Marathon runner unknowingly qualifies for the Olympics

Michalis Kalomiris made Greek's Olympic team in the men's marathon thanks to a performance from 2015 and only just found out he qualified.

Michalis Kalomiris

Attorney and runner Michalis Kalomiris spotted a familiar name on the Greek Olympic team one year after the Rome marathon: his own. The 30-year-old unknowingly qualified for the Olympics, as first reported on by Ekathimerini, thanks to a technicality.

Kalomiris finished eighth at the Rome marathon in March 2015 in 2:29:30. The Olympic qualifying standard in the men’s marathon is 2:19:00, meaning he missed the necessary mark by a significant amount.

However, the governing body for international athletics (IAAF) has a regulation that an athlete can qualify for the Olympic marathon if they place in the top-10 at an IAAF Gold Label event. The time does not come into play if an athlete finished in the top 10. The 2015 Rome marathon was a Gold Label event, a distinction given to world class, certified races.

Kalomiris realized he had made the Greek Olympic team this past May, more than a year removed from his performance in Rome. The attorney went through the first 5K in 32nd position but moved his way up to 18th at the halfway point. He continued to pass runners to finish well inside the top 10.

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The attorney who works in Athens runs between 110 and 200 kilometres per week. He finish fifth at the national championships, which according to Ekathimerini, caused uproar on social media as some thought more qualified runners deserved an Olympic roster spot.

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The Greek runner asked for three months off from work when learning of his roster inclusion for the Olympics in order to train more consistently. The time off was granted and he has been training in central Greece in preparation for Rio. Each country can send up to three athletes in the athletics events.

“I would like to think that this story makes everyone involved in running believe more in themselves and keep up the effort,” he says.

The top runner at this year’s marathon is expected to be Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge. The 31-year-old ran 2:03:05 to win the London marathon in April.

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Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis will be representing Canada at the 2016 Summer Olympics in the men’s marathon. The two often train together in Guelph, Ont. with the Speed River Track Club though Coolsaet is now based in nearby Hamilton. The men’s marathon is on Aug. 21, the last day of the Olympics.