London Marathon: Tsegai Tewelde and Callum Hawkins make British Olympic team

• Scots claim two Olympic berths as fastest British men
• Ally Dixon and Sonia Samuels qualify for women’s team at Rio 2016

Tsegai Tewelde bears the scars on his forehead from a landmine that exploded next to him when he was eight, killing his friend and wounding him in five places. The Eritrea-born athlete has rarely stopped running since. He claimed asylum in Scotland in 2008 after authorities ruled he was likely to face persecution back home. And in his first marathon, he summoned a performance of immense willpower to run 2:12:23 – a time good enough to qualify for the British Olympic team this summer.

When asked what it meant to be representing his new country, the 25-year-old began to gently sob. “I had a bomb accident when I was eight years old,” he said. “I had a serious injury, five places on my body, scar on my head. I’m feeling very, very tired after the race but I got through it. I will try my best for Rio.”

It is not uncommon for Tewelde and his group of five other Eritreans, who claimed asylum after competing in the world cross-country championships because they faced being conscripted into the army and being beaten, to be seen running along the Clyde in Glasgow fuelled by a diet of macaroni, meat, fruit and black tea with six spoonfuls of sugar. But he was not on British Athletics’ radar until Sunday’s life-altering performance.

Tewelde will be joined in Rio by the exciting young Scot Callum Hawkins, who outlined his enormous talent by being the first British athlete home in 2:10.52, a time good enough for eighth place.

The 23-year-old, who was running only his second marathon, was even good enough to pass the world record holder Dennis Kimetto near the finish, much to his delight. “I saw his vest and recognised his colours and thought ‘surely not,’” he said, smiling. “Then I passed him and he tried to hold on for a bit. I knew it was just because he was struggling but it’s still amazing to get that scalp. He’s the world record holder.”

Only the top two British men and women at London are guaranteed selection for Rio, but Hawkins hopes that his older brother Derek, who was the third best male in 2:12:57, will also get the nod. “It would be unbelievable having my brother and training partner right beside me,” he said.

The elder Hawkins intends to do his utmost to persuade selectors to include him when they announce the squad on Tuesday. “I’m outside the top 32 in the rankings but I’ll lobby until I’m blue in the face,” he said. “I managed to beat Scott Overall and Chris Thompson, who have run 2:10, 2:11, and I was inside the British qualifying standard on the day. I was over six minutes inside the IAAF standard. I was first Brit at the Commonwealth Games so I hope that shows I’ve a history of performing on the day.”

In the women’s race, Ally Dixonand Sonia Samuels both confirmed their places in Rio by being the first British women home. Dixon, who finished in 2:31:53, just ahead of Samuels, said: “It feels like a dream. It hasn’t sunk in. It’s something I have dreamed of for 20 years. At 24 miles my legs started to cramp and I was thinking ‘Please, God, don’t.’ But I found something at the end to come through.”


Sean Ingle

The GuardianTramp

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