2012 Men's Olympic 10,000 Preview: Can Kenenisa Bekele Upset Hometown Favorite Mo Farah And Win An Unprecedented Third 10,000 Title?

Can Galen Rupp Win US's 1st 10,000 Medal Since 1964?

*Race Time 4:15 PM ET Saturday

By LetsRun.com
August 1, 2012

"I put only Kenenisa, maybe one Kenyan, and I put Mo and Galen Rupp. They are the four who can look for medals, no one else."

- Italian Renato Canova, coach of many Kenyan stars, including Kenyan 10,000 Olympic Trials champ Wilson Kiprop, talking to LetsRun.com after the Kenyan 10,000-meter Trials were held in Eugene on June 1st (video interview embedded below).


The first men's track running final of the 2012 Olympic Games will be the much-anticipated men's 10,000, which takes place on Sunday Saturday.

In the 10,000, Mo Farah, who in many ways is Britain's and Nike's poster boy for the Games, goes in as the favorite against the two time defending champ - Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele.

Both athletes will be attempting to make history, as Farah will be looking to earn Britain its first distance gold in 104 years - the Brits have only won one distance gold ever in the 5 mile back in 1908 - whereas Bekele will be looking to become the GOAT - greatest of all time - as the first three-time Olympic 10,000 champ.

Throw in the American-born Galen Rupp, who is trying to break an American 48-year drought in the event, and you've got a hell of a race.

The 5 2-Time 10,000 Champs
Paavo Nurmi
(1920 and 1928)
Emil Zátopek
(1948 and 1952)
Lasse Virén (1972 and 1976)
Haile Gebrselassie (1996 and 2000)
Kenenisa Bekele (2004 and 2008)

So let's break it down for you.

The great coach Canova thought two months ago that only four men had a chance for a medal. We're not sure if we are willing to go quite that far, but his analysis was pretty accurate. The way we look at it, we think there are only 5 guys who could conceivably win this race. We'd say there are a few more that could sneak a bronze if some of the big names blow up or just don't have it.

But let's start with the five who could win.

The Five Who Could Win
1) Mo Farah - The 5,000 winner last year got silver in the 10,000 as well. The good news for Farah is the guy who beat him in Ibrahim Jeilan is not running. If you are a fan of Farah, there really isn't anything to not like, as he's undefeated on the year at 5,000, including a win over two of "Five Who Could Win" in Galen Rupp and Kenenisa Bekele at Pre on June 2nd. We guess the only fear is some sort of injury or the fact that he didn't face a top-notch field in his last 5,000 in London on July 13th.

2) Kenenisa Bekele - The world record holder at 5,000 and 10,000 looked very mediocre and never battled for the win and never finished higher than fourth in any of the four Diamond League 5,000s that he ran this year. And in his last Diamond League 5,000 in Paris on July 6th, he had his lowest finish, as he was just 9th. But the good news for Bekele fans is that in that Paris race, he did run 12:55.79, and in each of his four 5,000s, he got faster- 13:13.89, 13:01.48, 13:00.54, and 12:55.79.

More importantly, if you are a fan of Bekele, you will likely want to remember that Bekele last year turned things around very quickly. It was only 19 days between his DNF at Worlds in the 10,000 and his 26:43.16 world leader in Brussels.

Bekele's agent Jos Hermens came out on Tueday and supported the idea that a quick turnaround is possible for Bekele when he said Bekele was simply overtrained and overraced in June and July as he was trying to make sure he made the Ethiopian team, but that he's now feeling good. "He has confidence again. He has no physical problems now. He was overraced and overtrained but now he is fully back to fitness," said Hermens to the AP.

Moreover, it needs to be remembered that Bekele has never lost a 10,000 in his life that he's finished. 14 for 14.

3) Galen Rupp - He handily beat Kenenisa Bekele with his 12:58.90 at Pre, but he was only third in that race. Given his past, we wouldn't expect him to contend for the win, but when he closed in 52.54 to win the Olympic Trials 5,000, we had to change our thoughts about Rupp. Not only could he medal, he might also be able to win. As we explained in our Trials recap, his close in Eugene in the 5,000 was better than when Farah won gold in Daegu last year in the 5,000, and the splits were very similar. Ironically, the man who used to not have a kick might be Golden if somehow this race comes down to a kick on the last lap.

Admittedly, one wouldn't expect him to beat his training partner Mo Farah, as Rupp has never been beaten Farah in his career and is 0 for 7 against him. But going into the Olympic Trials 5,000 final, Rupp was 0 for 12 against Bernard Lagat and we all know how that turned out. One doesn't know how Farah will handle the hometown pressure - and who knows - maybe Farah's been injured or something. We actually received a text message telling us that this week.

The reasons to be nervous if you are a Rupp fan is that last year he was more than 13 seconds behind at the finish line in the 10,000. Also, we keep talking about how Rupp's 52.54 was faster than Farah's close in Daegu in the 5,000 in a similarly-paced race. But we may be making too much of that, as in the 10,000 at Worlds last year, Jeilan's last lap and his final 5,000 in the 10,000 weren't much slower than what Rupp did solely for 5,000m at the Trials and what Farah did solely for 5,000 at the World Champs.

Take a look at how Jeilan's last 5,000 stacks up against Rupp and Farah's full 5,000s.


2011 WC 5k

2012 US Trials 5k

Jeilan's Last 5k
2011 WC 10k




2:43.5 (est)




8:07.1 (est)




13:21.00 (est)

Last 1km

2:27.3 (est)

2:25.3 (est)

2:27.0  (est)

Last Lap



52.8 (est)

4) Wilson Kiprop - The 2010 half marathon world champion was the winner of the Kenyan Trials. Normally one would think the winner of the Kenyan Trials would have a good shot, but people need to realize Kiprop is coming down to the 10,000 from the roads and isn't known for having good speed. His listed 5,000 PR is 13:30.13. In winning the Kenyan Trials, he only closed in 58. That won't get the job done in London. His coach Renato Canova admitted as much to us after his Trials win: "58 is not a big final (lap). 58 and 53. There is a big difference. It's not the same thing," said Canova. "Don't forget that Wilson is a half marathon runner. These people (like Wilson) have a chance if the competition is very, very fast; otherwise they don't have a chance."

Bidan Karoki - A Wild Card

5) Bidan Karoki - The third Kenyan at the Trials is a wild card in our minds. On paper, he's done nothing that suggests he'd win this race really (yes, he did win the Kenyan XC Champs this year, but it was watered down as there were no World Champs), but last year there was a 22-year-old in Jeilan who spent a lot of time in the Japanese system and seemingly came out of nowhere to win gold. Could history repeat itself with this precocious 21-year-old who also spent a ton of time in Japan? We think it's possible.

The guy certainly has impressed us and others with some incredible mid-race surges in the past. Last year, he destroyed the Stanford field from 7 laps out (but remember, this was Stanford and not Hengelo or Brussels). Then at the 2011 Kenyan Trials, his mid-race surge resulted in him having a 100-meter lead at 9km before he passed out mid-race. Clearly having a guy in the field like him will mean the race isn't likely to dawdle until the very end. His fearless style of racing reminds many of another former Japanese-based Kenyan - Sammy Wanjiru.

Those are the only five who have a shot for gold.

So what medal contenders did we eliminate from golden contention?

The 5 Other Top Entrants Who Can't Win
1. Moses Masai - KEN -
The 26-year-old Kenyan runner-up, who was 4th in Beijing, could maybe get a medal like he did when he got bronze in 2009, but he's not winning. He was only 11th in the super-fast 5,000 in Paris on July 6th in 12:59.
2. Tariku Bekele - ETH - Kenenisa's younger brother has three times gone to an Olympics or outdoor World Champs and never gotten a medal. He couldn't beat Kenenisa in a 10,000 in London on June 22nd, so why would expect him to do it here six weeks later? Yes, we know he did run 12:54.13 and beat Kenenisa in Paris in the 5,000 in their last race on July 6th, but in that race he was only 7th. A 7th place Diamond League effort won't get the job done here.
3. Gebre Gebremariam - ETH - Gebremariam is no slouch, as he was the 2009 World Cross-Country and 2010 ING New York City Marathon champion, but he's not going to win or likely medal. The 27-year-old Gebremariam has been to five Olympics or World Champs on the track (six if you count the marathon) and never medalled before. Yes, Farah was 0 for 3 before last year and Rupp is currently 0 for 4, but it's not happening for Gebremariam. We'd be much more concerned if the Ethiopians had chosen Sileshi Sihine, who has 5 times won World or Olympic 5,000/10,000 silver and was only .07 behind Gebremariam in the London 10,000 earlier this year.
4. Moses Kipsiro - UGA - The 25-year-old, who won a 5,000 bronze in 2007 and a World Cross-Country silver in 2009, has twice this year shown he can't kick with Farah or Kenenisa Bekele, as he was only 5th in the London 10,000 in June (won by K. Bekele) and third in the London 5,000 in July (won by M. Farah).
5. Zersenay Tadese - ERI -The half marathon world record holder did win Olympic bronze at 10,000 in 2004 and World Championships silver in 2009, but he hasn't been heard from since running 2:10:41 in the London Marathon. Normally he does a prep track race or two and he's 30 years old. It would be a great story if he did win, but we just don't see it happening.

In all fairness, remember no one saw Ibrahim Jeilain winning last year either.

How Will The Race Play Out? Who Wins?
Hermens says Kenenisa Bekele is feeling much better. The problem is many feel that at age 30 he can't just sit and rely on his kick. Many, including Renato Canova, say Kenenisa needs the second half of this race to be fast. Here's what Canova said to us about the pace back in early June:

And I think the end of the race will be fast. In my opinion, the person who has to manage the race is Kenenisa Bekele. He doesn't wait tot the last lap. In my opinion, he'll make the last 4 or 5 laps faster. Remember in Beijing (in the 5,000), he ran 4:55 for the last 2k. Kenenisa can only lose if it comes down to the last lap. If he decides to go faster the last three or four laps, no one can beat him.

Last time, Kenenisa could count on Tadese to push the pace. Who will pace it this time? Well, the good news for Kenenisa Bekele fans is it seems unlikely that anyone but Farah and Rupp will want this race to be slow until the finish. All of the Kenyan and Ethiopian runners in this field would be much better off is this race was a half marathon and not a 10,000, so they'll want it to be an honest test of fitness. Someone will end up doing the work.

Farah will likely try to do what he did at the Pre Classic 10,000 in 2008 and not react to any mid-race surges quickly, just hang onto the lead pack and wait to outkick everyone at the end. Last year, he kicked too early and lost. The longer he waits, the better it is for him. Remember in Beijing, there was a 61.42 lap with 8 laps remaining. That is crazy fast, but Farah (and Rupp) will almost certainly not go immediatley with something like that.

Predictions: We'll give ourselves more time to think about this one. But we've got your predictions from our world famous $200,012 Prediction Contest below.

1st Place Votes
Who Will Win The Men's 10,000m?
Mo Farah 40.7%
Kenenisa Bekele 32.6%
Wilson Kiprop 20.7%
Moses Ndiema Masai 2.3%
Galen Rupp 2.3%
Tariku Bekele 0.6%
Gebregziabher Gebremariam 0.3%
Zersenay Tadesse 0.2%
Bitan Karoki 0.2%
Other 0.2%

Who Will Win The Men's 10,000m?
3 Points For 1st, 2 For 2nd, 1Ffor 3rd, (1st Place Votes In Parenthesis)

Mo Farah 2332 (534)
Kenenisa Bekele 2216 (427)
Wilson Kiprop 1578 (271)
Galen Rupp 935 (30)
Moses Ndiema Masai 375 (30)
Tariku Bekele 255 (8)
Gebregziabher Gebremariam 78 (4)
Zersenay Tadesse 46 (3)
Bitan Karoki 21 (2)
Other 19 (2)
Moses Ndiema Kipsiro 6 (0)

Update: As we were getting started on this preview, we emailed Renato Canova and told him we were going to lead our preview with his quote from June and wanted to know if his thoughts about the race had changed. We also told him we'd heard a rumor that Farah might be injured - had he heard anything about that? Here is Canova's response:

        I don't know anything about an injury of Mo, and frankly I think is pre=tactic.  I don't change my idea : Bekele can run about 26'30", and needs a fast race because well know is not able to finish in 53", as Mo can do if the race is about 27'.  In this tactic, he can be helped (and can help) the Kenyans, needing the same type of competitions.  The fastest among them, Wilson Kiprop, never can run under 55".  Karoki has in mind to push, and can be very aggressive after the first 4 km.

        Personally I don't think Tariku and Gebremariam can have some chance.  So, my percentages are  :  40% Bekele, 40% Mo Farah, 10% Wilson Kiprop, 5% Galen Rupp and 5% for another athlete between Moses Masai, Kipsiro and Karoki.

        I write my previews every day for the blog of Alberto Stretti, together with a technical analysis after the races.  You can take some info from it, of course it's my responsibility if I write something wrong...
        Take care, Renato

It's kind of interesting to see his percentages are pretty close to the LetsRun.com audience except he gives his own athlete Kiprop less of a chance and Galen Rupp more of a chance.

Quick Thought (QT) #1: Unless you are British, it's hard not to root for Kenenisa Bekele in this one. Eight years ago in Athens, distance fans across the globe saw the Ethiopian great Haile Gebrselassie come up short in his bid for 3-time 10,000 glory in at age 31. Has Father Time similarly passed Bekele up at age 30?

QT #2: Anyone who has watched Kenenisa Bekele run so far this year is likely hard-pressed to think Kenenisa could win this year. But if you take a trip down memory lane and relive the 5k or 10k from Bejing by re-reading our recaps or watch the end of the 10k here, you'll have a hard time believing he won't win. Four years ago, Bekele closed in 4:02 for the last 1,600, 2:26 for the last 1k and 53.42 for the last 400 and let up doing it and won comfortably.

*LRC 2008 5,000 Recap
*LRC 2008 10,000 Recap

QT #3: All season long, we've been thinking, "Kenenisa turned it around so quickly last year. What is taking him so long this year?" Jos Hermens' overracing and overtraining quote makes a lot of sense, but getting back to his Brussels shape from a year ago may not be enough to be Golden here. He'll need to be close to his 2008 form.

QT #4: Normally a lot of LetsRun.com visitors think we underplay the Americans' chances, but Rupp winning this race wouldn't stun us. The US hasn't won a 10,000 medal since Billy Mills had his improbable run in 1964. Rupp is very good now and much of the world has shifted its focus to the marathon.

More: MB: Renato Canova Emails In His Men's 10k Thoughts - He Gives Rupp 5% Chance For Gold - Bekele & Farah 40%
*LRC Rank The US Mid-d and Distance Olympians' Odds For A Medal

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