Olympic Women's 5000 Heats: Molly Huddle and Julie Culley Make Final as Favorites Advance

By LetsRun.com
August 7, 2012
London, England

The women's 5000m had no surprises as all the favorites (10,000m champ Tirunesh Dibaba, World Champ Vivian Cheruiyot, former world record holder Meseret Defar, and 10,000m silver medallist Sally Kipyego) advanced with all three Americans running well with Julie Culley and Molly Huddle automatically qualifying for the final and Kim Conley running a pr but not making the final.

The heats were both very similar with a Japanese runner setting an early honest pace and the five automatic qualifying spots being determined on the final lap with three Ethiopians and Kenyans taking the top three spots in each race.

Brief recaps of each heat below with American reaction.

Heat 1: Dibaba and Defar Cruise, Culley PRs and Makes Final

Kayoko Fukushi of Japan did all of the leading in this one until the real kicking started. Fukushi kept it on just above 15:00 pace throughout. It was largely single file with a few runners falling off, but most of the field together until the final 800.

Over the last 400, the big guns, Meseret Defar, Tirunesh Dibaba, and Viola Jelagat Kibiwot ran well clear of the field. The US Trials Champ Julie Culley, Olga Golovkina of Russia, Tejitu Daba of Bahrain, and Silvia Weissteiner of Italy were in contention for the final two qualifying spots. At the line it was between Golovkina, Daba and Culley for the final spots. Culley edged ahead of Daba for the final automatic spot in a personal best of 15:05.38. It was more than an 8 second pr over her 15:13.77 Olympic Trials win.

Afterwards, Julie said the Olympics was the perfect time for a pr saying, "I guess it was a good day to do it."  She "felt fairly comfortable" with the pace saying, "It played out nicely as the pace was fairly honest."

Culley said the plan was to be there with 1000m to go. That was the case and she saved a little something for the final 100m. "I just kicked and had a little bit left to pass those two girls (for final qualifying spot)."  

Culley was a little bit nervous about being in the first heat, as qualifying for the final on time can be harder in the first heat.  However, she said she is in the "best shape of my life." Culley said the hardest part was waiting around at the Games for her race to get here. She also said it was difficult to get going again after the high of the Olympic Trials, and felt that was why a lot of athletes ran "mediocre" between the Trials and the Olympics. (Culley in her one race after the Trials was 10th in the 3000m in Monaco in 8:45.57 which was a pr). Culley is clearly at a new level in 2012, as a pr can be a mediocre performance. She said the key to her breakout year is just staying healthy. She has been healthy since November 2012.

As for the Olympic champion Dibaba who won the 10,000m on Friday night,and is trying to repeat as back to back Olympic 10,000m and 5,000m champion, it was another day at the office. She said, "It was a good race, and I am in good shape. It is a qualifying round but it was a good test to know my physical condition after I ran the 10,000m three days ago." As for the final she said, "God knows, I'm ready, Meseret Defar is ready and the gold medal will be in our hands if God is willing."

Quick Take (QT) #1: No woman in track and field has won more than three gold medals. Dibaba can win her fourth in the final.

QT #2: Life isn't fair sometimes. It was a real travesty that Kayoko Fukushi who did all of the work didn't end up making the final. She led until 150 meter remained.

1 1706 Tirunesh Dibaba ETH 14:58.48 Q .
2 1703 Meseret Defar ETH 14:58.70 Q .
3 2333 Viola Jelagat Kibiwot KEN 14:59.31 Q .
4 2859 Olga Golovkina RUS 15:05.26 Q (PB)
5 3281 Julie Culley USA 15:05.38 Q (PB)
6 1256 Tejitu Daba BRN 15:05.59 q (PB)
7 2164 Silvia Weissteiner ITA 15:06.81 (SB)
8 2250 Kayoko Fukushi JPN 15:09.31 (SB)
9 1870 Barbara Parker GBR 15:12.81 (PB)
10 2100 Fionnuala Britton IRL 15:12.97 (PB)
11 3168 Lyudmyla Kovalenko UKR 15:18.60 .
12 1654 Judith PlŠ ESP 15:20.39 (PB)
13 2602 Karoline Bjerkeli GrÝvdal NOR 15:24.86 (PB)
14 3089 Dudu Karakaya TUR 15:28.32 .
15 1084 Eloise Wellings AUS 15:35.53 .
16 2510 Sandra Lůpez MEX 15:55.16 .
. 2475 Nadia Noujani MAR DNF .
. 2729 Sara Moreira POR DNS .
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
1000m 2250 Kayoko Fukushi JPN 3:01.05
2000m 2250 Kayoko Fukushi JPN 6:04.17
3000m 2250 Kayoko Fukushi JPN 9:08.13
4000m 2250 Kayoko Fukushi JPN 12:11.62

Heat 2: Molly Huddle Does a Lot of the Work and Makes the Final

Hitomi Niiya of Japan took heat 2 out at nearly the same pace as heat 1 (6:05.92 at 2000m vs 6:04.17). Just before 3000m the pace started to lag, and American Molly Huddle, who had been running in second, went to the front. Huddle still led with two to go with only a few runners off the pack. Fellow American Kim Conley cracked with about 600m to go.

On the final lap, Huddle was still leading, battling with Julie Bleasdale of the UK for the lead onto the final straight as the crowd went absolutely nuts cheering for the Brit. Down the homestretch, the class of the field asserted itself as Gelete Burka, Vivian Cheruiyot, and Sally Kipyego took the first three spots. Bleasdale and Huddle got the final automatic spots for the final.

Kim Conley missed the final finishing 12th in 15:14.48, but it was a nice 5 second pr (her  previous best was her 15:19.79 at the Olympic Trials).

Afterwards, Huddle said the plan was not to lead, but she had a general idea that 15:10 might make the final and that's what she was aiming for. When she went to the lead, she went with gusto. She said one "can't really go half-way when you take the lead."

She figured, "If I get a season's best out of it and don't make the final, I'll be a little bit happier than if I just jog around and don't make the final." Leading has its risks. "If I didn't make that final, I knew a lot of people would say it was stupid (to lead)."

Huddle looked very good in the front, pushing the pace. Overall on the year she said she has been "feeling a little on and off." She originally planned on running the 3000m in Monaco but pulled out with allergy and chiropractic issues. Her allergies have been very bad this year and she said for the first time she had to get an inhaler.

That was all forgotten on Tuesday as she accomplished her goal of making the final. She said, "I really wanted to run here under the lights." She has two days of rest before the final on August 10th.

Conley wanted to make the final but had to leave the Games content with a nice pr. She said, "Obviously, the goal was to make the final which I knew was a long shot, but my attitude was it was a long shot to get to the Olympics (Conley made the Olympic team by .21 seconds in one of the most dramatic races at the Trials). I wanted to keep my mind open to the possibility that if you control what you can control and put yourself in the best situation for success anything can happen. I went into it with that mind set. I ran as hard as I can. It didn't happen for me, getting into the final, but I did shave another five seconds off my pr. I felt my effort was good."

Not many people probably realize that Conley was born in England and her mother is British. She has a lot of friends and family watching in London. She called the loud crowd "amazing," and said she was surprised she could hear her coach (Drew Wartenburg) calling her name and specific people cheering for her.

She also said the Olympic Ambassador Program where ex-Olympians talked to her in Eugene about the Olympics helped her prepare for the Games. As part of the program, she wrote a letter to herself at the Trials that she opened at the Games. Until opening the letter she forgot what she had written, but when she opened it she said, "one of the things I told myself was 'You always run better when you're happy' and I was like 'Wow I'm right (when she opened the letter).'" She said that helped her stay relaxed this week.

An interesting tidbit is that in the room where the athletes wait to go onto the track, there are no TVs so Conley did not know what was going on in the other heat. However, she said once they got on the track, Molly Huddle had looked at the scoreboard and said,  "It's going to take faster than 15:13 (to make the final)."

1 1702 Gelete Burka ETH 15:01.44 Q .
2 2327 Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot KEN 15:01.54 Q .
3 2336 Sally Jepkosgei Kipyego KEN 15:01.87 Q .
4 1849 Julia Bleasdale GBR 15:02.00 Q (PB)
5 3297 Molly Huddle USA 15:02.26 Q (SB)
6 2881 Yelena Nagovitsyna RUS 15:02.80 q (PB)
7 1871 Joanne Pavey GBR 15:02.84 q (SB)
8 1258 Shitaye Eshete BRN 15:05.48 q (PB)
9 2159 Elena Romagnolo ITA 15:06.38 q (PB)
10 2257 Hitomi Niiya JPN 15:10.20 (PB)
11 1142 Almensh Belete BEL 15:10.24 (SB)
12 3279 Kim Conley USA 15:14.48 (PB)
13 2263 Mika Yoshikawa JPN 15:16.77 (PB)
14 2151 Nadia Ejjafini ITA 15:24.70 .
15 1315 Sheila Reid CAN 15:27.41 .
16 3017 Zakia Mrisho TAN 15:39.58 .
17 1097 Layes Abdullayeva AZE 15:45.69 .
18 2761 Roxana Elisabeta Birca ROU 16:01.04 .
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
1000m 2257 Hitomi Niiya JPN 3:02.06
2000m 2257 Hitomi Niiya JPN 6:05.92
3000m 3297 Molly Huddle USA 9:11.41
4000m 3297 Molly Huddle USA 12:13.64

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