Monday, 27 August 2007
Just when Sileshi Sihine thought he was about to take over Kenenisa Bekele’s mantle, Bekele pulled out a sub-56sec last lap to reassert his reign and rack up his third 10,000m World title in a row with victory in 27min 05.90sec. One more and he will equal compatriot Haile Grebreselassie’s four titles.
It is already 16 years since a Kenyan won this crown and Martin Mathati must have thought, with two laps to go, that he was going to break the jinx. But just when he appeared to be wrenching free from the Ethiopian stranglehold, first Sihine then Bekele came roaring past and the Kenyan has to be content with bronze.
For Bekele, it was mission accomplished in his one and only 10,000m of the summer as he fulfilled all the forecasts in typical style. After dropping out of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in March, he has shown that that was just an uncharacteristic glitch.
In that race, it was Zersenay Tadesse (ERI) who benefited and it was the same man who here took on all the burden of the pacemaking in his one-man assault on the Ethiopian hierarchy.
With Tadesse pulling the field round there was already a break in the field of 22 after the first kilometre was ticked off in 2:44.15. Already the main rivals were lined up behind the Eritrean, including three Ethiopians and three Kenyans.
With Tadesse reeling off a metronomic sub-2:45 kilometres in the sapping 30C heat and 65 per cent humidity, Ethiopian Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam, who had been defeated by Tadesse in the African Games, took the lead in an attempt to stem the relentless attack.
Tadesse was having none of it though and went straight back up front to continue pushing the pace in a brave do-or-die exhibition of front running.
The halfway mark went by in 13:42 98 and Ahmad Hassan Abdullah of Qatar was the first to crack in the breakaway group of 10 as he peeled off the back and headed straight for the dressing rooms.
Again Gebremariam tried to halt Tadesse but once again he shrugged aside the tall Ethiopian. Suddenly there were only East Africans left including an American born in Somalia, Abdi Abdirahman, but with six laps to go even he had to admit defeat.
Then Tadesse upped the ante even more, going through 8000m with a strength- sapping 2:40 kilometre that suddenly reduced the leading group to four.
Bekele was looking easy but so were Sihine and Mathati, who is based in Japan, looking unconcerned. If he was feeling the pace, he didn’t show it.
With three laps to go Mathati, only second in the Kenyan trials, made his move, a bold attempt to run the legs off the Ethiopians. Momentarily, a gap opened that Sihine plugged, only for an apparently flagging Bekele to haul himself back.
"I was tired," Bekele explained.
"But after a moment, my body started to recover a bit, and when the other guy took the lead, I encouraged Sileshi to go after him. If I could have, I would have."
Thus, Sihine sped past Mathati and for a split second it looked as though he would pull off a sensational upset.
But Bekele was far from finished and when he turned on his trademark sprint, his compatriot had no answer while Mathati had settled for bronze long since.
"I used everything I had to come back," Bekele said, "and when I caught Sileshi, of course I had to pass him."
Osaka 2007 News Team/mb
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