Johannesburg - Veteran distance runner Hendrick Ramaala faded to 33rd place in the Paris marathon on Sunday, failing in his final bid for a record Olympic appearance.
Ramaala, who crossed the line in 2:17.57 in the French capital, remained the fourth fastest South African during the qualifying period, with only three spots available in the country's marathon team for the London Games in July.
Having already clocked 2:12.22 in Dubai in February, dipping below the 2:15.00 qualifying standard, the 40-year-old from Johannesburg needed to go under 2:11.09 to join the provisional squad for the London Games.
With only a few international marathons left during the qualifying period, Stephen Mokoka, who won the national 10 000m title on the track at the weekend, looks set to spearhead the SA trio in London after he clocked 2:10.29 in Shanghai in December.
Coolboy Ngamole (2:10.43) and Lusapho April (2:11.09) are next in line to join Mokoka at the start line in the quadrennial showpiece.
With no time left to make another bid for a place in the team, Ramaala will be left relying on the withdrawal of one of his countrymen in an effort to become the first South African to compete in five successive Olympic Games.
Ramaala made his Olympic debut at the Atlanta Games in 1996, at the age of 24, when he was eliminated in the heats of the men's 10 000m event.
Four years later, in Sydney, only six months after making his debut over the classic 42.2km distance, he finished 12th.
He failed to finish the marathon at the Athens Games in 2004, among 21 runners who dropped out in challenging conditions, and in Beijing four years ago he trailed home in 44th place.