Rojo Speaks: Is Kenenisa Bekele Done?

By Robert Johnson
May 19, 2012

Is Kenenisa Bekele done?

The second Samsung Diamond League event of the year was held today in Shanghai and in Kenenisa Bekele's return to the 5000, he finished 5th in 13:13.89 and immediately a chorus of people are saying on the messageboard, "He's done!!."


But is that really the case?

While it certainly does take a while to get used to seeing the once unbeatable Bekele finishing back in the pack of two straight major races, I would argue, "No."

At a minimum, people need to have some perspective here and I think it's only fair that we at least give Bekele a lot more time.

For at the very same time people are dismissing Bekele, the messageboard is full of people going ga-ga over American Dathan Ritzenhein's performance last night in the 5000 at Occidental when he ran 13:14.72 and said afterwards that he feels some 12:56s coming later this summer.

MB: Ritz feels "some 12:56s this summer".

Well guess what? Bekele's race was better than Ritz's.

I want back and looked at the tape of both races to try to get the closing lap splits for Ritz and Bekele.

It's amazing how similar the splits were for Bekele and Ritz. Bekele had a faster start than Ritz (7:57-8 at 3k versus about 8:02 for Ritz) but at 4000, 4200 and 4600, there splits were remarkable similar. But Bekele had the bigger close and ran faster. 

Ritz closed in 59 flat roughly - maybe 58 high and ran 13:14.72

Bekele closed in 56 low and ran 13:13.89.

Moreover, Bekele ran in the rain of Shanghai. Ritz ran in perfect conditions with two personal pace makers.

Final 1km For Ritz
4k -10:42 mid
4200 - 11:14. low (11:14.3)
4600 - 12:15. mid (12:15.6ish)
Finish - 13::14.72 (last lap right around 59 flat)

Final 1km For Bekele
4k - 10:42 high - 10:43
4200 - 11:14.6
4600 - 12:17.7 (63.1)
Finish 13:13.89 (last lap 56.1-2.)

Now I will admit that the fact that I am even comparing Bekele to Ritz does show that doubts remain about Bekele. But if Ritz is thrilled with his form and think he can get to 12:55 by the time it matters, then wouldn't it be only logical to assume that arguably the greatest distance runner in history would be able to get in even better shape if everything goes well from here on it? And if Bekele get to low 12:50 shape, then clearly he'll be a big time factor in London.

Let's keep things in perspective people.

All of the above even ignores that Bekele beat Augustine Choge who won the 3000m in Shanghai last week. Plus, Bekele ran at the back of the lead pack the entire race and then kicked and passed most of the guys in front of him. Bekele never gave any indication that he wanted to win, but he never gave any indication the pace was about to drop him.

More: MB: Ritz feels "some 12:56s this summer" *MB: BEKELE'S DONE

Comments? Send them to Robert at [email protected] or post them on our Message Board.

Editor's Note: Robert Johnson, a.k.a. "Rojo", is best known for being the co-founder of as well as the men's distance coach at Cornell University. Robert progressed quickly and just missed out on qualifying for the 2000 US Men's Olympic Marathon Trials by running a 2:23:11 marathon at the 2000 Las Vegas Marathon.  A former high school math teacher, Robert has covered track and field for The Washington Post.


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