Beijing Perspective: Bekele's Double, by Larry Eder


Kenenisa Bekele became the first male distance runner to double in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters at an Olympic venue since the late MIruts Yifter won the 5k/10k in Moscow in 1980....Bekele, like his countryman, possesses a solid kick, but he also has another tactic...he breaks down his competition, deliberately and right in front of 91,000 track fans. It is fascinating to watch, like viewing a train wreck, but in slow....

(Here is Sileshi Sihine, silver medalist, Kenenisa Bekele, gold medalist and Haile Gebrselassie, sixth place, after the Beijing 10,000 meters..)


Kenenisa Bekele is a racer, a man perfectly built to race 5,000 and 10,000 meters over the track. He has also learnt alot in his career. Take his double in 2003 at the World Championships. He of course won the 10,000 meters there over Haile Gebrselassie, with a last 1,600 meters that just missed 4:05. His 5,000 meter run broke all but two, an up and coming Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya and one Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco.

By Athens, Kenenisa Bekele was at the top of his form. His 10,000 meter win in Athens followed the same procedure-moderate pace, first half and then the increasingly difficult middle kilometers at a very fast pace, followed by a supreme last 800 meters and last 200 meter sprint to victory. That worked in Helsinki in 2005 but in Osaka, Bekele has a moment of truth. Sileshi Sihane of Ethiopia nearly broke Bekele in Osaka with two laps to go. Somehow, Kenenisa Bekele called on his reserves and went on to win in Osaka.

So, four straight global championships with 10,000 wins, and now, in 2008, in Beijing, Kenenisa Bekele runs the double. His 10,000 meters was tough. A first half of 13:48, a second half of 13:01 and a last lap just over 54 seconds gives Bekele the win over countrymen Sihine in 27:01.17 to Sihene's 27:02.77-a margin on 1.5 seconds and a new Olympic record!

The 5,000 meters was much more problematic. In the 5,000 meters, kickers like Bernard Lagat of the US, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Edwin Soi of Kenya, Matt Tegankamp of US were all there. Bekele's younger brother, Tariku, was also in the mix.

The pace was tough for the first three kilometers: a 2:45 first kilometer followed by two kilometers in 2:38 range. Then, it got interesting. Kenenisa Bekele went to the front with five laps to go.

In a drive to the finish not seen since Carlos Lopes tried in vain to drop Lasse Viren in the Montreal 10,000 meters, Kenenisa Bekele knew just how to demolish his competiton. He ran four minute mile pace! First, a lap of 60.8, then a lap of 60.9, and the field started to stretch out. On the third lap of 60.8, Bernard Lagat started to drop back in the field,going from fourth to ninth. By the fourth lap of 60.8, only Edwin Soi and Eliud Kipchoge were still with Kenenisa Bekele.

Kenenisa Bekele had lead through three kilometers in 8:00.85 and four kilometers in 10:32.88. His 4:03 1,600 meters had broken the field, but two potent kickers were still with him as the bell rang...what would he do?

Well, I don't know about you, but after a near four minute mile, running a last lap in 53.1 is not the thing I would think of. But that is what Kenenisa Bekele did. He ran Eliud Kipchoge and Edwin Cheruiyot Soi both off there feet, relegating them to second ( Kipchoge) and third ( Soi) in an Olympic final, where, for the second time in one week, Kenenisa Bekele set an Olympic record, running 12:57.82!

As Bekele came off the final turn, he was churning up the track with Kipchoge, not giving up, but getting farther behind ( he would end up running 13:02.80, nearly five seconds back), and Soi another four seconds back (13:06.22). Bekele raised his hand, made the number one sign with his finger and pumped his arms to the finish. Not only had he completed the first double in 28 years, he had defeated one of the athletes who stopped his ambitious double attempt in Paris in 2003!

The conditions in Beijing were much better than anticipated, but still the humidity, heat and intense heat in the stadium all played a part in the distance races. Bekele overcame not only his adversaries, but the weather to double in Beijing, like his countrywomen, Tirunesh Defar.

Defar, however, as you will see in the upcoming article, did not receive the same accolades as Bekele....

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