NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge was named on Kenya’s team on Friday to defend his title at this year’s Tokyo Games.
Kipchoge, who became the first person to run a marathon in under two hours in an unofficial event in October, is one of three men on the team. Kipchoge is also the world-record holder with a time of 2 hours, 1 minute, 39 seconds set in Berlin in 2018.
The other men on the team are Amos Kipruto, the bronze medalist at last year’s world championships, and Lawrence Cherono, who has won the Boston and Chicago marathons.
Brigid Kosgei will lead Kenya’s medal hopes in the women’s race after she ran 2:14:04 in Chicago last year to break the world record for a woman running in a mixed race.
Reigning world champion Ruth Chepngetich, the fourth-fastest woman ever, and Vivian Cheruiyot were also selected. Cheruiyot is stepping up to the marathon after winning gold in the 5,000 meters and silver in the 10,000 at the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
In Rio, Kipchoge became only the second Kenyan man to win the Olympic marathon title after the late Samuel Wanjiru in 2008. Kenya’s relative failure in the Olympic marathon has been a source of great frustration for the famed distance-running nation.
Jemima Sumgong’s gold in 2016 was Kenya’s first women’s Olympic marathon title and gave Kenya a men’s-women’s sweep. But Sumgong was banned for four years in 2017 for doping and lying to investigators.
The shadow of drug use is likely to hang over Kenya’s team again in Tokyo.
Last month, Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, the former marathon world-record holder and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, was the latest in a long list of top Kenyan runners to be charged with a doping offense.
The Olympic marathons will be run on Aug. 8 and Aug. 9 in Sapporo in northern Japan. The International Olympic Committee decided last year to move the races out of Tokyo to avoid the Japanese capital’s heat. The move went ahead despite strong opposition from Tokyo officials.