Obviously, the first pick to win the 2016 Rio Olympic men’s marathon for many, will be Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge.
If Kipchoge will win the men’s marathon – the final athletics event of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games – then it will happen from a man who has not lost a marathon race since 2014.
It will speak volumes about the competitive nature of the London Marathon, given that the women’s Olympic marathon winner, Jemima Sumgong, had also won this year’s London marathon in April, just as Kipchoge did.
The best way to gauge Kipchoge’s probability to win here is to consider that, of all the seven marathons that he has ever run, he has won six of them and only finished second once, behind Wilson Kipsang during the 2013 Berlin Marathon. Kipchoge is more experienced and has gotten much faster this year having just recorded his personal best time of 2:03:05, which is also the world’s leading time and the second fastest time in history.
One possible challenge for Kipchoge though will be the weather in Rio which will not be like the usual running conditions in most of the world major marathons. As we saw in the women’s race, it was quite warm and many athletes did not even get to finish the race. The temperatures can affect anyone and Kipchoge after all, is human.
Kenya’s Stanley Biwott, with a personal best time of 2:03:51, will be another great contender for the gold medal. He won the New York City Marathon last year and also ran side by side until the last stages of the race with Eliud Kipchoge to finish second at the London Marathon this year. Although he has consistently been finishing in top positions in most of the major road races across the world, Biwott has never had a chance to represent his country at a major championship. This will be his chance to carry the Kenyan flag high.
Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, who happens to train alongside Eliud Kipchoge in Kenya is the Olympic defending champion and the 2013 world champion and has always caused surprises in world major championships. He may still pull another surprise like he did during the London Olympics and walk away with another gold medal.
Another contender will be Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea. He won the world championships’ gold medal last year in Beijing and should not be brushed off from the list of contenders here especially given that the weather conditions will almost be the same in Rio as they were in Moscow. He is the youngest athlete to ever win a world gold medal in the marathon, which could mean he was just getting started in Moscow and perhaps his next step will be Olympic glory in Rio.
Tesfaye Abera of Ethiopia is another great contender for the gold having won the Dubai marathon early this year in 2:04:24. He has the third fastest personal best time on the start list, behind Kipchoge and Biwott. The other Ethiopians who will give him company are Lemi Berhanu with his 2:04:33 best and Tsegaye Mekonnen, who has run as fast as 2:04:46.
Galen Rupp of the USA surprised the world at the London 2012 Olympic Games when he won Silver in the men’s 10,000m. He just ran a seasonal best time of 27:08.92 to finish fifth during the men’s 10,000m event on the second day of athletics competiton. The only marathon he has ever run is the US Olympic trials that were done in February, where he ran 2:11:12 in the heat to win it comfortably and finished over a minute ahead of Meb Keflezighi who was second.
In a race that did not go well for most of the pre-race favorites due to warm weather conditions at the Boston Marathon in 2012, Wesley Korir emerged as the surprise winner in 2:12:40. The Kenyan Member of Parliament has a personal best time of 2:06:13. Perhaps, knowing about the weather conditions in Rio, the Kenyan selectors decided to put Korir on the team so that he will be able to secure the gold medal just in case the race does not go well for the other favorites.