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London presents AK with last chance saloon

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 19- Sunday’s London Marathon stands as the last frontier between Athletics Kenya (AK) and the federation’s controversial plan to name 12 Olympics probables in the distance in January.

With the spring marathon season coming to a close and the final squad expected to be announced on April 30, top AK officials are sweating over results of key events that have preceded the London race following limp performances by those pre-selected for the summer Games that kick-off on July 27.

“The situation is tense at the moment and the London Marathon has acquired more importance than before for the selectors who came up with the idea since if results do not go their way, choosing the Olympics team will be a headache,” a national team coach who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the subject declared during the men 10000m pre-Olympics Trial in Nairobi.

So far, only Worlds women bronze medallist, Sharon Cherop, who triumphed in a slow Boston Marathon has lived to the billing with her Olympics slot certainly assured.

On Sunday, Chicago Marathon titleholder, Moses Mosop, saw his world record bid as well as his Olympics dream dissipate when he slacked in the second half of the Rotterdam race to finish third in 2:05:02 and a day later, defending Boston champions, Geoffrey Mutai and Caroline Kilel fell out of the men and women races.

At the end of January, another London probable, Lydia Cheromei, could only muster a fifth finish at the Dubai Marathon as other candidates forcefully emerged to claim their stake at the Olympics party.

One of them, Lucy Wangui Kabuu who marked her full marathon debut with a second finish at that race in the eighth fastest time in history of 2:19:34 said in Nairobi on Monday that she was going to Sunday’s London race where she was a late invite to the elite field to stage a performance that would force the federation further into including her in the summer party.

“My mission is to win so that I can make them see that I deserve to be at the Olympics. I believe in my training and running three marathons in a year all depends on how fast your body can recover since it has been done before,” she charged.

Besides Kabuu, Boston champion, Wesley Korir and Paris Marathon winner, Stephen Biwott in addition to Levy Matebo and Jemimah Chelagat who finished second at the Boston races are some of the other names who have emerged with an Olympics shout in the past week.

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“We know what to do, selecting our team will not be a big problem since we have a plan in place despite the failure of some of our probables to make it in their races,” AK general secretary, David Okeyo remarked when quizzed on whether the federation selectors were concerned over the turn of events.

London holds all the aces as far as selecting the Olympics is concerned since eight of the identified athletes for the Olympics ticket will be in action.

World marathon record holder, Patrick Makau, defending London champions, Emmanuel Mutai (men) and Mary Keitany (women), World champions, Abel Kirui (men) and Edna Kiplagat (women), Frankfurt winner, Wilson Kipsang (men) who is the second fastest official runner at the distance, Chicago titleholder, Florence Kiplagat (women) and Worlds women silver medallist, Priscah Jeptoo, are the AK’s probables who will compete for top honours and Olympics tickets on Sunday.

“With what has happened so far, there is every chance that things could go wrong since there are other quality athletes from different nations who will be in the London fields. There is also the chance of someone who is not on the list winning like we saw in Boston and that will present the selectors with a problem come Sunday.

“Pre-selecting the runners since to have put them under so much pressure since the way Mosop and Mutai collapsed for instance was shocking to say the least. It is my hope that the remaining runners will focus on doing what they are capable of since they were chosen as the best marathoners who did so well over the past two years,” the coach who is also in the panel of AK selectors added.

With top federation officials travelling to the Rotterdam, Boston and now London marathons to witness their crop in action, it is their prayer that their brainchild will not be reduced to pulp on the road come Sunday.

Already, AK is facing further criticism for organising the men 10000m mini trial where 13 of the 15 finishers were invited to compete for the men 10000m Olympics ticket at the June 2 Pre Fontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.

Among those who missed out on the chance were the Olympics bronze winner, Micah Kogo, who finished sixth in that race but was ruled out of the Oregon Trial since he did not have the A-Standard Olympics qualification of 27:45.00 coming to the race. Kogo is among the quickest road runners in the world lists for 2012 in the 10K raising questions on his omission.

However, just like the Tuesday pre-Trial unearthed men Javelin prospect, Julius Yego, who threw a national record of 79:95m that is above the Olympics B-Standard in his event to steal the show, AK are praying for another good turn of fortune in London on Sunday to salvage their London 2012 Olympics grand plan of selecting athletes earlier than usual.

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