Kenenisa Bekele Wins 10,000m, But Time Disappoints at 2013 Prefontaine Classic

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By David Monti
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Quick Takes and results and embedded interview added by

EUGENE, OREGON (31-May) — World record holder Kenenisa Bekele won the 10,000m here tonight on the first day of the Prefontaine Classic, but his face showed no joy as he walked slowly off of the track at Hayward Field.  Not only was he denied the chance to race against fellow Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah –who switched to tomorrow’s 5000m– but his winning time of 27:12.08 may not be fast enough to earn him selection to the Ethiopian team for the IAAF World Championships.

“He wanted to run 26:50,” said his long-time manager Jos Hermens, adding that the pacemaking wasn’t as good as he had hoped.

Indeed, the three pacemakers –Ethiopia’s Degefa Deriba, Eritrea’s Kidane Tadasse, and Kenya’s Leonard Korir— were only able to get the race through 3000m in 8:05.71, some seven seconds slower than planned, despite the favorable 18C temperature and low humidity.  Bekele stayed tucked in the front of the group with his younger brother, Tariku, compatriot Imane Merga, Kenya’s Bedan Karoki and others.  Bekele began to get frustrated.

“We decided to run under 27,” Bekele told reporters after the race.  “But, from the beginning the pace was slow, and nobody pushed after.  It’s very tough; I’m only one person.”

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By halfway (13:33.51), there were still 12 men in contention, and for the next 3000 meters nothing changed.  But a lap after the group split 8000m in 21:55.50, Karoki made a big move, breaking open the race. Tariku Bekele fell back (he had been sick for several days before the race and would finish 12th), but Kenenisa quickly responded with Merga, Vincent Chepkok and others.

With a smaller pack of 8, the contenders decided to wait for the final lap to sort out the top placings.  Bekele surged past Karoki just before the bell and Merga, one of the best closers in the sport, followed.  It came down to a two-man race, and Bekele closed in about 56 seconds to get the win.  He thought that his was a solid finish given the circumstances.

“Only we sprint from 200,” Bekele explained.  “To run 56 is OK time.”

Merga finished just behind in 27:12.37, and compatriot Abera Kuma got third in a personal best 27:13.10.  Karoki, who had made the race, finished fourth (27:13.12).

Bekele said he now had to wait for the Ethiopian federation to decide his fate.  He explained that the team would be selected on time (maybe).

“I don’t know, you know?” he said.  “They say they decided to select by time, but this time was not fast.  Maybe people will run other places for faster time, then maybe the will select.  You never know.”

Quick Take #1 by We were sitting next to David Monti watching this race and he said, “Time Bekele over the last lap.” We had him in 29.79, 26.75 so that’s a total close of 56.64. That’s not going to scare Mo Farah or Galen Rupp at all.

The Olympics last year was slower overall (27:30 winning time) but the close for the medallists was a lot faster. Farah closed there in 53.48 to win. And while Kenenisa pointed out that tonight he really only pushed the last 200, Farah’s final 200 in London was in the 25.5 range.

In London, Bekele himself closed in something like 54 very high-55 flat range and ended up 1-second out of the medals. Clearly Kenenisa needs to get better to contend in Moscow. If you are looking for a glimmer of hope, his last 200 in London was in the 27 mid range versus the 26.8 we had him in tonight. Still, watching his close live, we were far from being overwhelmed by it.

Quick Take #2 by That being said, it was good to hear Bekele talk optimistically about his training and prospects for the rest of the year. See the full interview above.

Quick Take #3 by If the Ethiopians end up choosing their team, as they so often stupidly do, by time, and ask Kenenisa to run a 10,000 again because three others end up running faster elsewhere, Kenenisa should just end the absurdity and skip Worlds. We’re serious. He beat most of the top Ethiopians tonight and should be named to the Moscow team now so he can focus on getting ready. He needs to train for 10+ weeks, not taper for another 10,000.

Below are the top 10 Ethiopians in the 10,000 last year based on time. Five of them were in Eugene and five weren’t. But of the five that weren’t (they are in bold) there aren’t three that are interested in running in Moscow that are possibly better than Kenenisa. Ok, if both of the studly marathoners Desisa and Regassa as well as Sihine go out and run 26:50, then make him do it, but we’ll pay a lucky visitor $1,000 if that happens this year. It’s way more likely that all three don’t even run a 10,000.

26:57.6 Yigrem Demelash finished 8th
27:02.6 Kenenisa Bekele victory
27:03.2 Tariku Bekele finished 12th
27:03.6 Gebregziabher Gebremariam we doubt the marathoner wants to run Worlds
27:03.7 Sileshi Sihine Hasn’t raced this year
27:12.0 Lelisa Desisa Already won two marathons this year; we doubt he’s interested
27:14.0 Imane Merga 2nd place
27:18.4 Abera Kuma third place
27:18.9 Tilahun Regassa 2:05:38 in Rotterdam – didn’t compete.
27:20.4 Haile Gebrselassie no chance

Quick Take #4 by We don’t understand why if you are the Pre Classic and you are going to spend so much money on the meet that you a) don’t get rabbits that are better than the ones tonight and b) put the race later at night.

There was noticeable wind all night, but when we left the stadium at around 9 pm, there was zero, zilch nada. When the sun sets, often the wind does as well.

*Leader by Leader Splits Here

Bekele just after the finish (check back Saturday for better photos)

Bekele just after the finish (check back Saturday for better photos)

Full Results:

10,000 Metres - Men                                           

    1 Bekele , Kenenisa                ETH   27:12.08                   
    2 Merga , Imane                    ETH   27:12.37                   
    3 Kuma , Abera                     ETH   27:13.10                   
    4 Muchiri , Bedan Karoki           KEN   27:13.12                   
    5 Nebebew , Birhan                 ETH   27:14.34                   
    6 Chepkok , Vincent Kiprop         KEN   27:17.30                   
    7 Medhin , Teklemariam             ERI   27:19.97                   
    8 Demelash , Yigrem                ETH   27:24.65                   
    9 Bett , Emmanuel Kipkemei         KEN   27:28.71                   
   10 Toroitich , Timothy              UGA   27:31.07                   
   11 Kifle , Goitom                   ERI   27:32.00                   
   12 Bekele , Tariku                  ETH   27:38.15                   
   13 Ahmed , Mohammed                 CAN   27:50.70
   14 Barrios , Juan Luis              MEX   27:57.69
   15 Meucci , Daniele                 ITA   28:17.50
   16 Nageeye , Abdi                   NED   28:21.29
      Deriba , Degefa                  ETH        DNF                   
      Gabius , Arne                    GER        DNF                   
      Korir , Leonard                  KEN        DNF                   
      Tadasse , Kidane                 ERI        DNF                   
      Tahri , Bouabdellah              FRA        DNF                   
      Tanui , Paul Kipngetich          KEN        DNS


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