Nairobi News


Kenyans in US Army miss 2020 Olympics marathon slots

On Saturday, five Kenyan-born athletes took to the field in the United States to try and qualify to represent their new country at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but failed to make the cut.

The five, 2LT Elkanah Kibet, SSG Augustus Maiyo, SGT Leonard Korir, SGT Samuel Kosgei and SPC Haron Lagat are all soldiers in the US Army.


The battle for the second and third spots for the Olympics came down to a sprint. Jake Riley and Abdi Abdirahman held off a fierce charge from Sergeant Korir in the home stretch.

Korir came in fourth hence missing the chance to represent his new country in the Olympics. Maiyo came in fifth, Langat was 13th and Kibet 16th.

Kenyan-born Sally Kipyego will however represent the US in the women’s marathon after finishing third in 2:29:03 at the trials.

Kenyan-born american soldiers 2LT Elkanah Kibet (left) and SSG Augustus Maiyo. PHOTOS | COURTESY
Kenyan-born american soldiers 2LT Elkanah Kibet (left) and SSG Augustus Maiyo. PHOTOS | COURTESY

Kipeygo heads to her second Olympics after winning the 2012 Olympic 10,000m silver medal for Kenya.

She made her marathon debut with a runner-up finish at the 2016 New York City Marathon and became an American citizen a year later.

Kenyans have dominated the Olympic medals podium in distance running for more than 20 years.


Kenyan-born runners also dominate the roster of the US Army World Class Athlete Program WCAP track and field team.

WCAP is open to everyone in the Army who can meet the tough entry standards.

They were born and raised and started running in the highlands of Kenya. They got athletic scholarships to American universities. After college, they enlisted in the US Army, which non-citizens with legal residency may do.

Military service provides a fast-track to US citizenship, and not just for soldier-athletes. Normally, a green card holder has to wait five years to apply to naturalize.

But after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Congress voted to allow immigrants in the military to apply as soon as they wanted.

Because of this, Kenyan-born soldiers Paul Chelimo, Shadrack Kipchirchir and Leonard Korir receive citizenship in time to compete for a spot on this year’s US Olympic team.