World marathon record holder Patrick Makau and world champion Abel Kirui have promised to deliver the marathon title to Kenya at next year’s London Olympic Games.
The pair said yesterday they plan to give 2008 Beijing Olympic Games champion, the late Samuel Wanjiru, a proper tribute by retaining the title at the London Games that will run from July 27 to August 12.
Makau and Kirui’s wishes to represent Kenya at the Games were granted on Thursday when Athletics Kenya (AK) chairman Isaiah Kiplagat said the 26-year-old Makau, who set a new world record of 2:03:38 at last weekend’s Berlin Marathon, had been given a wild card entry into the Olympics.
Kiplagat also said that all the gold medalists from the World Championships in Daegu will be retained for the London Olympics hence granting Kirui, who retained his world title in the South Korean city (2:07:38) his wish.
Kiplagat acknowledged the difficulty they might face in selecting the final squad of three runners for London Olympics marathon now that Makau and Kirui have made the tentative list.
“Makau’s feat is a reason enough to have him in the team while the fire from Daegu must at all cost be upheld towards the London Games,” said Kiplagat adding that AK will convene a meeting with the managers of the gold medalists from Daegu to map out competition and training schedules for them.
But the decision was criticised in other quarters, with AK’s Nairobi branch chairman, Barnabas Korir, saying the association’s top brass had effectively killed off the spirit of competition.
“We have the best athletes in the world and such early selection is denying others who are equally good a chance,” said Korir.
“It is a wrong move and has never happened anywhere in the world. It is premature and should never be considered.”
Steeplechaser Paul Kipsiele Koech (7:57.32) finished the season in third place on the world list behind Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto (7:53.64) and world champion Ezekiel Kemboi (7:55.76).
He also took a swipe at the AK for the early wildcard selection: “That is denying other athletes a chance. The World Championships is a different competition from the Olympic Games. These people (AK) are killing the sport.”
Makau welcomed his wild card, saying he will not participate in any marathon before the London Olympics:
“I want to repay the gesture by dedicating my preparations for London by participating in selected races. I pray to God for good health.”
An elated Kirui, 29, said he will wait for an official communication from AK so as to enable him plan well for London:
“That is good news as it will give me ample time to train and focus well,. What else will I want in this world with an Olympic Games medal hanging around my neck?”
The gold medallists from Daegu who benefit from the wild card are Kirui, Edna Kiplagat (marathon), David Rudisha (800m), Asbel Kiprop (1,500m), Vivian Cheruiyot (5,000m, 10,000m) and Ezekiel Kemboi (steeplechase).
Kiplagat, the women’s marathon world champion, said: “It is unbelievable. It will give us ample time to prepare well.
“I now need to re-schedule and plan my races for the big battle. The Olympics is the first priority,” said Kiplagat.