallist Amos Kipruto are among the top athletes who have opted out of the two national assignments.

The World Athletics Championships are programmed from July 15 to 24 in Eugene, Oregon, United States of America while the Commonwealth Games are due for July 28 to August 8 in Birmingham, England.

However, Ruth Chepng'etich, who won Nagoya Women’s Marathon with the fastest time this year of two hours, 17 minutes and 18 seconds on March 13, will defend her world women's marathon title in Eugene.

Chepng’etich’s time is ranked sixth in all-time best in marathon though she is also the fourth fastest woman in marathon in 2:17:08.

The Oregon event will also witness the return of two-time World Half Marathon Championships gold medalist Geoffrey Kamworor.

Kamworor returns

It will be the third time Kamworor is competing at the world event.

He claimed silver in the 10,000 metres at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing before finishing sixth over the same distance at 2017 London.

Kamworor, the 2017 New York City Marathon champion, has a personal best 2:05:23 from a fourth place finish in Valencia last year.

The 2019 Chicago Marathon champion Lawrence Cherono, who finished fourth at the Tokyo Olympics last year, and Barnabas Kiptum, who won Milan Marathon last year in personal best 2:04:17, make up the men’s team.

The 2017 World Championships gold medalist Geoffrey Kirui is a reserve.

Chepng'etich, who failed to finish her race at the Tokyo Olympics, will team up with the newly-crowned Paris Marathon champion Judith Jeptum, 2021 Geneva Marathon champion Maureen Chepkemoi, who finished third at Amsterdam Marathon last year, and Angela Tanui, a fourth place finisher at Tokyo Marathon on March 6 this year.

The women's team for the Commonwealth Games has 2020 Los Angeles Marathon winner Margaret Wangare, 2019 Standard Chartered Bank Nairobi Marathon champion Purity Changwony and 2021 Rotterdam Marathon champion Stella Barsosio.

Viola Cheptoo is a reserve.

The men's team for the "Club" Games are Philemon Kacheran, who finished third at Valencia Marathon last year, Eric Kiptanui, and Jonathan Korir.

Michael Githai is a reserve.

Tuwei said the teams’ managements will be named in due course as he further disclosed the selection criteria for the rest of the track races in the two championships.

The first two athletes to cross the line in the final will gain automatic places in the teams so long as they fulfill all the anti-doping requirements.

“Even though defending champions and Diamond League winners have direct entry to the world event, they must take part in the trials,” warned Tuwei, adding that athletes who wish to double up at the world event and Commonwealth can attend trials that will be on invitation at both events.

The trials for the World Athletics Championships will be from June 24 to 25 at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani while those for Commonwealth Games will be staged on May 20 to 21 at the same venue.

World Athletics Championships marathon team:

Women: Ruth Chepng'etich, Judith Jeptum, Maureen Chepkemoi. Angela Tanui(Reserve)

Men: Barnabas Kiptum, Geoffrey Kamworor, Lawrence Cherono. Geoffrey Kirui (Reserve)

Commonwealth Games marathon team:

Women: Margaret Wangare, Purity Changwony, Stella Barsosio. Viola Cheptoo(Reserve)

Men: Philemon Kacheran, Eric Kiptanui, Jonathan Korir. Michael Githare (Reserve)