No Beijing Double for Bekele, No Predictions from Gebreselassie-Hengelo Preview, by Bob Ramsak, Track Profile


Photos: Kenenisa Bekele, Haile Gebrselassie (c) Bob Ramsak/TRACK PROFILE Report



By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2008 TRACK PROFILE Report, all rights reserved

HENGELO, The Netherlands – Speaking to reporters on the eve of his 2008 European debut, Kenenisa Bekele ruled out an Olympic 5000/10,000m double at this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing.

"It's very tough to run a double at the Olympics," said Bekele, who four years ago in Athens followed up his commanding 10,000m victory with a runner-up finish in the 5000. "I ran many kilometers in a few days in Athens, and I lost a lot of power."

His decision to focus solely on the defense of his 10,000m crown won't however preclude assaults on his 5000m world record of 12:37.35, beginning with his outing at Saturday's Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in this pleasant eastern Dutch city.

"I think if the conditions are right, then maybe I can run a fast time." Two, possibly three pacesetters will assist, hoping to bring the Ethiopian through 3000m in 7:37 or 7:38, if, as Bekele's manager Jos Hermens points out, "They can take him that far."

Pacing has become a larger problem in recent years for Bekele, who is also targeting his 10,000m mark of 26:17.53, at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., on June 8.

"Both records are tough," he said, explaining that maintaining a 60 to 61 second per lap pace over 5000m on his own is no easy chore. But he added that if he had the option to choose, he would prefer a largely solo record assault over being pushed towards one. "I think if I'm focusing on the record, it's better for me."

Conversely, Haile Gebrselassie, the man Bekele succeeded as world and Olympic champion and world record holder, will be counting on company to bring him to an unlikely Olympic berth in the 10,000m.

"My plan tomorrow is to push, I must run faster than 27 minutes," said Gebrselassie, whose 26:22.75 performance on the Hengelo track back in 1998 still ranks him as the second fastest ever. "For me that's something good. I'm here not only to run for selection, but a good time. And a very good race."

The selection process for the Ethiopian team can be complicated, Hermens, who also manages Gebrselassie, said, but generally the three fastest performers from the early season are chosen. Barring major catastrophe, Bekele is all but assured a spot, leaving Gebrselassie to battle for the two remaining slots.

But with compatriots Sileshi Sihine, the reigning Olympic silver medallist, Abebe Dinkesa, Gebre Gebremariam also in the field, all with solid sub-27-minute credentials, he knows the odds are against him. Additionally, another group of Ethiopians are expected to run in Eugene during Bekele's record bid, and could conceivably earn a spot in that race as well.

"I want to be one of them, but it's not easy in Ethiopia," Gebrselassie said, after again reiterating his decision to bypass the Olympic marathon. "I hope tomorrow will give you the answer."

Since shifting his focus to the marathon, Gebrselassie has raced sparingly on the track. Last year, he made only two track appearances, finishing fifth at this race in 26:52.81 in May, and setting the world record for the One Hour run in Ostrava, Czech Republic, in June.

Another sub-27 performance, whether he finishes third behind a pair of Ethiopians, he said, would not be a disappointment. "I'll tell them," he joked, "to give respect to their elders."

Whether or not he succeeds in earning a fourth consecutive Olympic appearance, Gebrselassie said his recent stint of speedwork has only helped his career as a marathoner.

"Today the marathon is about speed," he said, underscoring that 2:03 is still his goal.

The Hengelo meet, this year celebrating its 26th edition, is traditionally strong in the middle and long distances; this year is no exception.

Joining the Ethiopian contingent in the 10,000 are Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Bernard Kipyego, Ugandan Boniface Kiprop and Hassan Ahmed Abdullah of Qatar, all with sub-27 performances to their credit. The men's 5000 also features Kenyans Edwin Soi and Thomas Longosiwa, and American Matt Tegenkamp.

The Two-time USA indoor 3000m champion will use his race as a stepping stone toward the USA Olympic Trials where he will face double world champion, Bernard Lagat. Tegenkamp is not yet at peak fitness, but hopes to run this race off of the strength he's built in his winter and spring training.

The men's steeplechase promises a strong contest, with Kenyans Brimin Kipruto, Richard Matelong and veteran Ruben Kosgei.

A hot women's 5000 is also on the program, led by Ethiopians Gelete Burka and Meselech Melkamu, and Kenyans Priscah Jepleting and Linet Masai. Maryam Yusef Jamal, the world 1500m champion, will step down in distance to contest the 800, where she'll face Slovenian Brigita Langerholc, Mina Ait Hammou of Morocco, and kenyan newcomer, Pamela Jelimo.

The men's 800 field includes world champion Alfred Kirwa Yego, rising Ugandan star Abraham Chepkirwok, Amine Laalou of Morocco, and 2000 Olympic champion Nils Schumman of Germany.

On the infield, world champion Irving Saladino will be aiming for his 21st consecutive victory in the long jump. After bounding dangerously close to the end of the pit last year, organizers moved the take-off board two meters back this year. The Panamanian will face world indoor champion Godfrey Mokoena of South Africa.

In the men's discus, Virgilijus Alekna, Gerd Kanter and Dutchman Rutger Smith are expected to wage battle, while Smith will double back in the shot put, where he'll face two-time world indoor champion Christian Cantwell.

In the sprints, Belgium's double European champion Kim Gavaert and Angela Williams, the recently minted world indoor 60m champion, are the class of the 100m field. Lolo Jones, the world indoor 60m hurdles champion, is the woman to beat in the 100m hurdles following the withdrawal of Swede Susanna Kallur.

European indoor and outdoor champion Tia Hellebaut will start as the favorite in the high jump while Germans Nadine Kleinert and Petra Lammert will duke it out in the shot put.


[NOTE To TPR NewsWire Subscribers: Photos of Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele; Mandatory credit: (c) Bob Ramsak/TRACK PROFILE Report]

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The TRACK PROFILE REPORT is a news and feature service published by the Track Profile News Service. In addition to regularly dispatched news, profile and interview features, subscribers also receive exclusive on-site updates from major national and international competitions, usually within 24 hours. Copyright (c) 2008 by Bob Ramsak and TRACK PROFILE. All rights reserved. Reproduction, republication, reposting and retransmission in ANY form is strictly prohibited without express permission from the editor. Small portions may be reproduced ONLY if accompanied by source citation and *ADVANCE* notice in writing to Track Profile. Please contact the editor at [email protected] for reprint permission. [ Visit for more. ]
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END – TPR #753 - 23-May-2008

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