Distance-running legend Kenenisa Bekele was left off Ethiopia’s Olympic team despite running the second-fastest marathon in history two years ago.
Bekele, 39, did not run the Ethiopian Olympic Trials in either the marathon are on the track this spring.
He reportedly said the 99-day gap between the marathon trials and the Olympic marathon was too short.
Bekele held the 5000m and 10,000m world records from 2004 until last year, but last raced on the track at the 2016 Olympic Trials, when he failed to finish the 10,000m. Bekele was left off Ethiopia’s Rio Olympic team despite being Ethiopia’s top finisher at that spring’s London Marathon.
Bekele last raced a marathon in Berlin in 2019, when he won in 2:01:41, two seconds off Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge‘s world record.
Bekele was lined up to face Kipchoge in the 2020 London Marathon but withdrew two days before the race, citing a calf injury.
Bekele swept the 2008 Olympic 5000m and 10,000m titles among eight total Olympic or world titles between those events.
The Ethiopian track and field team for Tokyo is led by Olympic rookie Letesenbet Gidey, who in the last nine months lowered the women’s 5000m and 10,000m world records. Gidey is on the team in the 10,000m but not the 5000m. She did not race the shorter event at Trials.
Gudaf Tsegay, the world bronze medalist and indoor world record holder at 1500m, is entered in strictly the 5000m. She won the 5000m at Trials but did not race the 1500m.
The team does not include Almaz Ayana, who won the Rio Olympic 10,000m by taking 14.33 seconds off a 23-year-old world record. Ayana, whose record has since been lowered by 16.42 seconds by Sifan Hassan and Gidey, last raced in 2019.
Also absent: Genzebe Dibaba (women’s 1500m world record holder who didn’t race Trials), Feyisa Lilesa (2016 Olympic men’s marathon silver medalist who last raced in 2018) and Muktar Edris, who won the last two men’s 5000m world titles but was fifth at Trials.