Kenenisa Bekele won’t compete at next month’s Olympics, perhaps the distance running great’s last chance at the games, after he was left off Ethiopia’s final team for failing to meet the country’s qualifying criteria in both the marathon and the 10,000 meters.
Bekele, the world-record holder in the 5,000 and 10,000, had appealed his exclusion in the marathon but the Ethiopian Athletics Federation released its final list for the Rio de Janeiro Games over the weekend, confirming Bekele’s absence.
Bekele was first denied a place in the marathon when the federation said he hadn’t run enough big races over the last year to meet the selection criteria, which have been criticized by Bekele.
Bekele then made a late attempt to get on the team in the 10,000. He failed to finish the race at a trials event in Hengelo, Netherlands, last month.
Almaz Ayana, Ethiopia’s rising star, was selected to run in the women’s 5,000 and 10,000 in Rio. She’ll come up against compatriot and double Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba in the 10,000. Dibaba was only named as a reserve for the 5,000, an event in which she is a former Olympic champion, two-time world champion and the world-record holder.
The 24-year-old Ayana is the current world champion in the 5,000 and ran the second-fastest time in history over the distance last month in Rome, just missing Dibaba’s record by a little over a second.
Ethiopia’s other strong medal contender is Tirunesh’s sister, Genzebe Dibaba, the world champion and world-record holder in the 1,500. Former world champion Mohammed Aman is Ethiopia’s lone hope in the men’s 800.
Bekele didn’t even make it as a reserve for the marathon or the 10,000, meaning at the age of 34 the four-time Olympic and five-time world champion could be unlikely to compete at a future games.
Bekele had targeted the marathon as his next challenge but an injury prevented him competing last year and limited his preparations. Still, he finished third at the London Marathon in April after a long layoff and he won the 10K Great Manchester Run in Britain in May.