March 4, 2018
BIRMINGHAM, England — Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia successfully defended his world indoor title by taking the lead before the 2km mark, and doing his best Mo Farah imitation after that, never giving up the lead and winning convincingly in 8:14.41 as teammate Selemon Barega came up to nab second in 8:15.59 and Bethwell Birgen held on for Kenya’s only medal at these championships, a bronze in 8:15.76.
The pace in this race was incredibly slow as the 1600 was reached in 4:48.96. Soon after that, American Shadrack Kipchirchir decided it was time to start racing and took the lead, but just before 1900m Kejelcha took the lead and he would never give it up the rest of the way as he displayed magnificent front running. From 2000m to 2400m, he ran 59.53, and then he really tightened the screws and squeezed the life out of the rest of the field, running 55.95 from 2400m to 2800m. Barega twice tried to take the lead with 700m to go and then again with 400m to go, but Kejelcha wouldn’t let him by, but by the bell Kejelcha led by a couple few meters on Hagos Gebrhiwet.
Bethwell Birgen, known for his mile speed, tried to close on Kejelcha the final lap, but he never came close to Kejelcha, who ran the last lap in 26.82 for the dominant win as Birgen faded down the final straight with Barega getting silver.
Shadrack Kipchirchir faded the final lap and would cross the line in 8th, but be disqualified for stepping inside of the curve with 150m to go.
Analysis below results.
Splits 1600 4:48.95
3000 8:14.41 last lap 26.82, last 400 54.9, last 1000 2:22.70
Quick Take: Yomif Kejelcha joined the Nike Oregon Project for the same reason as Mo Farah, and today he emulated the former NOP star by controlling the final kilometer from the front
Kejelcha was the World Indoor champion two years ago in Portland, but outdoors, he has not performed as well as he wanted to at the major championships. He was 4th at Worlds in 2015, failed to make the 2016 Olympic team, and was 4th again at Worlds last year. He met with his agent Jos Hermens and decided something had to change in order for him to take the step to the next level. They decided that the best move would be for Kejelcha to join the Oregon Project as head coach Alberto Salazar is “one of the best in the world,” according to Kejelcha, through a translator.
Did the move pay off? Well, it depends on how you look at it. Kejelcha looked terrific today in winning the World Indoor title, but he also won this race two years ago. Plus, none of the three guys who beat him at World Outdoors last year were in this race.
Two years ago at World Indoors, the leader-to-leader the final 1000m was 2:22.88, while today in a much slower race it was 2:22.70, so as dominant as Kejelcha was, him winning today does not tell us whether he’s ready to be the best in the world outdoors.
One thing that Kejelcha did appear to learn from Salazar is how to control a race from the front. The 20-year-old Kejelcha is not fully confident in his English yet, but it does appear that Salazar instructed Kejelcha to run this race just as Farah would in his prime — control it from the front over the final laps.
“He tell me everything, how Mo Farah controlling everybody, how I’m going to win, what time is going to win and catch up everybody,” Kejelcha said through a translator. “That he tell me, and that is why I go to the front and win the race.”
Indeed, Kejelcha’s reasons for joining NOP are very similar to Farah’s, though there’s one big difference: Kejelcha was a lot better than Farah when he joined NOP. Farah’s 5,000 PR was 12:57 but he’d never finished higher than 5th at a global championship. Kejelcha, meanwhile, has already run 12:53, won a World Indoor title, and placed 4th at Worlds twice while being way more competitive on the Diamond League circuit.
Though it wasn’t 100% clear because it came through a translator, Kejelcha did appear to say that he will split his time training between Portland and Ethiopia, but will continue to be coached by Salazar. And with two World Indoor titles under his belt, he’s aiming high and has a big goal that Farah never possessed.
“Next year I want to break the 5000m world record,” Kejelcha said.
QT: The USAs Paul Chelimo must be wondering what if
Chelimo was the biggest casualty in the distance races for a rule that urgently needs to be changed. An inadvertent step over the rail in a distance race should not cause someone to be disqualified (and it should be pointed out Farah wasn’t DQd for stepping over the rail in the men’s 10k final last yea at Worlds), but that is the rule and Chelimo was not in the final as a result. However, Chelimo has to be wondering how he would have done today.
Kejelcha looked magnificent today but as noted above, his close wasn’t much better than in a faster race in 2016. Chelimo beat Kejelcha convincingly in their only match-up this winter a week ago. And Chelimo also crossed the finishline exactly one spot ahead of Kejelcha in their last three races of last year. So we can’t blame Chelimo for thinking he would have won tonight’s race.
But the biggest travesty is for the fans. They didn’t get to see the match-up because of a rule that shouldn’t exist.
Quick Take: Shadrack Kipchirchir, who was DQ’d thinks that you should be allowed to take one step inside the rail
After seeing teammate Paul Chelimo get disqualified in Friday’s prelims, Kipchirchir knew that he had to watch his steps today. Yet when he began accelerating on the last lap, he could not control his body on the steep bank and wound up doing the same thing as Chelimo — taking a step inside the rail and being disqualified.
“I’m really disappointed for that because I thought the whole night, I just want to be here and not do something stupid,” Kipchirchir said.
Kipchirchir said that he believes the rule should be changed so that one step inside the rail does not result in an automatic DQ.
“I mean stepping one, just one, they should just not take that as disqualification,” Kipchirchir said. “But taking two would be different. Just taking one and coming back, you’re not gaining anything, for sure. So one would be fine, but two would be automatically DQ. Especially indoors, a lot of body contacts and steep curves, you know, you can’t do anything about it. You can’t control your body with that kind of speed.”
QT: Kenya was .06 from leaving World Indoors with no medals
It’s amazing Kenya doesn’t send its best athletes to world indoors with $40,000 in prize money on the line, but it’s even harder to believe they only left with one medal. And they barely got that one here as Birgen was fading the final straight and finished just .06 ahead of Gebrhiwet.