US Olympic Team In Risky Situation Following Valencia Marathon

USATF may not select the fastest three from Olympic trials...but may not even get to send three to begin with

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The Valencia Marathon, which took place on December 3, 2023, was nothing short of thrilling. 

The flat course has a long history of producing fast times and record-breaking performances.

This year, Ethiopian runner Sisay Lemma set a new course record after running a time of 2:01:48. He bettered the previous course record, which was set by current world record holder, Kelvin Kiptum, of 2:01:53 from last year’s edition.

Alongside Lemma’s outstanding performance, compatriot Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia took down the Masters world record in the marathon after placing fourth with a time of 2:04:19.

Frankfurt Marathon 2015 Old Nidda Bridge, Frankfurt-Nied, Wilfred Kirwa Kigen, Sisay Lemma Kasaye
Photo Credit: Je Luf

Although there were many reasons to celebrate the incredible performances from the Valencia Marathon, it was bad news for Olympic hopefuls for the men’s marathon from the USA. 

Coming into the Valencia Marathon, Team USA only had two runners unlock guaranteed spots by running the Olympic qualifying time (2:08:10). These were Conner Mantz and Clayton Young, who went under standard at the Chicago Marathon.

For the US to claim their third spot, they would need to have an athlete ranked in the top 65 of the filtered Road to Paris list, published and updated by World Athletics, by January 30.

Team USA was in a good spot to clench that third spot, with Scott Fauble ranked 62nd, and less than two months until the cutoff date.

Great Edinburgh International Cross Country 2016 – Senior Men's 8 km
Photo Credit: Ian Robertson

It would take multiple athletes from countries who did not already have three qualifiers and were ranked below Fauble to run the Olympic standard at the Valencia Marathon, to jeopordize Team USA’s third spot.

Thanks to Valencia’s fast course, that’s exactly what took place.

At the race, the top 28 finishers all ran under the Olympic standard of 2:08:10. Most importantly, four of these athletes were from countries that had yet to qualify three men and were ranked below Fauble.

The athletes who ran auto qualifiers and are now ranked ahead of Fauble include:

  • Shokhrukh Davlyatov (UZB) 2:07:02
  • Samuel Barata (PRT) 2:07:35
  • Khalid Choukoud (NLD) 2:07:37
  • Alberto Gonzalez Mindez (GTM) 2:07:40

As a result of these athletes achieving the Olympic standard this past Sunday, Fauble is now ranked at number 66. However, this could change as Rwanda’s John Hakizimana has recently been served a two-year ban for doping.

Clayton Young at the 2023 Chicago Marathon where he finished 7th overall
Photo Credit: Chad Veal

From now until the January 30 cutoff date, no top American men will be running a marathon, and the US will not have three guaranteed spots when the Olympic Trials take place on February 3.

It is still likely that the US will still have three men compete in the marathon at the 2024 Olympics. The Road to Paris list contains numerous athletes from countries that already have three qualified and cannot send more.

The story surrounding the US Olympic marathon team continues to get interesting beyond the number of athletes they will send.

Conner Mantz at the 2023 Chicago Marathon
Photo Credit: Chad Veal

Typically, the top three finishers at the US Olympic Trials qualify for the Olympics. However, if Team USA earns its final spot on April 30th (from rankings), it may not go to the third-place finisher from the Olympic Trials.

The third spot would go to the highest ranked runner in the world rankings. For example, let’s say at the Olympic Trials the top four finishers are, Galen Rupp, Zach Panning, Clayton Young, and Scott Fauble. 

Rupp and Panning would earn Team USA’s guaranteed two spots. If the US got its third spot, it would not automatically go to Young or Fauble. Rather, it would likely go to Mantz (who isn’t even in our hypothetical top four) since his world ranking is the highest.

With less than two months until the Olympic Trials, runners and fans alike are slightly in the dark about USATF’s selection policy. What are your thoughts? Should it be the top three from the trials or based on world rankings?

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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