CBC Sports’s Doug Harrison tweeted today that former Canadian marathon record holder Rachel Cliff, considered to be a strong contender for a spot on Canada’s women’s Olympic marathon team, will not race The Marathon Project in Arizona on December 20 after all. Cliff has been dealing with tendinitis in her right ankle for more than a year, according to Harrison, and her coach feels that a possible extended recovery from a December marathon could negatively impact her ability to prepare for Tokyo.
Vancouver's @Dangerous_Cliff will not compete at the @MarathonProj on Dec. 20 in Chandler, Ariz., because of right ankle tendinitis she's been dealing with on and off the past 18 months. @BC_Athletics @CBCOlympics @cbcsports @AthleticsCanada pic.twitter.com/Ik8cWoTGXn
— Doug Harrison (@harrisoncbc) December 11, 2020
It’s a calculated risk for Cliff. So far, 2019 Canadian marathon champion Dayna Pidhoreskyis the only Canadian woman named to the Olympic team. Cliff ran her PB of 2:26:56, which is well under the Olympic standard of 2:29:30 and set a new Canadian record in the event, in Japan in early 2019 (within the Olympic qualifying window). Ideally she would have run another marathon to (hopefully) improve on her time, and she was planning to run the Tokyo Marathon before the elite field was reduced, and now the Marathon Project. But Malindi Elmore broke Cliff’s record at Houston in January 2020 with a 2:24, and is considered a shoe-in for the second spot on the team for Tokyo. That leaves one remaining spot.
Canadian 10K record holder Natasha Wodak and 2018 Canadian marathon champion Kinsey Middleton will also be vying for the Olympic standard in Arizona. Wodak will be running her first marathon since debuted at the distance in 2013, when she ran 2:35, but based on her current fitness, she will likely smash that. Middleton’s PB is 2:32:09. If either of them can beat Cliff’s 2:26, they could be going to Tokyo.
Canadians have until the end of May 2021 to qualify in the marathon.
2019 Canadian Marathon Championships runner-up Emily Setlack was planning to race in Arizona also, and she would have been a likely contender for that third spot, but Canadian Running has learned that she, too, has dropped from the Dec. 20 race.
Cliff also pulled out of this year’s Tokyo Marathon, which was reduced in size due to COVID-19.
So far, 2019 Canadian marathon champion Trevor Hofbauer and race walker Evan Dunfee are the only other Canadians besides Pidhoresky with a confirmed ticket to Tokyo. The qualifying window for athletes competing in track events opened on December 1.
The women’s marathon is scheduled to take place in Sapporo on Saturday, August 7.
The Canadian men set to race in Arizona are Canadian marathon record holder Cam Levins, Rory Linkletter, Ben Preisner and Justin Kent. Preisner and Kent will be making their marathon debuts.