The top favorites:
- Luke Kibet (KEN) - 2007 World Champion in Osaka. Recovering after being hit in the head by a stone by post-elections rioters.
- Mubarak Hassan Shami (QAT) - Kenyan-born 2nd Place finisher 2007 in Osaka.
- Tsuyoshi Ogata (JPN) - 4th in 2007 and 3rd in 2004 WC. He is hoping for "terrible conditions," which means "humid enough that you feel like you're going to die" to slow down the pace.
- Stefano Baldini (ITL) - Defending Olympic champ says bring on the heat and humidity but is nursing a thigh injury. Says he runs 8000km/year
- Samuel Kamau Wanjiru (KEN) - Trains in Japan and is the record holder in the half-marathon record holder. Winner in Fukuoka and 2nd in London.
- Viktor Röthlin (SUI) - 3rd in Osaka. Should be there with the pack. Trained in Kenya for ten years. Trains with Martin Lel.
- Jaouad Gharib (MAR) - 2005 and 2003 World Champion. Solid champ.
- Abderrahim Goumri (MAR) – 3rd in Marathon debut in London 2:05:30!
- Martin Lel (KEN) – Prolific marathon winner. 1st in London has the second fastest time of the year behind Haile.
- Yared Asmerom (ERI) – 4th in Osaka, tough runner. Good medal chances.
Some of the dark horse include:
- Abderrahime Bouramdane (MAR) – 2nd in Boston but 25th in Osaka
- Ryan Hall (USA) – 5th in London ahead of Deriba Merga.
- Julio Rey (ESP) - Has the pedigree and Spanish runner do well in hot weather. He has a PB under 2:07.
- Satoshi Osaki (JPN) – 6th in Osaka.
- Samson Ramadhani (TAN) -5th place in Athens but 25th in Osaka. Has what it takes to medal but has not run a marathon since Osaka.
- Janne Holmén (FIN) – 9th in Osaka,. Slow runner with an outside shot if it is very hot.
- José Manuel Martínez :- 10th in Osaka, 9th in Athens and 2008 Winner in Madrid.
Having watched how Gete Wami and Berhane Adere wilted in the streets of Beijing one can conclude that the preparation for the Beijing Olympics was totally inadequate. The Ethiopian prospects are poor. Even Haile picks Martin Lel to win.
If an Ethiopian win’s a medal it’s due to individual effort. Gashaw Asfaw’s 14th place finish was the top Ethiopian performance in Osaka. He is a very smart runner. Of the three Ethiopians he has the slowest PB. While not a medal pick his experience in Osaka and Hilsenki should help him.
Deriba Merga was 2nd in Fukuoka last December and 6th in London. He is a fine Marathoner and has the talent to run with the big boys but his inexperience and weather conditions could limit him. For sure, Ethiopia’s poor preparation will hurt him. To win a medal he will have to run a smart race.
The story among the Ethiopians is the amazing Tsegaye Kebede who continues to surprise even himself. He is was the winner in Paris this year in 2:06:40 in only his second international Marathon. In Paris this year, he shaved 1 ½ minutes off his Amsterdam début of 2:08:16. Like Deriba his inexperience and poor team preparation will hurt his chances. Tsegay Kebede is a natural and if he wins a medal it’s because of his superior talent. The last Ethiopian Marathon winner was also the Paris Marathon winner.
No need to get too excited about this race. One thing I am glad to see is the new talent. Having new talent does not hurt. Who can forget Gezahenge Abera’s and Tesfaye Tola’s run in 2000.