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The extremely unexpected American women’s Olympic marathon team

Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel and Sally Kipyego are the 2020 American Olympic marathoners

Saturday was a race billed to be a battle between Jordan Hasay, Molly Huddle, Sara Hall, Emily Sisson and Des Linden, but not one of those women made the 2020 U.S. Olympic team in the marathon. Linden came the closest, finishing in fourth, a heartbreaking 11 seconds shy of qualification. On Saturday it was Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel and Sally Kipyego who qualified. All three women have very different stories, but what they share is that none of them were obvious favourites.

Tuliamuk was the winner in 2:27:23. The Hoka athlete, who trains with the NAZ Elite in Flagstaff, owns a 2:26:50 personal best and ran just over that time on Saturday (on the very hilly Atlanta course). She wasn’t in the lead until mile 20.

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For the first half, the women ran as a pack of 20 at a conservative pace (on track for a 2:29 finish), trading the lead between the expected contenders.

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Moments before the gun, an antsy Jordan Hasay false started, but thankfully there’s no penalty for false starting a road race. Hasay dropped back from the lead group just after the halfway mark. She finished 26th.

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Second place went to Seidel, who was a standout high school runner (a former Nike Footlocker National Cross-Country champion). She attended the University of Notre Dame where she was an NCAA All-American in the 10,000m. She ran a 1:09:35 half-marathon in Houston in January to qualify for the race. Saturday was her marathon debut, and an impressive one it was–no other American woman has made the Olympic marathon team in her first marathon. She finished in 2:27:31, and this will be her first Olympics.

Kipyego was third and qualified for her second team, but it will be her first time representing the U.S. The runner gave birth only two years ago, and her child was at the trials to cheer her on. Kipyego describes coming back from pregnancy as difficult, but worth it (she described the final two miles of the race similarly). Kipyego snagged a silver medal in the 10,000m at the 2012 Olympics, representing Kenya.

The full men’s recap can be found here.