Solomon Mutai has always been a man of few words. His eyes often dilate in a company of a smile, in good or bad times.
And ever since he stepped up to take on the marathon race challenge in 2013, it is difficult to fault him.
He is such a consistent performer; something highlighted by two championship medals from his 15 career races since winning his debut 42km race at the 2013 Mombasa Marathon in Kenya.
The man from Bukwo had even produced a personal best of two hours, eight minutes and 25 seconds in third place at the 2019 Vienna Marathon in Austria to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. But even if that was one of the best three qualification times behind Filex Chemonges and Fred Musobo’s, Mutai will not travel to Japan after Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) instead chose Stephen Kiprotich last week.
Nine men had beaten the 2:11:30 qualifying mark for the marathon during the window from January 1, 2019 to April 5, 2020 before the quadrennial Games were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Period of struggle
UAF had instead considered the best times of any of these men if they had run afresh in the second qualifying window from December 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021. Unfortunately, Mutai struggled in cold conditions and could not finish upon suffering a stitch after 33km at the Xiamen Tuscany Marathon in Siena, Italy on April 11. Yet a week later, 2012 Olympic marathon champion Kiprotich produced a solid show to finish fifth in 2:09:04 at the NN Mission Marathon won by Kenyan legend Eliud Kipchoge in Enschede, Netherlands.
“Yeah, I knew (wouldn’t be selected),” Mutai said this week. “… Because I did not perform well in Italy.” The 2013 world champion Kiprotich, Chemonges who was eighth in Enschede with 2:09:59 and Musobo who posted 2:08:04 in Siena, were selected by UAF to compete for the men’s 42km race in Sapporo come August 8.
It means that Mutai will miss representing Uganda at a major championship race for the first time in seven years. He had been a mainstay in the team since taking fourth place at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
“I do not feel disappointed,” the 28-year-old noted. “I will focus on training for other races, and I will pray that our team performs well,” he added.
Mutai has failed just twice to complete a marathon, the first being the night race in Corniche during the 2019 Doha World Championships.
But his talent is undoubted having won a bronze at the 2015 Beijing Worlds and silver from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Like in Beijing, he had also beaten Kiprotich to finish eighth at the Rio Olympics in Brazil five years ago.
Mutai at a glance
Full Name: Solomon Munyo Mutai
Date of Birth: Oct 22, 1992
Home Town: Bukwo
Main Event: Marathon
Personal Best: 2:08:25
Manager: Giani Damadona (Italian)
Coaches: Alex Malinga, Gabriele Rosa
Kit Sponsor: Adidas
RACE TO OLYMPICS
BEST TIMES - UGANDANS
Oct 20, 2019: Filex Chemonges - Toronto Marathon (3rd, 2:05:12)
Apr 7, 2019: Fred Musobo - Daegu Marathon (2nd, 2:06:56)
Apr 7, 2019: Solomon Mutai - Vienna Marathon (3rd, 2:08:25)
Apr 28, 2019: S.Kiprotich - Hamburg Marathon (3rd, 2:08:31)
Jan 19, 2020: Jackson Kiprop - Mumbai Marathon (4th, 2:08:41)
Oct 27, 2019: Robert Chemonges - Rennes Marathon (1st, 2:09:03)
Apr 14, 2019: Alex Chesakit - Dakar Marathon (3rd, 2:16:05)
Nov 22, 2020: Phillip Kiplimo - Dodoma Marathon (1st, 2:17:26)