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Mutai sweats ahead of Olympics selection

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NAIROBI, Kenya, January 15- Boston and New York marathons winner, Geoffrey Mutai, has his fingers crossed as Athletics Kenya (AK) prepares to name the country’s ultimate race squad tentatively on Monday.

Speaking on Saturday after comprehensively retaining his Kenya Police senior men 12km cross title in his first competitive outing since his New York winning exploits in November, Mutai is among the elite runners aching for the three Olympics tickets in the marathon.

“If I’m included in the team, I will be so happy to defend our country and I will do all that I can with my teammates to ensure we retain the title,” Mutai, who like fellow cream athletes, is aching for the London ticket when the federation makes the much anticipated announcement.

With his course record returns in Boston last April where he blasted to the scarcely believable 2:03:02 before storming to the New York route best of 2:05:05 inside a calendar year, one would not expect Mutai to be a shoe in for London- but even he knows such commanding performances do not count for everything for a distance runner from a nation blessed with an opulence of talent.

Apart from Mutai, the official world record holder, Patrick Makau Musyoki who clocked 2:03:38 in Berlin (September), Chicago Marathon course record holder, Moses Mosop who trailed Mutai across the tape in Boston in 2:03:04 and Frankfurt winner, Wilson Kipsang (2:03:42) dipped under the staggering 2:04 barrier in 2011 alone.

“These days, Kenyan marathoners are so focused on training and this has pushed the standards very high. It takes a lot of commitment and discipline to stay at the top since at the moment, anyone is capable of performing well,” the African 10,000m bronze winner from 2010 explained.

Apart from the speedsters, twice world champion, Abel Kirui, the first Kenyan to defend that title last summer in Daegu and London course record holder as well as reigning World Marathon Majors circuit 2010/2011 champion, Emmanuel Mutai are some of other worthy contenders for the Olympics slots.

“As far as marathon running in Kenya is concerned, it does not matter whether you are in shape but it depends on the competition. It is not easy since all the top runners and others yet to emerge are looking forward to the Olympics.

“Remember, the April marathons are yet to be run and we could have a complete new set of talent emerging,” the 30-year-old who trailed Makau to the Rotterdam and Berlin races in 2010 quipped.

Anticipation for the AK announcement that has been delayed from it early January initial release has understandably compelled elite marathoners to keep their cards for 2012 close to their chests, Mutai included.

“For now, I cannot say anything about my year. I have just been training and waiting eagerly to know my fate for London but ideally, I would wish to run a marathon in April since that is far from London to measure my ability since it would not have much of an effect.

“However, if selected, I may consider skipping marathon running and participate in a half marathon and a couple of road races to reserve my energy. A lot will depend on the announcement,” the athlete who first competed for his country at the 2008 continental track and field showpiece held in Nairobi before making the Punta Umbria World Cross team last year where he finished fourth in the senior 12km race outlined.

The Olympics selection riddle has placed the late bloomer who worked as a construction site worker in Eldoret prior to the 2007 season when he launched his running career at cross roads.

Barely two weeks ago, organisers of the Boston race announced his enlistment for the April 16 to defend his crown while he retains a burning desire to compete at a fast world record eligible course like Berlin not considering his New York title.

One thing he is sure of is that he will not be chasing his astonishing course records this year.

“The pain I went through running like that and the punishment I received while training for those races was too much. It is not easy and I want to tell anyone who is preparing to break them to be ready for hard training and endurance,” he persisted.

He added: “I’m still training using my programme that helped me do so well in the last two years but this season, my focus is to just continue winning, I’m not thinking of setting any records but I must admit last year, the weather favoured us so much as opposed to 2010 when I was in good shape but in a race like Berlin, it started raining. This year, no one knows how the conditions will be.”

Nonetheless, he proved unstoppable when fielded against an imposing field at the Police event where he displayed his gulf in class by crafting a 25-second victory over the returning 2009 Worlds 10,000m bronze winner, Moses Masai, who has been derailed by injury for the past two seasons.

“It might have looked easy but that was not the case since I feel I have much more to do in training to be in the shape I was last year,” Mutai quickly moved to dispel that performance as a marker for his upcoming campaign.

On Thursday, AK general secretary, David Okeyo, who is in Monaco for the IAAF mountain racing committee meeting said coaches had drawn up a list of potentials who would be invited to either train for London or granted Olympics tickets.

“The technical committee will decide whether to name probables or the final team depending on their assessment of the runners presented by the coaches. This is Kenya; a runner may be so good this year but others come from nowhere at the beginning of the other to lay their claim.

“There are many marathons coming up in cities such as London, Boston, Amsterdam, Paris and others between now and April that could change the entire picture since we insist on form due to the fact based on time alone, we have hundreds of qualified runners for London. Whichever way, our mission is to select a winning team for London and we are confident whoever is chosen will be capable,” the official stated.

That assertion leaves Mutai and top London hopeful s with the arduous task of sustaining a rich vein of form that has proved elusive for a slew of accomplished distance runners in the past in a country famed for high turnover of talent- a staggering 96 victories were achieved in men marathon running last year alone.

Bagging the Kenyan ticket in the ultimate race may prove harder than winning the competition itself.

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