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Shades of Dylan Wykes

Could Ben Preisner’s story work out like fellow Canadian Dylan Wykes did when he missed the 2012 London Olympic marathon standard on March 4 at the Lake Biwa Marathon?

As it goes, Wykes was done with his attempts to qualify for London after Lake Biwa. He was not going to race again during that cycle. However, the 30-year-old was talked into racing again on Sunday, April 15 in Rotterdam. To his surprise, he clocked a new personal best of 2:10:47 to make Team Canada. At the time, the Olympic standard was 2:11:29. Wykes’ Olympic goals came to be — he finished a respectable 20th in London.

Currently, the standard is 2:08:10 and or be ranked in the top 80 globally.

Twenty-seven-year-old Preisner missed the 2024 Paris Olympic standard during his race in Japan on Sunday, Feb. 4. But all is not yet lost, as he may continue to try to qualify for Team Canada.

Last weekend, the Beppu-Ōita Marathon was won by 28-year-old Ethiopian Derese Workneh. He clocked a time of 2:07:58 — a new personal best. Preisner was exactly one minute off that time with his new pb of 2:08:58 finishing in fourth place.

“We are still ironing out exactly what the plan is to put me in a position to earn the nomination,” shared Preisner. “It will depend on what the world rankings and Canadian rankings look like over the next couple of months. It could involve trying to run a fast half marathon, a ‘decent’ marathon to bump my point average or take another shot at standard if necessary. Time will tell, but for now [I am] focusing on recovery and getting back to work when my body is ready!”

The Beppu-Ōita Marathon

Asked how the race played out, Preisner said, “I would say the race played out how I was hoping.”

He added, “Most of the races in Japan have a big front pack and push the pace early — I knew this and trained accordingly.”

Preisner was due, he knew it and his coach knew it. He tactically ran a race to embellish his fitness. It was close at 48 seconds off the mark — but not enough.

“We sat in a groove at 3:01/km pace (pacers were meant to go 3:00/km but were slightly slow through each 5k). I was fairly confident from my training that I could get through 30km without hitting the red zone at 3:00/km and then knew it was going to be a battle in the later stages.”

He held the required pace with the front group through 38km and then, as anticipated, he started to really feel it.

“It is definitely unfortunate to not hold on for standard, but I have no regrets about the race. I raced confidently and put myself where I needed to be to give myself the best chance. I also cannot complain about a 1:20 pb.”

One similarity between Wykes’ and Preisner’s stories is Coach Richard Lee.

Considering Wykes’ 2012 London accomplishment (and another fellow Canadian Cameron Levins qualifying at the 11th hour for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Austria), Preisner will likely continue in the pursuit of his Olympic dream.

“I owe so much of it to my coach Richard Lee. He has navigated this year so well with a couple of injuries popping up (something I have not really dealt with in the past). I think in this build he provided me with the perfect amount of push to get me to level up and take a good stab at the standard and stay injury-free. This whole qualification process is a bit of a game of chess and Richard has been the guiding light for me.”

Watch for Preisner to be racing again before the qualification window closes.

Team Canada progress

Last week, Athletics Canada announced the nomination of Cameron Levins. He is the North American record holder. Malindi Elmore was also nominated. She is a former Canadian record holder. Levins owns a best of 2:05:36 accomplished in March 2023 at the Tokyo Marathon. That performance qualified him for Paris. Elmore ran the 2023 Berlin Marathon in the time of 2:23:30, to qualify, which is a new personal best. Her former Canadian record was 2:24:50 from the 2020 Houston Marathon.

Natasha Wodak, the current national record holder at 2:23:12, missed the qualification standard of 2:26:50 in Houston in January. However announced she too will take another run at Paris by racing the Hamburg Marathon on April 28th. The qualification window opened on Nov. 1, 2022, and closes on April 30, 2024.

Cameron Levins winning and setting new course record for the Royal Victoria Half Marathon

There are other Canadians who may attempt to qualify. Some noteworthy names who may race soon include Tristan Woodfine, who narrowly missed qualifying for Tokyo and Trevor Hofbauer who finished 47th and two positions behind Preisner in the Sapporo race venue. They clocked times of 2:19:27 and 2:19:57, respectively, in temperatures up to 34C. Elmore and Wodak finished 9th and 13th. Unknown is the status of Kinsey Middleton, who is now being coached by Jim Finlayson, who also coaches Levins.