Can Kenenisa Bekele Make One Final Olympic Team?

The Ethiopian Legend Tries to Make the Ethiopian Team in Sunday's TCS London Marathon

Kenenisa Bekele is arguable the GOAT of distance running with 3 Olympic track golds, 5 World Championship track golds, and 11 World Cross Country titles, to go along with the former world records at 5000m and 10,000m and a 2:01:41 marathon PB.

But one thing Bekele has never done is run in the Olympic marathon. And his final chance likely is in Paris this summer as he is now 41 years old.

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Bekele in fact hasn’t run at the Olympics in 12 years since he placed 4th in the 10,000m in 2012, in the race where Nike Oregon Project training partners Mo Farah and Galen Rupp went 1st and 2nd.

Bekele’s runs Sunday’s TCS London Marathon with a legitimate shot to make the Ethiopian Olympic team.

The Ethiopian federation hasn’t outlined its criteria for selecting the Olympic team, but at this point it seems with near certainty that 2024 Boston Marathon champion Sisay Lemma, who also ran 2:01:48 to win Valencia last December, the fastest Ethiopian time since the start of 2023, is on the team.

The rest of the spots likely are still up for grabs. Tamirat Tola, who won New York in a course record 2:04:58 and is the favorite for Sunday’s London Marathon, likely has an inside shot on the second spot, but a subpar run and the Ethiopian federation could leave him out.

Here are the fastest Ethiopian marathoners since the start of 2023.

Rank Mark WIND Competitor DOB Nat Pos Venue Date Results Score
1 2:01:48 Sisay LEMMA 12 DEC 1990 ETHETH 1 Valencia (ESP) 03 DEC 2023 1300
2 2:03:24 Tadese TAKELE 03 AUG 2002 ETHETH 3 Berlin (GER) 24 SEP 2023 1272
3 2:03:27 Deresa GELETA 14 JAN 1996 ETHETH 1 Sevilla (ESP) 18 FEB 2024 1271
4 2:03:48 Dawit WOLDE 19 MAY 1991 ETHETH 3 Valencia (ESP) 03 DEC 2023 1265
5 2:04:19 Kenenisa BEKELE 13 JUN 1982 ETHETH 4 Valencia (ESP) 03 DEC 2023 1256
6 2:04:42 Haftu TEKLU 21 JAN 2000 ETHETH 5 Berlin (GER) 24 SEP 2023 1250
7 2:04:44 Andualem BELAY 05 APR 1992 ETHETH 6 Berlin (GER) 24 SEP 2023 1249
7 2:04:44 Birhanu LEGESE 11 SEP 1994 ETHETH 4 Amsterdam (NED) 15 OCT 2023 1249
9 2:04:50 Amedework WALELEGN 11 MAR 1999 ETHETH 2 Rotterdam (NED) 14 APR 2024 1247
10 2:04:58 Tamirat TOLA 11 AUG 1991 ETHETH 1 New York, NY (USA) 05 NOV 2023 1245

Bekele sits #5 on that list and while the federation has not said they will pick the team on time, Bekele needs to do something in London to impress the selectors.

#2 on the list Takele has not raced since Berlin last fall so there are questions about his status.

#3 on the list Gelete ran his 2:03:27 to win Seville this spring, so his Olympic marks are in the book and that could be a marker Bekele needs to eclipse in London.

#4 on the list Wolde beat Bekele in Valencia and is also running London, so it is essential that Bekele beat Wolde in London and run a time likely in the 2:03s if he wants a shot to make the team.

We discussed Bekele’s Olympic chances on our Supporters Club podcast today. You can watch the video clip below but if you want this as a podcast, join the most exclusive club in running — the LetsRun Supporters Club — today.

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