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Kenyan-born marathoner clears paperwork to represent S. Korea at Tokyo 2020

Oh Joo-han, a Kenyan-born marathoner with South Korean citizenship, will be able to represent his adopted country at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics after clearing paperwork with the International Association of Athletics Federations, his agent said Wednesday.

According to Oh Chang-seok, a former men's national marathon coach who helped the Kenyan-born runner with his naturalization, the IAAF recently announced that the 30-year-old marathoner can be formally selected for the South Korean national team starting March 7.


Originally, the IAAF said that Oh Joo-han can run for South Korea starting in August 2021. But after reviewing his national team eligibility, the IAAF changed its decision.

"We first requested the IAAF to review Oh's national team eligibility in December 2018, but it told us to submit additional documents that can prove his residential history in South Korea,"

Oh Chang-seok said. "So, we submitted notarized documents from Cheongyang County Governor and his lawyer, and we passed the status reexamination."

Born Wilson Loyanae Erupe, Oh acquired his South Korean passport last September. Under a new rule by the IAAF on transfers of allegiance, athletes must wait three years after switching allegiance before they can represent their adopted country.

Previously, athletes who hadn't represented their native country only had to wait one year to compete for their adopted country.

But Chang-seok thought that Oh's case could be subject to review. After Oh completed his naturalization process, with help of the Korea Association of Athletics Federations, he requested the IAAF to reexamine the case.

"Oh has been affiliated with Cheonyang County (in South Chungcheong Province) since 2015 and he has only been competing in marathon events in South Korea," Chang-seok said. "We emphasized this history to the IAAF and it took a long time for the IAAF to recognize."

With paperwork cleared, Oh will now aim to win bronze at Tokyo 2020 for South Korea.

"Oh will compete in an international marathon event in September and will try to pass the Tokyo Olympic qualifying standard time (of 2 hours, 11 minutes, 30 seconds)," Chang-seok said. "Oh's target is to stand on the podium at the Tokyo Olympics for South Korea in August 2020."

Chang-seok said he create a good environment for Oh to only focus on training.

"When Oh first heard that he can represent South Korea starting in 2021, he looked disappointed, but now he can work hard with high motivation," Chang-seok said. "Oh's wife and his children in Kenya will also come to South Korea."

Although Oh will be able to run for his adopted country at the Olympics, there are still other issues to overcome. According to the KAAF, recognizing Oh's record as a South Korean's is another matter.

"The IAAF recent decision on Oh's national team eligibility is something of an exception," a KAAF official said. "There is the possibility that we can discuss Oh's records in the future, but at this point we will accept three-year probation period on Oh's records."

This means even if Oh breaks the South Korean marathon record at the Tokyo Olympics, his time will not be recognized by the KAAF.

"If Oh wins a medal at the Tokyo Olympics, we will give him a prize under the KAAF rule, but recognizing his time also should be discussed under the KAAF rule," the official said. (Yonhap)