The last gold medal is decided on Sunday morning in the Men's Marathon, and with the betting coffers full-to-the-brim after a successful Olympics, Jack Houghton thinks Ayele Abshero has more potential than anyone in this field. America's Ryan Hall shouldn't be discounted, though, and could sneak a medal.
"Ayele Abshero, as a 21-year-old, recorded the fastest ever debut marathon when winning in Dubai in January, breaking Haile Gebrselassie’s course-record and setting a world-leading time for this year in the process."
At the time of writing, with the action from Day Nine yet to start, our Olympic betting bank stands at +19.93 points. So now, even if all the remaining bets lose, we are guaranteed a profit, unless I go ahead and suggest unloading everything on a beaten men's marathoner, that is...
Men's Marathon (1100hrs, BST):
Quiz question for you: what links Stefano Baldini, Josia Thugwane and Hwang Young-Cho?
Maybe putting Baldini in there gave it away. They are all, of course, former Olympic marathon winners. And they are all typical of major championship marathon winners from the '90s and early-'00s: despite winning what should have been the big race of the year, none of them were considered to be among the world's very best at the distance. Their victories came, in large part, because, during the era of the high-paying city marathon, the best East African runners tended to compete in London, New York and Chicago, where big pay-days were available, rather than running for free at the Olympics, meaning the supposed pinnacle of the sport was usually won by someone who would struggle to win a marathon of note anywhere else.
Sammy Wanjiru competing in, and winning, in a fast time, the 2008 Olympic marathon, though, seemed to herald a change in the event at major championships. And with Kenyan Abel Kirui targeting and winning the last two World Championships, we seem to have entered an era where the East Africans realise that a major championship marathon win can do as much for their career in the long-term as a victory in Dubai can do for their bank balance in the short-term.
With an Ethiopian-Kenyan one-two in the women's marathon, then, are we set for a similar result in the men's equivalent? Well, it certainly looks that way. Ignoring Ryan Hall's remarkable 2.04 in Boston in 2011 - which was set on a descending course, with a strong tailwind - no non-African runner in this field has managed to run sub-2.06, something that those in the Kenyan team - Emmanuel Mutai (11.010/1), Abel Kirui (8.808/1) and Wilson Kipsang (3.505/2) - and Ethiopian team - Ayele Abshero (4.2016/5), Dino Sefir (18.017/1) and Getu Feleke (18.017/1) - seem able to do with ease.
As we saw in the women's race, though, the presence of a lightning-fast field doesn't necessarily mean we'll see a lightning-fast time, especially on this twisting, rhythm-busting course. On that basis, then, it would be foolish to completely discount Ryan Hall (60.059/1). He ran 2.06 in London in 2008 and went on to run admirably in the Beijing Olympics that year, in difficult conditions. I won't be backing him to win, but a small interest in the Top Three market at 11.010/1 could be profitable.
As for those East Africans competing for the top-spot, they're hard to separate. As the winner in London in April, and only the second man to record three, sub-2.05 marathons, Wilson Kipsang has both the recent form and consistency to be a solid bet, and will want to honour the memory of Wanjiru, but I'm not sure his odds are especially attractive in such a competitive race.
Ayele Abshero, as a 21-year-old, recorded the fastest ever debut marathon when winning in Dubai in January, breaking Haile Gebrselassie's course-record and setting a world-leading time for this year in the process. That run put him fourth on the all-time list and demonstrated that he is one of a handful of current young marathoners who can push the world record down towards the two-hour mark. He's inexperienced, but with the most potential in the field, has to be supported at 4.2016/5.
Should Abshero's inexperience undermine him, I'll also be having a saver on Abel Kirui. His times have never excited, and his 6th-place in London in April wasn't inspiring, but his back-to-back wins in World Championship marathons demonstrate that he knows how to get it right when it matters, and 8.808/1 looks on the big side.
½ point back of Ryan Hall at 11.010/1 to medal in Men's Marathon.
2 points back of Ayele Abshero at 4.2016/5 to win Men's Marathon.
1 point back of Abel Kirui at 8.808/1 to win Men's Marathon.