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The Ethiopian Tokyo Olympic Marathon Trials were held Saturday in Sebeta City, Ethiopia, a town located in the geographical centre of the country at more than 7300 feet (2,356m) of elevation. The top three male and female finishers over the 35K course will represent the East African nation in Tokyo this summer.
Shura Kitata won the men’s race in the time of 1:45:55 which is at approximately 2:07:50 marathon pace. Kitata won the London Marathon in Oct. 2020 in St. James Square. He owns a best of 2:04:49 from the 2018 edition of the London race where he finished second at just 21 years of age. The following year he finished in 2:05:01 for fourth place.
Crossing the line in second was Lelisa Desisa in the time of 1:46:15. The 31-year-old veteran won the 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships race and owns a best of 2:04:45 from the 2013 edition of the Dubai Marathon.
Sisay Lemma finished third just three seconds back of Desisa. Two years prior in Berlin he set his personal best at 2:03:36.
According to the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, those are your three Tokyo Olympic team members. Curious why the federation chose just 35K, as the late fade in the marathon begins at approximately 32K and continues. The best 42.2K marathon runners may not have finished top-three here. Additionally, 2:01:41 marathon runner Kenenisa Bekele was told not to run despite claiming to be healthy. His Berlin 2019 performance, just two seconds shy of world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, was run in less than ideal weather. Bekele, by all accounts, should have run if Ethiopia wants to field the best team.
On social media, Ethiopian running fans expressed concern about Bekele being absent and commented in Amharic, which is translated to, “If the Olympics do not come without Kenenisa, we will ask you for treason. The aspiring athlete will only promote the name of our country by participating in the gold medal. If not, we consider you an OLF soldier.”
Tigist Girma won in the time of 1:59:23 (2:24 pace). She owns a best of 2:19:53 from the 2019 Amsterdam Marathon. She ran just about that fast in December at the Valencia Marathon clocking a 2:19:56.
Twenty-two seconds back was Birhane Dibaba, in the time of 1:59:45. Her best is 2:18:35 from Tokyo 2020. Dibaba has also run a 2:18:46 to finish in third position at Valencia in 2019.
Roza Dereje clocked a 2:00:16 for third. She was also third in London 2019 with a 2:18;30 she has several other wins under her belt already, which suggests the 23-year-old will have a long athletics career.
The Tokyo Olympic Marathons and racewalk events will not be held in Tokyo, but 800K north in Sapporo to avoid the potential summer heat of Tokyo. The decision came after many athletes dropped out and some taken to hospital during the 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships Marathon.