Bekele Pulls Out of Marathon Trials in Protest


Apparently Bekele has pulled out of this weekend's Ethiopian Trials in protest of the Athletics Association's decision to change how the marathon team would be selected. Previously the team would have been selected based upon the fastest time during the qualifying window but now selection is being pegged to the top three finishers at the 35k time trial.

/tinfoil hat time

Bekele has not raced a marathon since Berlin in September 2019, having pulled out of London 2020. Longevity in sport has always been incredibly fascinating for me (Tom Brady, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, etc...) and despite Bekele's 2:01 performance in Berlin I suppose you cannot ignore the fact that he will be 39 when Tokyo rolls around. Bekele's letter specifically states that he is healthy (methinks the lady dost protest too much?) but that he is refusing based upon the shifting goal posts and that the trial itself is too close to the games. On the flipside, if Bekele is actually no longer fit, this seems to be an attempt by the Association to boot him off the team without actually having to do so.

The dispute paves the way for an interesting legal battle if everyone holds course. The article suggests that Bekele would prevail if it came to that but, very curiously, that he would have to consider "another option" otherwise. I am wholly unfamiliar with the rules of the Olympics but that reads to me as he may consider running for another nation (assuming he has eligibility).

Just a fun little bit of drama to further spice up the upcoming games!
Zero appearance fees for Tokyo Olympics kinda informs me of his truest motivation here. He could nab one or two large appearance fees at WMM events later this year -- especially given the lack of spring paydays at that level this year -- and skipping (a possible bad performance that would drop his stock at) the Tokyo Olympics keeps his options open there; he just has to avoid appearing that he's intentionally skipping the Tokyo Olympics. Regardless of his income prospects at the Tokyo Olympics (he would stand to win prize money and sponsor bonus for high placing, especially a medal), the Games themselves remain an anything-but-sure prospect even at this late hour. Threatening lawsuit looks like a publicity stunt and Association is right to slant selection in favor of younger athletes.