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Measuring Up The US Marathon Olympic Medal Chances

posted by The Track & Field Superblog
Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 8:06pm EST

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Now that all the dust has settled from the Olympic Trials marathons, what about the team we’ve selected? What are their medal chances?

First off, I don’t think there’s much doubt that we ended up with our best team possible. The only pre-race favorite for either race that didn’t finish in the top three was Dathan Ritzenhein. In his case, he might not have been a favorite if we had known Abdi Abdirahman was in 2:09 shape.

On the men’s side, we’ve got as good a chance at an Olympic marathon medal as any nation besides Kenya and Ethiopia…which is to say, not much chance.

Given the complete and total dominance of the distance in 2011 by Kenyan men (won all 20 of the biggest races, took top 9 of 10 spots in TFN World Rankings), most observers would say a Kenyan sweep is a distinct possibility. I think it’s unlikely. Since WWII, only once has a single nation won two of the three men’s medals up for grabs (and it’s never happened on the women’s side). Kenya only gets three entries, so a sweep would require a flawless performance by the athletes (and the Athletics Kenya selectors, too). A lot can go wrong in 26.2 miles.

In any case, there will be a hundred or so runners all trying to grab the one or two medals not taken by Kenya. Any of Ethiopia’s three entries are your best bet, followed by maybe ten or fifteen entries from other nations. That makes the USA’s odds rather long. However, unlike past years, we have three good runners instead of one or two, and that triples our chances. I’d give it 10%.

The women’s side is a completely different story. Any three of our entries could win a medal. Flanagan has won medals at the Olympic 10k and at the World Cross Country, something very few active athletes have done, and none of those are still ascending the ladder like Flanagan. Davila and Goucher both bring significant talent and skills as well. I’d give it a 50% shot for the USA’s women to win a medal, and that might be a bit conservative.

All in all, I think it’s more likely than not that the USA will win an Olympic marathon medal this summer. The only other times this could have been said were 1976 and 1984.

News Headlines

Runner’s World’s Daily News has all the headlines: Nick Symmonds’ winning eBay bid, Shannon Rowbury announced for the Millrose Games, and more.

Let’s Run’s analysis of the women’s marathon trials.

That women’s race shattered records for depth.

Field for Millrose women’s 400 announced.

This week’s House of Run podcast is up.

This week’s Run Junkie…

Watch more video of Run Junkie on flotrack.org

This week’s RunnerSpace Live…

On the Tube (and Series of Tubes)

Bud Greenspan Presents: Beijing 2008 – America’s Olympic Glory, 2:00 PM today on SHO Extreme

Bud Greenspan’s Athens 2004: Stories of Olympic Glory, 5:00 AM tomorrow on SHO Extreme

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