Kenyan-Born Korir Switches Allegiance: Joins Team USA for Olympics

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– Korir secures Olympic spot.

– World Athletics expands marathon field.

– Uncertainty resolved after four months.

– Additional spots allocated based on rankings.

After a period of uncertainty lasting four months, Kenyan bor– Leonard Korir can finally breathe a sigh of relief. 

The third-place finisher at the Olympic Marathon Trials in February can now focus on intensive training, as it has been confirmed that he will be participating in the Olympic Marathon on August 10.

On June 4, World Athletics, the global governing body for track and field, made a surprising decision to expand the men’s field for the Olympic Marathon. Although they initially capped the field at 80 participants, they made an unexpected adjustment by adding four additional spots based on world rankings. One of these spots was allocated to the United States. Additionally, World Athletics included a “universality” spot for Mongolia, a practice where a limited number of spots are reserved for athletes from various countries, regardless of whether they have met the Olympic qualifying standards.

The Backstory

Unlike at most Olympic trials races, when Korir placed third at the marathon trials in Orlando on February 3, he didn’t immediately know if he would run in the Olympics. 

Before the trials, the U.S. men had unlocked only two of the three potential spots allotted per country. World Athletics established qualifying procedures to fill each of the 80-runner Olympic marathon fields. Runners could unlock a spot for their country one of three ways during the 18-month qualifying period that ended on May 5: run a qualifying time (2:08:10 for men) on a record-eligible course, have a high enough ranking in World Athletics’ complicated points system, or finish in the top five in certain top-tier marathons. Once a country’s runners unlock the three spots, that country’s federation can name any three of its runners who have met those standards or a slower time standard (2:11:30 for men).

Leonard Korir Profile

Leonard started running in 2008, while still in high school in Kenya. He found inspiration in world-renowned Kenyan runners like Paul Tergat.

 He ran cross country and track for Iona College, and enlisted in the Army in 2015. Leonard didn’t rest after graduating basic training.

 He instead launched into a grueling training schedule to prepare for the Olympics – and made the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. Since then, the Olympian has continued to see his personal bests get better and better.

Track and Field

Sport:Track and Field


Hometown:Iten, Kenya

High School:Kipsangui High

College:Iona College

Joined Army:September 2015



3rd place – USATF Marathon Olympic Trials, Orlando, FL


2nd place – USATF Half Marathon Championship, Fort Worth, TX 2020

U.S. Olympic Team Alternate (Marathon)


2nd place – USATF 15Km Road Race Championships, Jacksonville, FL

1st place – USATF Half Marathon Road Championship, Indianapolis, IN

1st place – USATF 25Km Road Race Championships, Grand Rapids, MI

1st place – BAA 10K Road Race, Boston, MA

3rd place – USATF 8K Road Race Championship, Kingsport, TN

2nd place – USATF 20K Road Race Championship, New Haven, CT

2nd place – USATF 10K Road Race Championship, New York, NY


3rd place – Olympic Trials Qualifier, Virginia Beach, VA (5,000m)


4th place – Great Stirling Cross Country, Stirling, Scotland (8K)

3rd place – USATF Cross Country Championship, Tallahassee, FL

2nd place – USATF 15K Championship, Jacksonville, FL

1st Place – USATF Half Marathon Championship, Pittsburgh, PA

5th place – Nijmegen 10,000m Nijmegen, Netherlands

3rd place – 2019 Outdoor National Championships, Des Moines, IA

1st place – Falmouth Road Race, Falmouth, MA (7 Mile)

1st place – USATF 20K Championships, New Haven, CT


1st place – Great Edinburgh Cross Country International Challenge, Edinburgh, Scotland (8K)

1st place – 2018 USATF Cross Country Championships, Tallahassee, FL (10K)

1st place – USATF 15K Championship, Jacksonville, FL

3rd place – Falmouth Road Race, Falmouth, MA (7-Mile)

1st place – USATF 20K Road Race Championship, New Haven, CT

2nd place – USATF 10-Mile Championship, Minneapolis, MN


1st place – Great Edinburgh Cross Country International Challenge, Edinburgh, Scotland (8K)

2nd place – USATF 10 Mile Championship, Minneapolis, MN

3rd place – New Delhi Half Marathon, New Delhi, India

1st place – Houston Half Marathon, Houston, TX

1st place – U.S. Cross Country Championship, Bend, OR

1st place – 15k National Championship, Jacksonville, FL

1st place – USATF Half Marathon Championship, Columbus, OH

2nd place – BolderBoulder 10K, Boulder, CO

3rd place – USATF Outdoor Championships, Sacramento, CA (10,000m)

1st place – 10K National Championship, Atlanta, GA

2nd place – Falmouth Road Race, Falmouth, MA (7 Mile)

2nd place – 20K National Championship, New Haven, CT


1st place – Stanford Invitational, Palo Alto, CA (10,000m)

2nd place – Hoka One Middle Distance Classic, Los Angeles, CA (5,000m)

3rd place – Olympic Trials, Eugene, OR (10,000m)(Qualified for Olympic Team)

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