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Extras: Video Coverage
2008 USA Men's Olympic Trials - The Favorites: Abdirahman, Keflezighi, Hall
by Sharon Ekstrom
An unarguable fact: the 2008 USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon will include the strongest field of American Marathoners in history. Three men in the field have run sub-2:09 for a marathon. In attendance will be the current American record-holders in the Marathon, Half-Marathon, 20K and 10,000M (notably absent will be the 25K record-holder, Fernando Cabada, who qualified but did not enter the Trials). Six past Olympians will be in the field, not to mention the reigning Silver-Medalist in the Olympic Marathon. Never has American marathoning been as strong as it is and the trials will be a showcase for our sport.
There are seven to ten runners in the field of 134 expected starters who have a legitimate chance of finishing in the top 3 and making the Olympic Team. But there are favorites and the three men listed below should be expected to be on the Olympic Team and well represent the USA - and if we don't see at least one or two of these men on the team we will be very, very surprised. But, as this is a marathon, anything can happen....
The Favorites: Abdi Abdirahman | Meb Keflezighi | Ryan Hall
DOB: 1/1/1977 - Somalia
Home: Tucson, AZ
Coach: Dave Murray
Trials Qualifications: Chicago (Marathon - 10/22/06 - 2:08:56); Hengelo (10000M - 5/28/06 - 27:23); Indianapolis (10000M - 6/23/06 - 28:14); London (5000M - 7/28/06 - 13:19); Heusden (5000M - 7/22/06 - 13:24); Stanford (5000M - 4/29/07 - 13:34)
The Powerhouse. Abdirahman began running late in High School, but by college was a standout in cross-country and track, winning the 5000m and 10000m at the PAC-10 championships and being named PAC-10 cross-country athlete of the year in 1998. Abdirahman became a US citizen on January 28, 2000 and subsequently finished in third place in 10,000 meters (28:19.08) at the 2000 USA Olympic Trials and then 10th in 10,000m (27:46.17) at the 2000 Olympics. In 2004, Abdirahman again represented the USA in the 10,000m at the Olympics, finishing in 15th place (28:26.6). Adirahman debuted in the marathon distance at the 2004 New York City Marathon. His 14th place finish (2:17:09) was disappointing, but did not deter him from focusing on the marathon. Hard work and his passion for excellence, earned him a fifth place the following year at the 2005 New York City Marathon with a 2:11:24 and fourth place at the 2006 Chicago Marathon with a 2:08:56. Adirahman will be a force to be reckoned with at the Trials. His keen strategy mixed with strong early surges along with his drive to make the team will make him a favorite for the US Team.
Why: Abdirahman has the third fastest trials qualification time, 2:08:56 at Chicago 2006, but also has achieved a PR at each of his marathons and has not yet reached his potential. A 60:29 Half-Marathon PR in August 2007 (the second fastest ever for an American) on a tough course in New York City shows that Abdirahman is continually improving. Tough mentally and physically and with strong speed and a hunger to win, Abdirahman is our favorite to win the Olympic Trials Marathon and should be a shoo-in to represent the USA in the Marathon at the Beijing Olympics.
DOB: May 5, 1975 - Asmara, Eritrea
Home: Mammoth Lakes, CA
Coach: Bob Larsen
Trials Qualifications: Boston (Marathon - 4/17/06 - 2:09:56); Indianapolis (10000M - 6/23/06 - 28:19)
The Olympian. Meb Keflezighi became this generation's best-known American running icon after achieving the Olympic Silver Medal in the 2004 Olympics Marathon - joining the pantheon of running greats that include Frank Shorter, Alberto Salazar and Bill Rodgers. From high school standout to NCAA 5000m, 10000m and cross-country champion to the American Record at the 10000m (27:13.98), Keflezighi became the golden child of the sport. His marathon debut at the 2002 New York City Marathon led to a 9th place (2:12:35) and continued hard work and dedication earned him a 7th place the next year at the 2003 Chicago Marathon (2:10:03). Keflezighi competed in both the 10,000 meter and the marathon distances at the 2004 Olympic Trials approached - finishing first at the Olympic Trials 10,000m (27:36.49) and runner-up at the Marathon Olympic Trials (2:11:47) - making the US Olympic team at both events. Fortunately for Keflezighi and the USA, Keflezighi chose to focus on the marathon for the Athens Olympics and his strength and strategy paid off and earned him a silver medal with a 2:11:29 (the first American Marathon medal since 1976). He returned to the US as a hero and a role model and three months later achieved a second place finish at the 2004 New York City Marathon in 2:09:53 (PR). At both the 2005 New York City Marathon and 2006 Boston Marathon, Keflezighi finished in third place with a identical near-PR times of 2:09:56. Keflezighi experienced some setbacks in late 2006/early 2007 including a 2006 New York City Marathon affected by stomach problems and some injuries leading to a DNF at the 2007 London Marathon. But Keflezighi has shown that he is back in peak form with strong summer performances including a 10K road PR of 27:58 and strong 10000m track performance in Europe.
Why: Keflezighi is and will always be a front-runner, often the man who breaks the field in the marathon. In top form, Keflezighi can run with any marathon field and has the strength and speed to push to the end. As the reigning Olympic Silver-Medalist and one of the most experienced marathoners in the field (with 10 marathons started), much of the field will be intimidated by Keflezighi and this will also work to his advantage. While the battle for first place will be fierce, we completely expect Keflezighi to be in that battle and certainly to be one of the top three finishers.
DOB: October 14, 1982 - Big Bear Lake, CA
Home: Palo Alto, CA
Coach: Terrence Mahon
Trials Qualifications: London (Marathon - 4/23/06 - 2:08:24); Palo Alto (10000M - 3/31/07 - 28:08); Heusden (5000M - 7/22/06 - 13:29)
The Newbie. 2007 has been the year of Ryan Hall. In a precursor to what would take place in 2007, Hall, running in Hungary in October 2006, quietly set a new 20K American Record of 57:54 demolishing Abdi Abdirahman's previous record of 58:42 set in 2005. In January 2007, Ryan Hall became a household name setting the American Half-Marathon record of 59:43 at the 2007 U.S. Men's Half Marathon National Championships in Houston. In that performance - Hall's debut at the Half-Marathon - Hall became the first American to break the one-hour mark in the 13.1 mile distance and knocked more than a minute off the previous record. Hall moved onto the marathon distance debuting at the 2007 London Marathon. In that race, Hall ran conservatively in the second pack before surging to join the leaders at mile 14 and remained with the deep front group through mile 24 before falling off to finish in seventh place in 2:08:24. In that marathon, Hall achieved the fastest American debut marathon in history and became the second fastest American marathoner of all-time behind only Khalid Khannouchi. With a resume of victories in prestigious track and cross country championships and at only 25 years old, Hall has merely gotten his feet wet in these longer distances and his impressive debut performances suggest that he has only skimmed the surface of his full potential.
Why: Healthy, Young, Fast and on a roll in 2007... Hall's solo run to set the American Half-Marathon record and his gutsy move into the front pack at the London Marathon show that Hall WILL be in the front of the Olympic Trials Marathon. The only caveat is that Hall's past performances have been on flat courses and he has less experience in the marathon, but Hall has the strength and speed to finish at or near the front of the trials.