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LRC: 2008 Olympic Men's 5k Recap - Kenenisa Bekele Completes Historic Double In Style - By Running The Greatest 5k Ever Run
By: LetsRun.com
August 24, 2008

As the men's Olympic 5,000m approached, several story lines reverberated in the minds of hard core distance fans. Americans were hoping to watch Bernard Lagat atone for an early exit in the 1,500m. The man had just won double gold last year at the World Championships; could he have lost so much in just a year?

The Ethiopians were focused on seeing Kenenisa Bekele complete the first 5k/10k double since the great Ethiopian Miruts Yifter did it 28 years ago. Could he win his first global 5k title and really do something the great Haile G never did at the Olympics? Would he officially join the ranks of the greatest Olympic distance legends in history?

The Kenyans and their coaches boasted about sacrificing one of their own in order to deflate the sprinting tires of Bernard Lagat. They spoke of Bekele as if he were nothing, as if they were not afraid of the 10k gold medal winner as much as the Kenyan-American. The gun fired and bodies started loping rhythmically around the oval. It was a thrill to watch the story lines become actual theater, and the results were dramatic, truly the stuff of legend.

The first 200m was brisk (30-point), but from 200m to 600m, with Kenny B in front (what happened to the Kenyan plan?) the pace lagged to 72! If Letsrun.com had hired a mind-reader, she would have said Lagat was thinking, "Are these guys idiots?" Turns out, they weren't idiots.

Did the pace continue at 72? Would we have a repeat of the women's 5k? Oh no, Bekele would not have it so.

The race was not dictated by the Kenyans for even one hundredth of a second. Kenenisa Bekele was in charge, with little brother Tariku Bekele (a stud on the circuit this year) and Abreham Cherkos in tow. Behind them, the Kenyans stabbed the track, but did not push the pace. Teg (Matt Tegenkamp) was comfortably in there, but then again, so were all the competitors in the field, including former Arkansas Razorback Alistair Cragg of Ireland.

Bekele stepped on the gas, but not full throttle. He tuned it down to a sweet 63-64 pace for the next few laps, with occasionally a very little help from little brother and Cherkos in the pacing duties, but mainly it seemed as if they were along for the ride. A neophyte would have thought he was setting the race up for them.

The increase in pace gradually strung out and trimmed the field, but surprisingly did not eliminate any of the main competitors.  The biggest casualty was Cragg, who stepped off the track with six to go. The 3k came and went in 8:00.85 for Bekele. He was trailed by a large group, including Lagat, who was licking his chops at the fairly modest pace. But the fun was about to begin, and Bekele was going to make it happen all by himself, without help from anyone.

They had been running honest 63s and 64s since the 600-meter mark, but it was evident with 2k to go that the king of the 10k had a plan to become the king of the 5k. The plan apparently was to start suffocating the field with a relentless full-throttle surge towards the finish that only the most fit and tough could absorb.

With 5 laps remaining, Bekele pounced on the gas sternly. The 3,400m was reached in 9:00. The lap split was officially 59.96!  Game over for most of the field. Only 6 were left in the lead pack. Bekele, Kenyans Eliud Kipchoge and Edwin Soi, Ugandan Moses Kipsiro, Qatari James C'Kuiru, and a game Bernard Lagat, who was going to give his all to try to stay with the lead group. Would Lagat hold on? Would the pace lag? Where were the other Ethiopians?

No, no, and gone.

Bekele kept applying the pressure. From 3k to 4k, he ran 2:31.7 from the front. No rabbits here, folks, this was the King stamping his seal on the greatest runners of the rest of the world. In the process, the Qatari was dropped. Lagat, looking so good with 4 laps to go ... off the back with three to go and his medal prospects totally gone with 1k left.

There were 4 remaining in the lead group, but Kipsiro was hurting. It looked like it was down to 3. It now was down to Bekele, who had pushed the pace from 600 meters into the race, and the 2 Kenyans, whose coaches had talked of pushing the pace and winning the gold but in reality had done zero of the work. What a splendid turn of events!

Instead of the Kenyans pushing, they had seemingly inspired Bekele to show them exactly how hard he could push, how deep he could dig, what incredible tortures he could devise for his own pleasure ... and their horror. It was a sight to behold. Still 800m to go, and Bekele had just pounded out a 60.84. The Kenyans were right on him, Soi and Kipchoge looking to take down Bekele like in Mombasa where he failed to finish World Cross in 2007. Now 600m to go, then coming into the bell and the Kenyans were still there. Was trying to lead the whole 5k a mistake? Was Bekele a sitting duck? Had the task of pushing the pace tired the great one?

Oh no, oh no, and oh no.

400m to go, 60.94!  Bekele was on a mission. Last year in the World Championships 10k, Sileshi Sihine had the lead in the last half lap and Bekele had to show his greatness by coming from behind. Today, he would reveal it from the front.

The King pushed harder at the bell and unleashed his lethal kick. Any doubts as to whether he had anything left in the tank instantly evaporated as the increase in pace was nearly instantaneous. The Kenyans tried to respond accordingly. Could they do it? Immediately, Soi was dropped. Kipchoge tried to hang on but halfway around the first turn Bekele had a 2-3 meter lead over him. With 300m left, the lead was up to 5 meters. With half a lap to go, Bekele had a 10 meter lead and it continued to widen with every step.

With 150m to go, Bekele knew the victory was his and viewers could tell that the normally reserved Bekele was enjoying this one. This one was special; completing the 5k/10k double at the Olympics would make him into legend in the general public's mind - a general public that would never understand what it means to win World Cross-Country year after year.

Just past the middle of the final turn, Kenenisa pointed a #1 sign to the sky in and flashed a sly smile. The stoic one was oozing style and excitement. He was a dangerous killer tonight. Nearly finished with his greatest murderous spree, and enjoying it like we've never seen him before.  He slammed the last 100m and broke 13:00 with ease in 12:57.82, crushing the old Olympic record of 13:05.59.  Kenyans Kipchoge (2nd in 13:02.80, also under the old Olympic record) and Soi (13:06.22 for bronze) ran like champions as well, and were rightly rewarded with medals.

But there was no way they were getting gold tonight. They would have needed to have a 53.86 up their sleeves if they wanted gold, because Bekele had a 53.87 up his. That's right! A 53.87 last lap which produced a 2:25.30 last 1k. Yes, the last kilometer was 2:25.30. The last 1,600m? 3:57.01. That's a sub-3:59 last mile, folks. The last 2k of 4:56.97 and last 3k of 7:35.53 are each world class performances themselves. Absolutely unbelievable; the crowning not just of a great - the crowning of the greatest ever in perhaps his greatest-ever race.

He broke 13:00 and set an Olympic record in a race that featured an early lap officially timed in 72.49.  He broke it in Beijing, where pollution, heat and humidity were supposed to dominate. He broke a field that was geared to take him down. He did it after winning the 10k a week earlier. And he did it all with basically no help from anyone.  He ran 12:57.82 with no rabbits and by leading almost the entire race.

Truly unbelievable. This may have been the greatest 5,000m performance in history.

More on the men's 5k below:

1 Kenenisa Bekele ETH 12:57.82 (OR)
2 Eliud Kipchoge KEN 13:02.80 .
3 Edwin Cheruiyot Soi KEN 13:06.22 (SB)
4 Moses Ndiema Kipsiro UGA 13:10.56 .
5 Abreham Cherkos ETH 13:16.46 .
6 Tariku Bekele ETH 13:19.06 .
7 Juan Luis Barrios MEX 13:19.79 (SB)
8 James Kwalia C'Kurui QAT 13:23.48 .
9 Bernard Lagat USA 13:26.89 .
10 Kidane Tadasse ERI 13:28.40 .
11 Aelemayehu Bezabeh ESP 13:30.48 .
12 Thomas Pkemei Longosiwa KEN 13:31.34 .
13 Matthew Tegenkamp USA 13:33.13 .
14 Jesús España ESP 13:55.94 .
. Alistair Ian Cragg IRL DNF .

Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
Tariku Bekele ETH 2:45.49
Tariku Bekele ETH 5:22.29
Kenenisa Bekele ETH 8:00.85
Kenenisa Bekele ETH 10:32.52

IAAF: Kenenisa Bekele Joins Legends By Completing Distance Double
Recommended Read: Bernard Lagat Goes Home Empty Handed But Looking Forward To The Future The New York Times gets the scoop on what has been ailing the double World Champion from last year. Apparently, after the US Trials, he developed a serious Achilles problem. Throw in a viral infection before the 5k final and you've got big-time trouble.  He stayed in it until 1,200m left. Even if he was 100% on his game, no way was he staying with Bekele on this special night. *Matt Tegenkamp Finishes 13th *Nic Bideau Shocked by Mottram's Failure *Bideau Hoping To Rebulid Mottram "We feel like it's just a couple days prior to Christmas and we've found it's been cancelled." *Mottram's Career At Crossroads


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