Timothy Cheruiyot, the 1500m world champion, was called up Wednesday to join the Kenyan Olympic team as four other athletes were dropped eight days before the Games, team officials said.
Cheruiyot finished fourth in trials in June after aggravating a hamstring injury and suffering a family bereavement and was left out of Team Kenya altogether.
But the 25-year-old middle distance runner won in the Stockholm and Monaco Diamond League meetings this month to stake a claim for a team spot.
“I am thrilled to be part of the Kenyan Olympic team. I am in better shape than I was during the trials and I promise to deliver a medal for Kenya in Tokyo,” Cheruiyot, a favourite for gold, told AFP.
Kenya last won an Olympic 1500m gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing when Asbel Kiprop was awarded the medal after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi was disqualified for doping.
Cheruiyot replaces the unheralded teenager Kamar Etiang, who finished second at the trials but was dropped for not complying with Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) doping measures requiring three out-of-competition tests in the last 10 months, Kenyan athletics officials said.
Other athletes who have been dropped are racewalkers Samuel Gathimba and Emily Ngii and 400m hurdler Moitalel Mpoke.
Kenya will send 40 athletes, mainly runners, to the July 23 to August 8 Olympics.