Kenenisa Bekele, an Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 5000m and 10,000m, is an alternate for Ethiopia’s Olympic team in the marathon, his preferred distance since his 26.2-mile debut in 2014.
Ethiopia named an Olympic men’s marathon team of reigning Boston, Tokyo and Dubai Marathon winners Lemi Berhanu Hayle, Feyisa Lelisa and Tesfaye Abera on Thursday.
The women’s team includes 2015 World champion Mare Dibaba, two-time Berlin Marathon winner Aberu Kebede and Aselefech Mergia, who finished second in the 2015 New York City Marathon.
Bekele, 33, could still be named to Ethiopia’s Olympic track team in the 5000m or 10,000m. In the 5000m, he earned silver at the Athens Olympics and gold at the Beijing Olympics. In the 10,000m he took gold in Athens and Beijing and finished fourth in London.
Bekele was the top Ethiopian finisher at the year’s most prestigious marathon in London on April 24.
He was third in 2:06:36 in that paced race, 20 seconds faster than Lelisa’s winning time in Tokyo and two minutes slower than Abera and Hayle went as one-two finishers in Dubai.
The Ethiopian Olympic men’s marathon team is made up of three Olympic rookies.
Lelisa Desisa, the 2013 and 2015 Boston Marathon winner, was also named an alternate.
At the 2012 Olympics, every Ethiopian man dropped out during the marathon for the first time in Olympic history.