Paul Chelimo is on his way to the Tokyo Olympics after a strong, winning performance in the 5,000m event at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene. This will be his second Olympic Games.
There's a chance that Grant Fisher and Woody Kincaid, who finished 2nd and 3rd in the US trials in the 5,000m may opt to participate only in the 10,000m event in Tokyo. Both Woody Kincaid and Grant Fisher have qualified for the US team in the 10,000m as well.
They may skip the 5,000m to maximize their medal chances. Both of them will be at their maiden Olympics and the 10,000m event final is before the 5,000m event at Tokyo.
Paul Chelimo still represents the best chance for the US to medal in the 5,000m at the Tokyo Olympics as his performance at the US Olympic trials showed.
Paul Chelimo - new generation of US professional athletes
Paul Chelimo also represents a new crop of US athletes, who were not born in the US. He was born in Kenya, did his collegiate education in the US and was a successful collegiate athlete.
He then chose to join the World Class Athlete Program of the US Army and ran under that banner, becoming a US citizen along the way. He then left that program to become a professional athlete under the American Distance Project, a non-profit of competitive athletes.
While Paul isn't the first non-US born athlete to represent the US at the Olympics, he is perhaps the second most famous among distance runners.
Meb Keflezighi, the Eritrean-born runner who won silver in the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics and then won the 2014 Boston Marathon, is perhaps the most famous. Meb moved to the US with his family, when he was still a kid.
Paul Chelimo could well become the next Meb, should he medal at the Tokyo Olympics and switch to a road-running career after that.
Paul Chelimo - experienced international competitor
In addition to being the fastest member of the US 5,000m men's team, Paul Chelimo also has the experience of having raced with the best and medalling.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Paul Chelimo finished 2nd behind Mo Farah in the 5,000m event, briefly looking like he could catch up on the final straight. He also finished behind Mo Farah at the 2017 London World Athletics Championships, winning the bronze, as Farah was himself beaten by Muktar Edris to the gold.
Paul Chelimo has strong competition at the Tokyo Olympics
Neither Farah nor Edris will be in the 5,000m at Tokyo though, having been replaced by much faster, younger rivals from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda, the current world record holder in the 5,000m (and the 10,000m) is arguably the favorite to win gold. His compatriot Jacob Kiplimo still needs to qualify and is attempting to do so at a meet in Europe on June 29. If he does so, he will be another favorite to medal in the 5,000m.
June 29 is the last day of the Olympic qualifying window for the Tokyo Olympics.
The Ethiopians, led by Selomon Barega, and the Kenyans, led by Nicholas Kimeli, represent strong medal contenders. That's not to forget the young Jakob Ingebrigtsen. With all these athletes, Chelimo is perhaps a longshot to feature on the 5,000m podium.
That is in line with his World Athletics ranking in 2021 for the 5,000m, below all of the above mentioned athletes. But then Paul Chelimo can be a special threat on raceday, especially if it gets as hot and humid as it did in Eugene on the last day of the US Olympic trials.
His finish there didn't earn him many admirers as he deliberately drifted from lane 1 to 4, making his rivals work harder.
Paul Chelimo - fast and occasionally furious
Neither Kincaid nor Fisher begrudged him that tactic, with Fisher even saying he may have done so himself if he had been in the lead, as Chelimo was.
But Chelimo has been in trouble before, in his silver-medal finish at Rio where he warded off Edris (eventually disqualified) as they fought for space while chasing Farah. Paul Chelimo was initially disqualified and his name removed from the results but later restored to his position on appeal.
If Paul Chelimo succeeds in winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics, he will add another chapter to a long and interesting story.
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