Bernard Lagat, after some early season setbacks, has done it, he doubled and won at both in Osaka! I was an unbeliever after Indy, but Bernard showed, in his own elegant style and drive, how the spirit can overcome many obstacles. Here, he overcomes fifteen of the best distance runners in the world! And stellar runs by Matt Tegankamp and Adam Goucher, with Tegankamp’s bid for third so so close!
Since Helsinki, Craig Mottram, the bronze medalist at the 5,000 meters, has developed his repertoire as an elite middle distance runner. He has won some big ones, winning more than loosing. In his pre event press conference, Mottram noted that he could run a great race and not win a medal. Mottram was, unfortunately, prophetic.
Then, there is Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia. The younger brother of Kenenisa Bekele, the world record holder at 5,000m/10,000m, and gold medalist the other night. Kenenisa Bekele, in his post event press conference hoped his brother Tariuki, would bring the family another medal. It was not to be.
The there is Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. Nearly unknown when he defeated El Guerruouj in 2003, Kipchoge is held in high regard by his competitors. All knew he was in great shape and wanted to win…
And finally, Bernard Lagat. A man of charm, wit and a middle distance superstar, Lagat had a difficult mid season patch, where one wondered what the heck he was thinking to double in Osaka? Good things come in time, I guess…
In a race full of kickers, some with good short kicks, and good long kicks, what do you do to neutralize all of them? Well, you run the slowest World Champs 5,000 meter final in history!
Ben Limo of Kenya was stuck with the lead, hitting a pedestrian 68.41 for 400 meters, 2;23.98 for 800 meters and 3:00.39 for the first kilometer. Behind Kipchoge was Craig Mottram, Jose Espana of Spain, Abraham Cherkos of Kenya, Moses Ndiema Kipsioro of Uganda, Mo Farah of Great Britian, Bernard Lagat, Matt Tegankmap and Adam Goucher of the U.S. Also lurking was Eliud Kipchoge, the Helsinki champion.
To say the race pace was pedestrian was an understatement. Benjamin Limo of Kenya lead through 2 kilometers, in 5:47.05 and at seven minues into the race, moved into lane two, then three, forcing Craig Mottram to take the lead. Mottram lead through three kilometers, in 8:36.99, another yawner, about 2:47. Mottram looked sluggish at this pace.
The tight pack, the slow pace, must have an effect on athletes. There were a few times when we saw some close calls in the field, but the field was all together at
three kilometers. Moses Ndiema Kipsiro of Uganda made his presense known, running a 2:46 for the fourth kilometer.
It was about this time that Craig Mottram’s medal hopes faded, as he dropped back through the pack, and continued to do so, finally finishing thirteenth.
At 12:25 into the race, Mo Farah of Great Britain took the lead and began to force the pace. He kept that lead until 4600 meters, hit in 12:53.08. Then, the Tariku Bekele and Abraham Cherkos, both of Ethiopia took the lead, with Farah, Espana, Kibori, Kipsiro and Eliud Kipchoge in attendance. Lagat and Tegankamp were also moving, and Teegs was in top seven!
About 250 meters to go, Bernard Lagat began his long, long kick. Moving from sixth, Bernard Lagat began his pursuit for his second gold medal. Moving past Bekele, then Farah, then Kipsoro, it was Lagat and Eliud Kipchoge coming down the straightaway.
Out of the corner of my eye, as Bernard Lagat and Eliud Kipchoge fought down the final straight, with Kipchoge still in the lead, I saw Matt Tegankamp, the way from the University of Wisconsin, moving into sixth, then fifth, and then, with about fifty meters to go, Tegankamp was making up serious real estate on Kipsiro, who was fighting desperately to hold on to the bronze.
But the battle for first was not over yet! Eliud Kipchoge, the man who held off Hicham El Guerrouj in Paris, was fighting with all of his strength for first. Literally,
with twenty meters to go, Bernard Lagat moved into contention for first, and would eek out a .13 second win, taking the gold medal in 13:45.87. In second, was Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, in 13:46.00.
The battle for third was getting closer and clser as Kipsiro and Tegenkamp put all of their effort into the last meters to decide the bronze medal. For Matt Tegankamp, there was just no more room as he finished fourth in 13:46.78 to Moses Ndiema KIpsiro of Uganda’s 13:46.75.
Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia was fifth in 13:47.33, Mo Farah of Great Britian was sixth in 13:47.54.
In the final analysis, the field has only themselves to blame for making the race such a dream for Bernard Lagat. I do believe that either a fast or slow pace would have had the same results. This way, we get to see a 52 second last lap in a 5,000 meters!
Bernard Lagat used his lifetime of experience, and his 1,500 meter speed to take down one of the most world class fields of all times. The miles, in 4:44, 4:37, 4:22 were pedestrian by any standards, especially World Champs. Lagat, as the double distance champ, surely has eyes for Beijing, and it will take alot of work to beat him.
The performances of the Americans, first, fourth, eleventh was a revelation. Matt Tegankamp came within inches of a medal, his race was perfect, he should be very pleased.
A race that played the emotions, that upped the ante until the last 400 meters, when, after a relative jog, 15 runners sprint like mad, entertained the stadium, and gave Bernard Lagat his second gold of the champs!
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