Marathon Running At The Olympics | Medal Contenders At Rio 2016?
Who's going to win gold, silver, and bronze in the marathon events at Rio 2016? Here are the main contenders.
The Rio 2016 Olympic Games are almost upon us. We've already had a pretty in-depth look at the most famous moments in Olympic marathon history. We know who's made the cut for Team GB and we know, more or less, how the marathon course is going to shape up. But what we haven't done so far is profile who the main medal contenders will be at this summer's Olympic marathon events. That, you'll be pleased to know, is about to change.
In this article, we'll look at the main Olympic medal contenders in both the men's and women's marathon. We'll guide you through these masters of long-distance running, and explore why they might be fancying their chances this summer. We'll also look at their personal bests, their previous successes, and their fitness.
In sport, of course, anything can happen. That being said, we'd be quite surprised if the gold medalists for the Rio 2016 Olympic marathons didn't come from this group of elite athletes.
Medal Contenders - Men's Marathon
Eliud Kipchoge (KEN)
When it comes to long-distance running, the Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge has very much "been there and got the t-shirt." Kipchoge won gold in the 5,000m at the World Championships of 2003, and followed that up in subsequent years with a 5,000m bronze at Athens 2004 and a silver medal at Beijing 2008.
In recent years, Kipchoge has reaped the benefits of switching from long-distance track-running to long-distance road-running. The pinnacle of this event shift for Kipchoge came as recently as April 2016 when he won the London Marathon with the second fastest time ever on an eligible course. He finished just eight seconds outside the world record mark, crossing the line in 2:03:05.
Kipchoge has a wealth of experience from previous Games, and he's clearly a man in form. Don't be surprised if you see him right in amongst the leading marathon contenders this summer.
Stanley Kipleting Biwott (KEN)
Alongside compatriot Eliud Kipchoge, Stanley Biwott is another Kenyan hoping to make a big impact in Brazil. Biwott came second at the 2016 London Marathon, with a time of 2:03:51. This is currently the sixth-fastest marathon time in history.
Wesley Korir (KEN)
Kenya are sending three men to run the Olympic marathon at Rio 2016. Wesley Korir, of Kenya, will be joining Eliud Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott on the start-line. And while his personal best of 2:06:13, set at the 2012 Chicago Marathon, is someway off the times of Kipchoge and Biwot; only a fool would ever completely dismiss a Kenyan's chances in a long-distance race.
When he's not running large distances at fast speeds, Korir is busy carrying out his duties as a Member of the Kenyan Parliament. Korir is famous for always buying a pair of tuna sandwiches from Subway prior to competing. One of these he eats beforehand, the other he saves until after the race. Korir often gives his second sandwich to a homeless person.
Tesfaye Abera (ETH)
Going up against Kenya at Rio 2016 will be their long-term running rivals from Ethiopia. Tesfaye Abera, who has a personal best of 2:04:24, will be one such Ethiopian dreaming of marathon glory in the Olympics.
Since the start of 2016 Abera, who was born in 1992, has really taken his long-distance running up a notch. This year he has claimed victories in the Dubai Marathon and the Hamburg Marathon. He is the third fastest Ethiopian ever, at this distance (just behind Haile Gebrselassie and Ayele Abshero). If his form continues on its current trajectory, Abera could be right in the medal mix this summer.
Lemi Berhanu Hayle (ETH)
Lemi Berhanu Hayle is a twenty-one-year-old Ethiopian long-distance runner. His PB for the marathon is 2:04:33. Hayle set this time at the 2016 Dubai Marathon, while trying to defend the title he won a year earlier. He was beaten by his fellow countryman Tesfaye Abera, who also run a personal best in the same race.
Hayle cemented is place amongst the world's best distance runners, earlier this year, when he won the 2016 edition of the Boston Marathon with a time of 2:12:45. He might not have the same experience levels as some of the other competitors in the field, but his talent for running means he could make a big impact in Brazil.
Feyisa Lilesa (ETH)
Feyisa Lilesa, aged 26, completes Ethiopia's representation in the men's marathon event at Rio 2016. Lilesa has a personal best of 2:04:52. At the 2010 Rotterdam Marathon, he became the youngest man ever to run the distance below the 2:06 hours mark.
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (ERI)
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, of Eritrea, shocked the world when he won the marathon at the 2015 World Athletics Champions in Beijing. Ghebreslassie, now 20, was just 19 at the time and the youngest person ever to win a world marathon title. His personal best for the distance is 2:07:47 - a time he set in Hamburg last year.
The history books of the Olympic Games are filled with stories of young athletes who came from nowhere and made themselves a household name. This summer, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie could be that athlete. Whatever happens, he's got a promising career ahead of him.
Galen Rupp (USA)
In Brazil this summer, American runner Galen Rupp will be shifting his focus from the 10,000m and 5,000m track events to the 26.2 miles road-running event. Rupp secured qualification to Rio 2016 with a time of 2:11:12 at the Los Angeles Olympic Marathon Trials.
He'll be facing strong competition across the board but if Rupp steps up his game like he did at London 2012, when he won a silver medal in the 10,000m (behind Team GB's Mo Farah), then he might just get himself a spot on the podium this August.
Medal Contenders - Women's Marathon
Visiline Jepkesho (KEN)
Visiline Jepkesho made her marathon debut at the 2014 Milan Marathon. She won this race with a time of 2:28:40. Jepkesho clearly had knack for this type of thing, as she followed up victory in Milan that year with wins at the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon and the Lisbon Marathon.
Jepkesho finished in the top three at the 2015 Paris Marathon, with a personal best time of 2:24:44. Earlier this year, she secured the biggest win of her career by finishing first at the Paris Marathon. She'll definitely be one to keep an eye on in Rio.
Helah Kiprop (KEN)
Helah Kiprop Jelagat has a personal best time for the marathon of 2:27:29. She won the Seoul Marathon in 2014, and picked up a silver medal at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing. If she gets her act together in Rio, there's no reason why she can't challenge for the podium.
Jemima Sumgong (KEN)
Completing the female representation in Kenya's Olympic Marathon team is Jemima Sumgong. During her running career, Sumgong has built up an impressive back-catalogue of wins - with victories in the London, Rotterdam and Las Vegas marathons. She has also finished as runner-up at the Boston, Chicago, and New York City marathons.
Sumgong's personal best for this distance is 2:20:48. Her victory at the 2016 edition of the London Marathon, where she finished with a time of 2:22:58, was particularly impressive because at one point during the race she fell down and had to get back up.
Mare Dibaba (ETH)
Mare Dibaba, a reigning world champion after her performance in Beijing last year, is sure to be chasing gold in Rio this summer. Her personal best for the marathon is 2:19:52, a time she set at the Dubai Marathon in 2012. Dibaba won the 2015 World Championships marathon with a time of 2:27:35.
Tirfi Tsegaye (ETH)
Tirfi Tsegaye Beyene completes Ethiopia's representation in the Rio 2016 marathon event. Born in 1984, Tsegaye is an Ethiopian long-distance runner with a seriously impressive greatest hits collection.
Tsegaye has won the Berlin Marathon, the Paris Marathon - in a course record time, the Tokyo Marathon - another course record, and the Dubai Marathon. Her personal best for the distance is 2:20:18, which she set in 2014.
Tigist Tufa (ETH)
Tigist Tufa, of Ethiopia, is another East African runner looking to bag themselves a slice of Olympic glory at the Rio 2016 Games. In 2014, she won the Shanghai Marathon - setting a new course record and a personal best at the same time (2:21:52). In 2015, she became the first female Ethiopian to win the London Marathon since Deratu Tulu in 2001.