Just looking back at previous Olympic Marathon results. In 2000 & 2008 all the medals went to African countries (KEN ETH MOR)
But in 2004 the First African was an embarrassing 7th Erick Wainaina (KEN)2:13:30
As usual the Kenyan's had all the top times in the world that year. Was this just a freak result?
Any chance an upset this year?
I think if conditions in London this summer are hot and humid which is quite likely, then it will become more of a lottery. The conditions in Athens 2004 were brutal, but if you look at previous Olympic marathon's surprises have happened. Barcelona 1992 no africans on the podium. In the Atlanta Olympic marathon Josiah Thugwane (South Africa) only had a personal best of 2:11:46, won Gold, so there is potental for a surprise. Meb won silver in Athens 2004, and if he runs that well in the heat and humidity again, and London provides similar conditions then he is worth a shout. Also the Japanese prepare well in hot and humid conditions, and have won many medals in the worlds and Olympic marathons. However, if the temperatures remain cool, like london marathon in Springtime, then I fear the Kenyans and Ethiopians will be very difficult to beat. So lets hope for 30 degrees and make it an open race!
You could argue that not as many of the best Africans were not running the marathon in 2004. But this race had Tergat who was the world record holder, Wainaina who was a two time olympic medalist and Gharib who was a two time world champion (and would later win Olympic silver in 2008). Part of it though was that the best Africans were only 2-3 minutes faster than the non-Africans where as they are 5-6 minutes faster than the best non-Africans now.
Also, it's not like the Africans were beaten by total unknowns. Baldini was twice a European champion and twice a world championships bronze medalist. Meb went on to win New York. de Lima was a little less known but was a two time Pan American games champion and also won Tokyo. Jon Brown who finished fourth had finished fourth in the previous Olympic marathon. Shigeru Aburaye who finished fifth, was fifth in the two world championships leading up to this. Alberto Chaica was fourth in the previous world championship.
I think the real answer is that it was the conditions. If I remember correctly the course was rather hilly, similar to Boston. It was also hot and humid. These two factors combined to make it a bit of a crap shoot.
Apart from Tergat with his 2.05 and 2.04 the rest of the field was pretty even on times. Tergat said the chilled water caused him stomach cramps. He also had only previously raced fast flat cool marathons.
Wainaina was a good championship runner but his best time was only 2.08.
Gharib was World Champ but had a best of 2.07.02 at the time.
Tolosa had a 2.08 best in 04. previously only 2.10.
Thys had run as fast as 2.06 but that was back in 99. He ran 2.08 in 03 and 2.07 in 04 leading to the games.
Of the non Africans.
Baldini had been a consistent 2.07/08 runner
Meb was the 10000m man moving up, often a successful move in the Olympics. He had run as fast as 27.13 and ran 27.24 in 04.
De Lima had run 2.08 in 98/99/2000. He ran 2.09 in early 04.
Brown was a 27.18 10000m man back in the 90s. His 2 4th place OG marathons suggest he knew how to get it right in the big one.
Abureya had run 2.07 back in 01.
Suwa 2.07 in 03.
Chaica 4th in the WC in 03 with a 2.09 54 secs behind Gharib.
Di Cecco ran 2.08 in 03.
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