Geoffrey Kamworor and Ruth Chepngetich
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Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor, whose career was traumatised in June 2020 when he was hit by a motorbike during a training run and required surgery on a broken tibia, is due to contest his first major championship marathon in Eugene on 17 July.
The 29-year-old from Nyen was named on the Kenyan team for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 along with 35-year-old Barnabas Kiptum.
Kamworor, confident and outgoing, was flying high when he had his accident.
Although he had performed to high levels on the track, where he earned 10,000m silver at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, it was on grass and roads that he had excelled, winning the world cross-country senior titles in 2015 and 2017, and world half marathon titles in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
In his first competitive marathon in 2012 he finished third in Berlin in 2:06:12, and he was a consistent presence on the podium at World Majors Marathons thereafter, particularly in New York, where he finished second in 2015, first in 2017, third in 2018 and first again in 2019.
Kamworor ran his first race since the accident in January 2021, winning the Kenyan Police Cross Country Championships before going on to secure a place on Kenya’s Olympic 10,000m team after winning the national trials, only to have to pull out with an ankle injury.
But at the Valencia Marathon last December he was able to perform to the peak of his ability once more as he set a personal best of 2:05:23 in finishing fourth.
Like Kamworor, Kiptum also set a personal best last year as he clocked 2:04:17 in placing third at the Milan Marathon and he has a solid top-three record in virtually every race he has contested.
Such is the depth of Kenyan talent that they can name 2017 world champion Geoffrey Kirui as a reserve.
Meanwhile Kenya’s perennial rivals Ethiopia will be looking to their current world champion Lelisa Desisa, who found the way to win in the steamy heat of Doha three years ago, to make the most of his wild card entry to this year’s competition.
Lelisa Desisa wins the 2019 world marathon title in Doha (© Getty Images)
Desisa had early track success, winning the African U20 10,000m title in 2009, and he has since become a highly consistent performer at the highest level, achieving podium finishes four times in New York, including victory in 2018, and four times in Boston, where he won in 2013 and 2015.
He also has championship pedigree, having earned world silver in 2013 six years before his Doha gold, and has a personal best from 2013 of 2:04:45.
The formidable talent Ethiopia can call upon was made clear when it was confirmed that Desisa will have as teammates Tamirat Tola, Mosinet Geremew and Seifa Tura.
Tola earned Olympic 10,000m bronze in 2016 and world marathon silver in 2017. He set his personal best of 2:03:38 last year.
Geremew took silver behind Desisa at the 2019 World Championships, having finished second at that year’s London Marathon in 2:02:55, the third-fastest time in history.
Tura set his personal best of 2:04:29 last year in Milan before going on to win the Chicago Marathon in 2:06:12.
Uganda, the rising nation in distance running, earned this title in 2013 thanks to their 2012 Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich. But the 33-year-old hasn’t been selected for Oregon, nor have Stephen Kissa, who ran a national record of 2:04:48 in Hamburg earlier this year, and Victor Kiplangat who was third in the second-fastest time ever by a Ugandan, 2:05:09.
Instead, Filex Chemonges, Fred Musobo and Jackson Kiprop will run the World Championships marathon, according to the Uganda Athletics Federation. So Kiprop, who helped Kiprotich to win the 2013 world title, is back at the World Championships for the first time since 2015.
Kissa, meanwhile, is due to be in Oregon in the 10,000m, where he will run with fellow Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei, the world 5000m and 10,000m record-holder, while Kiplangat is reported to be running the Commonwealth Games marathon.
Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands and Belgium’s Bashir Abdi earned surprise silver and bronze medals respectively at the Olympics last year, but went on to confirm that their performance in Sapporo was anything but a fluke. Abdi set a European record of 2:03:36 to win the Rotterdam Marathon just two months later, while Nageeye was victorious at the Rotterdam Marathon earlier this year in a Dutch record of 2:04:56, finishing ahead of Abdi.
Both men will line up for the marathon in Oregon, only this time it will be less of a surprise if they reach the podium.
The United States will be looking to the highly consistent figure of Galen Rupp. After taking Olympic 10,000m silver in 2012, Rupp moved to the roads and earned Olympic bronze in 2016.
In 2017 he became the first US man to win the Chicago Marathon since 2002 and finished second at the Boston Marathon. He qualified for Oregon by finishing eighth at last year’s Olympics.
The championships will be in Rupp’s home state, in the same city where he made his first Olympic team in 2008 while he was a student at the University of Oregon.
The other US selections are Elkanah Kibet and Colin Mickow. Kibet, who is with the US military, finished 16th at the 2017 World Championships and set a personal best of 2:11:15 in finishing fourth at last year’s New York marathon.
Mickow is a 32-year-old full-time financial analyst for an organic and natural foods distributor who took up road running six years after finishing his college track career. He qualified for his first international vest after being the top US man home at last year’s Chicago Marathon, where he was sixth in 2:13:31.
Japan’s trio of male runners will be headed by Kengo Suzuki, who set a national record of 2:04:56 in February 2021 at the Lake Biwa marathon in Otsu. Daniel Do Nascimento of Brazil has run a 2:04:51 personal best this year and is another one to watch.
The three-loop World Athletics Championships marathon course only varies by about seven metres between its high and low points and the weather is likely to be considerably cooler than it was in Sapporo or Doha, where the men's marathon had to be held at midnight and the start time temperature was 29C/84F with 51% humidity.
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Ruth Chepngetich will defend her marathon title at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 on 18 July by virtue of a wild card.
Chepngetich claimed the first gold medal of the 2019 World Championships, clocking 2:32:43 in the steamy heat to gain her first major gold.
She went on to finish third at the 2020 London Marathon before a roller coaster 2021, when she set a world record of 1:04:02 at the Istanbul Half Marathon, failed to finish the Tokyo 2020 Marathon in Sapporo but then won the Chicago Marathon.
At this year’s Nagoya Women's Marathon she won in 2:17:18, just 10 seconds off her personal best and the second-fastest ever women-only marathon.
She will be joined on the Kenyan team in Oregon by Judith Jeptum and Angela Tanui. Jeptum set a French all-comers’ record of 2:19:48 to win the Paris Marathon this year, while Tanui won the 2021 Amsterdam Marathon in 2:17:57.
Ethiopia will be represented by Gotytom Gebreslase, who won the 2021 Berlin Marathon on her debut and finished third in this year’s Tokyo Marathon in 2:18:18, Ababel Yeshaneh, second at the 2019 Chicago Marathon in a personal best of 2:20:51, and Ashete Bekere, third in last year’s London Marathon in 2:18:18, who has run 2:17:58 this year.
Ababel Yeshaneh in action at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships Gdynia 2020 (© Dan Vernon)
USA’s Keira D’Amato, who broke the North American record when winning January’s Houston Marathon in 2:19:12 – taking 24 seconds off the mark set by Deena Kastor in 2006 – has answered a late call to join the host nation’s team following the withdrawal of Olympic bronze medallist Molly Seidel.
Seidel has been suffering from a hip injury that forced her to drop out of the Boston Marathon in April and withdrew from the team after being unable to resolve her issue, giving the 37-year-old D’Amato, who only began serious marathon running in 2017, three weeks to prepare, but she is reported to be in “great shape”.
Her teammates will be Emma Bates, runner-up at last year’s Chicago Marathon, and Sara Hall, who finished second at the 2020 London Marathon and third at last year’s Chicago Marathon.
Japan has named Mizuki Matsuda, who has a personal best of 2:20:52, Mao Ichiyama, who has run 2:21:02, and Hitomi Niiya, who has a best of 2:21:17.
Britain will be represented by Rose Harvey, Olympian Jess Piasecki and Charlotte Purdue, who ran a personal best of 2:23:26 in finishing 10th at last year’s London Marathon.
Other names to watch out for are Bahrain’s Eunice Chumba, who ran 2:20:02 in Seoul in April this year, and Israel’s European 10,000m champion Lonah Salpeter, who won the 2020 Tokyo Marathon in 2:17:45 and was going well in the lead group at last year’s Olympic marathon before dropping down to 66th place in the closing stages.
After also dropping out of the 2019 World Championships marathon, Salpeter will be seeking to make the global impact her talent warrants.
Meanwhile Eritrea’s Nazret Weldu, who has run a personal best of 2:21:56 this year, is another one to watch.
Mike Rowbottom for World Athletics