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Men's 10,000m Recap: Bekele More Dominant Than Bolt
Eritrea's Zersenay Tadese tried as hard as is humanly possible to defeat the great Kenenisa Bekele in the men's 10,000 meter final on Monday night at the 2009 World Track and Field Championships. However, in the 10,000 meters, Bekele is as dominant as a human can possibly be - even more dominant than Usain Bolt is in the 100 meters, where Bolt has lost as recently as a little over a year ago.
A perfect 11 for 11 at the 10,000 meter distance for his life coming into the race, Bekele extended his streak to 12 - but only after fending off a spirited challenge from Tadese that earned Tadese a huge ovation from the appreciative Berlin crowd.
Thanks to a 13:05 second 5k (in reality Bekele probably ran a bit faster as hew wasn't in the lead at 5k), Bekele ran a World Championships record 26:46.31 to earn his 6th global 10k title, matching the great Haile Gebrselassie for the most WC and Olympic 10,000 meter titles in history.
Tadese settled for a well-deserved silver in 26:50.12, his first World Championships medal on the track (he won Olympic bronze in 2004) as Kenyan's Moses Masai, the man who missed out on bronze in Beijing by a few thousands of a second, got the bronze in 26:15.94.
American Dathan Ritzenhein ran a fantastic race to get 6th in a new 17-second personal best of 27:22.28. Galen Rupp, who ran ahead of Ritzenhein for much of the race before wilting a bit, moved up 5 places from Beijing and finished 8th in 27:39.99 (although Rupp's time was 1 second slower than his Beijing time). The third American in the race, Tim Nelson, was 17th in 28:18.04.
With his 27:22, Ritzenhein moves to up to #4 on the all-time US performers list, ahead of his new coach Alberto Salazar, who is now the 5th-fastest American at 27:25.61. Ritzenhein also now is the 2nd-fastest American-born athlete, trailing only Mark Nenow, who ran 27:20.56 back in 1986.
The 5th kilometer would prove to be the fastest of the night except for the last one, but the hot pace on a warm evening in Berlin - the temperature was 77 degrees with 41% humidity at the start - would continue to the finish, as all of the kilometers after 4k would be run in 2:40 or faster. Amazingly, it was Tadese who did all of the work, as he lead the race from 4k to the bell lap.
Tadese, the one man who had conquered Bekele at a global championship (Tadese had won gold in Mombasa at World Cross-Country in 2007 in one of the craziest races in the history of running), wanted gold in Berlin and he was at the very least going to make Bekele or anyone who wanted to beat him work very hard to do so.
The 1,600 meters from 4,200 to 5,800 was covered in a ridiculous 4:10.53 by the leader and that in turn decimated the field. The steady hot pace slowly whittled the field down, and by 6k, the nearly impossible dream for a medal by an American was officially over, as only 6 were alive in the lead pack and Galen Rupp was not one of them. With 11 laps (5,600) to go, the lead pack was 7 and Rupp fell off on that lap to 10th. Ritz was further back.
The Final 4
Tadese desperately wanted gold and, with 2k remaining, he threw down a 62.07 lap that ended Masai's stay with the leaders. Thus with 1,600 to go, it was down to Tola and Bekele. Tola kept the pressure on as he ran two more 62s before slowing slightly to a 63.06 on the penultimate lap. With every lap that he led, the crowd's cheers grew louder and louder as they started to appreciate his efforts to slay the giant, Bekele. Was Tadese slowing to save something for the final lap?
No. As the bell sounded, Tadese's dream, which had been realized in oppressive heat in Mombasa, ended instantly. Right at the bell, Bekele pounced and it was over immediately, as Tadese had nothing left in tank after 5k of leading duties. Tadese had tried his hardest but he was done. Bekele had plenty left as he ran a 56-flat last lap (leader to leader it was 56.20) while celebrating during the final 100 to finish off a 4:05.24 final 1,600.
Bekele had executed his patented sit-and-kick strategy once again to perfection. Afterwards he said, "I waited and stayed behind until one lap left and with one lap left I can kick."
Bekele: "I was not worried."
Bekele, a man who many thought might be vulnerable in 2009 given his stress fracture last winter, seemed as good as ever. In the hunt for the Golden League jackpot at 5,000, the only question is will he come back for the 5,000 as it would make his Golden League pursuit a lot harder. The 5k heats are on Thursday and the final is on Sunday, August 23rd. The Zürich Golden League meeting is on Friday, August 28th. If Bekele calls it a championship right now, he will have 11 days of recovery. If he doesn't, he has to run two more races and only gets 5 days to rest.
Afterwards, we asked Bekele about the 5k and he said in the interview on the right, "(Winning) It is a little harder. I will try my best." But then when directly asked whether he will run the 5k, he only said, "Maybe."
There was no doubt, however, how easy the final lap was for Bekele. Despite Tadese throwing everything he had at Bekele, Bekele waltzed to victory with ease. When asked whether he was worried about Tadese on the last lap, Bekele said, "I'm (was) not worried. I know him. (I was) Relaxing. I'm (was) not really kicking you know." At least Bekele was honest with how easy it was.
Tadese also said what was obvious, "The race was tough because for many, many laps, I was in front. The problem is at the finish."
Ritz Ends Up Impressing
American Dathan Ritzenhein was not in a hunt for medal but he picked off very nicely nearly all the guys who tried to stay with Tadese and couldn't. Out of the top ten once things broke open, he passed a lot of guys and some others dropped out. After he passed Olympic bronze medallist Micah Kogo, he was rewarded with a very respectable 6th-place finish as the fourth-fastest American ever in 27:22.28.
Perhaps even more impressive was that Ritz ran his time in warm conditions as noted in the outset. Never really in contention for a medal and behind Galen Rupp for all but 7 and 3/4 laps, when it's all said and done, one could easily argue this is the best run ever by an American when adjusting for the conditions. Moreover, Ritz said he ran the first 5k in 13:50 and closed in 13:32 (although a viewer emailed us to say he thinks Ritz was closer to 13:43 at 5k, if anyone knows for sure email us). Super-impessive for a non-African. Ritz was very pleased with his run afterwards and with how things are going with his new coach Alberto Salazar.
Ritz said now he has the resources to do all the things he could not afford in the past (a training camp in San Moritz WITH an altitude tent as well) as Alberto leaves no stone unturned. Plus, Ritz's training now has faster intervals and the long stuff as well. To get more details, please listen to the nine minute interview with Ritz below. Among the highlights, "Alberto (Salazar) gets a lot of credit for this one today. The last seven weeks have been awesome. I really enjoyed the change, and I could feel the difference today. I feel that there's been a lot of revitalization in my running. I'm more excited about my running than I've been."
Galen Rupp had to be escorted off the track at the end of the race. We're not sure if the heat got to him him or if something else happened. Another journalist told us that he saw Rupp stub his toe or nearly trip on the rail with 2 laps to go.
Rupp came into the interview area briefly after the race, but was a bit out of it and had to get some assistance from a USATF official and did not return.
Undoubtedly, Rupp is disappointed with the way things went tonight, but in our minds, the fact that he'd be disappointed with an 8th-place showing at Worlds is the perfect testament to how amazing Rupp's 2009 season has been. In Ritz's interview, Ritz talks about how incredible he thought Rupp's final NCAA season was.
Tim Nelson finished 17th in 28:08 and we have some words from him below. We may try to type up some quotes from Ritz in the morning, but watch the interview if you get a chance. He talks about how Alberto says he can run 2:05 and he believes it too. Plus, he talks about not wanting to be the first white guy.
We also talked to bronze medallist Moses Masai. Moses is the brother of Linet Masai, the surprise gold medallist at 10k in a crazy, crazy race. Moses said, "I'm happy but it wasn't my expectation. I was expecting to get a gold or siliver." He also talks briefly about the Sammy Kitwara controversy. Kitwara, the winner of the Kenyan Trials and the most dominant runner on the roads in the 2009, was left off the Kenyan team. Masai had no problem with him being left off (the Kenyan Trials ended in a sprint finish).
Moses Masai On Bronze And Sammy Kitwara