Ethiopian Olympic Marathon Team Announced and Tsegaye Kebede is Not Even an Alternate

May 17, 2012

The Ethiopian Olympic marathon team was announced on Thursday and neither of the two Ethiopians with the most success in World Marathon Majors, Tsegay Kebede nor Gebre Gebremariam, was named to the team even as an alternate.

First, the men on the team. 21 year old Ayele Abshero leads the team and there is no questioning his credentials. The 2009 World Junior cross country champion has run one marathon in his life, a stunning 2:04:23 victory at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon in January. It was the fastest ever debut ever on a record eligible course and it made him the fourth fastest marathoner ever.

The next guy on the team is the guy who was one spot behind Abshero in Dubai, Dino Sefir. Sefir ran 2:04:50 in Dubai in the third marathon of his life. The only problem was in his second marathon he didn't break 2:10 running 2:10:33 in Ottawa for 3rd and he ran 2:20:30 in his first marathon. So yes he's run 3 marathons, never won any of them and has only broken 2:10 once, yet he's an Olympian.

Getu Feleke rounds out the team. He was the runner-up in Rotterdam this year in 2:04:50 ahead of Moses Mosop who will be on the Kenyan team. Feleke won Amsterdam in 2:05:44 last year.

Feleke's selection means the man who won Rotterdam this year Yemane Tsegay won't be on the team. Tsegay was 2 seconds ahead of Feleke in  Rotterdam and also was the 4th place finisher at Worlds last year. However, he also ran Dubai in January and finished 10th. The Ethiopians said he wouldn't be selected because he ran 2 marathons already this year. Feleke wouldn't have made the team based on his Dubai marathon so it made sense for him to run Rotterdam.

The Ethiopian team ended up being based solely on time, picking the runners with the fastest times in 2012 who had only run 1 marathon. The alternates thus are Markos Geneti and Tadesse Tola who were 3rd and 5th in Dubai.

That means Ethiopia's best marathoner the last four years, Tsegaye Kebede is not even an alternate.  After his London victory in 2010, Kebede was the top marathoner in the world. He was the Olympic bronze medallist in 2008 and the Worlds bronze medallist in 2009. This spring he finished third in London, which is without a doubt the most competitive marathon in the world. Gebre Gebremariam the 2010 Boston Champ, who was 3rd in Boston last year and 4th in New York, also won't be on the team.

If the team was solely going to be based on time, that criteria should have been announced in advanced and people might have run different marathons. Regardless, considering all the unknowns in the marathon and different course conditions, going off of time in different races, is a poor way to pick the team.

It's hard to argue with the women's team selected as all 3 are sub 2:20 performers.

Tiki Gelana (2:18.58), the Rotterdam winner is on it, as is Asselefech Mergia (2:19.31) who won in Dubai, and Mare Dibaba (2:19.52)

Discuss: Ethiopian Marathon Team Selection

More: *IAAF release on Ethiopian Team
LRC: Eight Days of Surprise: What We Might Learn from the Kenyan Olympic Marathon Team Selection


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