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LetsRun.com's Recap Of Men's 5,000 Final At 2009 IAAF World Track & Field Championships
American Bernard Lagat Takes The Lead In An Epic Final 100, But Has To Settle For Silver
Let there be no doubt. After the men's 5,000 meters final on Sunday, Kenenisa Bekele must be regarded as the greatest track and field distance runner in history.
In a race that was perfectly set up for his rivals, Bekele, who was doubling back from the 10,000, somehow managed to hold off American Bernard Lagat in an absolutely thrilling sprint down the homestretch to grab an unprecedented 10th global title at 10,000 or 5,000.
In contrast to last Monday's 10,000 meter final, which in hindsight one commentator correctly said was over before it even began, the men's 5,000 final this afternoon wasn't decided until the very last few strides when Bekele crossed the line in 13:17.09 to Lagat's 13:17.33.
Qatari James Kwalia edged Ugandan Moses Kipsiro for the bronze in 13:17.78 to 13:18.11.
In contrast to last year's Beijing 5,000, when the king of distance, Bekele, set a ferocious pace after a slow first 600 that slowly whittled his rivals down one by one, Bekele was content to let the pace dawdle on Sunday perhaps because he was trying to save some energy for next Friday's Golden League 5,000, which Bekele must win to remain in contention for the $1,000,000 jackpot.
Whatever the reason, Bekele was alone out front, vulnerable without the help of any pacemakers for the entire race. Any thoughts that the only other Ethiopian in the final, Ali Abdosh, would help set the pace to help Bekele capture his first world title at 5,000 quickly dissipated when Abdosh went straight to the back at the start.
Up front, after a quick opening 200 when Bekele got out in 29 to get in a good position, the pace slowed. The first kilometer of 2:54.35 was unbelievably slow and the slow pace would remain through the opening 1,600 (4:33).
The next lap to 2k was a 61.35 and most distance aficianados probably thought Bekele would keep the pressure on until the finish. They would have been wrong, as the pace would slow down and remain very modest and in the 2:40 per km range until the very end of the race.
At each of the first four kilometer checkpoints (2:54.35, 2:39.82 (5:34.17), 2:40.46 (8:14.63), 2:37.59 (10:52.22)), Bekele had the lead, but nearly everyone was running fairly comfortably as the pace was so slow. Heading into the final 1k, all of the major players were right there. Bekele had the lead but his three biggest pre-race rivals in the three medalists from the 2007 worlds - Lagat (gold in 2007), Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge (silver in 2007 and 2008, bronze in 2004, gold in 2003) and Uganda's Moses Kipsiro (bronze in 2007) - were perfectly-positioned right behind Bekele in spots two through four.
One Lap To Decide It All
The pace increased around the turn and on the backstretch, the contenders separated themselves from the pretenders. With 200 remaining, the top four remained the same, Bekele, Kipchoge, Lagat and Kipsiro, with Kwalia right there in 5th. Meanwhile, American Matt Tegenkamp had weaved his way through traffic to be perfectly poised in 6th.
American distance fans who had seen Tegenkamp just miss a medal by .03 after a ferocious kick in kicker's race in Osaka in 2007 were undoubtedly pinching themselves to make sure they weren't dreaming, as two Americans were in the hunt for a global 5,000 medal and only 200 meters remained.
The race was coming down to the final 200 and, as the runners entered the final turn, it was clear that some of them had something left in the tank. Bekele accelerated early on the turn and started to pull away. The first to falter was Tegenkamp, who clearly didn't have his patented kick in his arsenal today.
It shouldn't have been a surprise that the only guy to respond to Bekele's acceleration was Bernard Lagat, the 2nd fastest 1,500 runner in history.
Lagat, who had been running behind Bekele on the rail, moved to the outside of Bekele as they hit the homestretch. With roughly 90 meters left, Lagat pulled up next to Bekele and then Lagat pulled slightly ahead.
But amazingly, Bekele, wasn't done. The double Olympic champion from Beijing, who was trying to become the first male ever to pull of the 10/5 double at Worlds, wouldn't go quietly. Bekele dug deep and tried to kick with the miler Lagat.
For roughly 50 meters, Lagat held the slightest of leads, literally inches, as the two ran nearly stride-for-stride right next to each other. It was a stretch run for the ages. Could they run side-by-side for the entire final 100? Not quite. As they approached the final 30 meters, Lagat cracked and Bekele cruised in for a 2-meter victory which so excited him that he immediately pumped his right first several times after crossing the finish line in 13:17.09 to Lagat's 13:17.33.
Bekele's final 200 was 26.08, his final 400 was 53.21 and his final 1,600 was 3:58.3-ish.
Kwalia, who had moved into third as they hit the homestretch, held off Kipsiro for the bronze (13:17.78 to 13:18.11), as Kipchoge - who was 2nd with 200 remaining - faded to 5th (13:18.95). 6th-best was Bekele's teammate Abdosh (13:19.11), who had kicked from last in the lead group to 6th over the final 400.
American Matt Tegenkamp finished 8th in 13:20.23 as he only could manage roughly a 29-flat final 200 after putting himself in a great tactical spot with 200 remaining.
"It's a huge improvement over last year. I'm said it's not going be done all in one year. It will be done over a period of years," added Tegenkamp, who last year finished 13th in Beijing and was beaten by 35+ seconds by Bekele. "(But)I'm disappointed I was right there and could taste a medal. It was right in my sweet spot. It just wasn't there today. You can't be disappointed. You have to have it on that day."
Up next for Tegenkamp is the Brussels 5000 where he will take a crack at the 13:00 barrier. He said, "It's not so much about paying attention to time. I don't want to waste fitness. We've worked our butt off all year and I'm definitely fit."
Part of the we is Tegenkamp's training part, Chris Solinsky who was there until the bell. Solinsky said afterwards the race was very physical and he wasted energy trying to get in position too early. He said, "Seeing half the field go by you kind of demoralizes you... I definitely wasn't running as efficiently as I should during the middle, conserving more (thinking about being in position at the end)...To come here and to be with the leaders with a lap to go shows I'm close."
He added, "I'm going to take a lot out of this race and uses it for years to come because I'm hungry. I'm not satisfied to be at the World Championships. I want more and that's what I'm after."
(Solinsky and Tegenkamp both wondered about the Kenyan tactics to push the pace that left them with no medals. Solinsky said the Kenyans and Bekele were talking during the race and Tegenkamp questioned why the Kenyans pushed the pace as Bekele was uncomfortable in the front. Teg said, " It was a little bit dumb on the Kenyan part to help Bekele. He was obviously frustrated up there and did not want to be in the lead at all and they kind of gave him what they wanted.")
That leaves us with Bernard Lagat who had a tremendous World Championships and really has raised the bar in American distance running. Tegenkamp told us afterwards, "I think Lagat being American was the best thing ever to happen to this country." (Well have more on Teg's comments after Worlds (he also talked about German Fernandez and Chris Derrick).)
Lagat Oh So Close
Lagat was full of positive energy after the race. He told NBC's Bob Neumeier, "I'm really happy. It was a good race for me because honestly up until this morning, I wasn't sure I was going to run," said Lagat, who needed stitches after being spiked in the semifinals and did not run at all since the semi on Thursday until his warm-up for the final (more on his injury below). He also added that he was feeling great entering the final km.
Later Lagat told other journalists, "I gave it all I had today. I really wanted to retain my title, and wanted to defend it really, really bad. There was nothing more important than for me to defend my title. However, after the finish, after I realized that I lost to a great champion, I wasn't disappointed."
He told us, "Nothing was missing. I thought I had it (won). I was running so hard. I wanted to win. It came down to two guys who wanted to win. Bekele wanted to win so bad... Bekele really gave all out at the end and left me with nothing towards the end."
Lagat said he got spiked very badly in the semis and it just missed his achilles. Four stitches and a lot of physical therapy with his wife still left him unsure if he was going to run even as he warmed up. The USA medical people however numbed his leg and Lagat felt he could race. He said, "They told me 'We know what happened you're not going to break anything (or suffer long-term damage by racing).' " Lagat said they thing numbed his leg and he couldn't feel anything still after the race.
Lagat came in as the double world champ, but after a disappointing Beijing (no medals) some wondered whether age was catching up with him. Lagat showed he's still one of the very best in the world. He told us, " I left with 2 medals and considering in Beijing I did not even step tot he finals in the 1500 and in the finals of the 5000 I finished ninth... I didn't leave here empty handed. I feel it's an achievement... It gives me confidence for the years ahead that without injury I can actually be a tough guy, running with the young guys."
Bekele - The GOAT - "Greatest of All-Time"
How can one not say that Bekele is the Greatest of All Time? We don't know.
How did Bekele outkick the miler Lagat over the final 200? We don't know.
Bekele on Bolt