Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele, winner of five consecutive IAAF World Cross Country Championships long- and short-course titles, obliterated his competition at the Event Scotland Edinburgh international Cross Country today, winning on the 9,3km course in 28.14.
Bekele, who has both sworn off and then verbally reconsidered competiting for any further accolades in the spring championships, defeated rival 10.000m runner Zersenay Tadesse Zersenay, the 2004 Olympic Bronze medalist, by 10 seconds.
Bekele's arch Kenyan rival Eliud Kipchoge, who, like Zersenay, became the first athletes to run under 27.00 over a 10km course in Spain two weeks ago, finished in third place, 37 seconds behind Bekele (full results).
According to a race description provided by onrunning.com (link), Bekele produced one of the most spectacular displays of running ever seen during a race at the elite level, when, with three laps remaining of the 9,3km course, he upped the ante and dropped his opponents - a move none were able to counter.
Ethiopian teammate Gelete Burka captured the women's 6,1km race in 23.25, nine seconds ahead of both Vivian Cheruiyot (2nd) and Benita Johnson, who finished with the bronze.
The reigning Olympic (2004) and World 10.000m (2003) champion extended his cross country winning streak to 26-straight since suffering his last defeat to Haile Gebrselassie in December 2001. He was pushed to the wire by Saif Saaeed Shaheen last year, when Bekele described himself as being tired, but was focused and prepared on this year's race.
"It was a good beginning to 2007," Bekele is quoted as stating by onrunning.com.
"I am very happy that I won my first race of the year.
"I expected it because of the training I have done."
Bekele, by far the most gifted cross country and long distance track athlete on the planet, stated yesterday that he lacks motivation to continue running in the world cross country championships.
"The motivation may not be there any more," he stated yesterday, according to The Herald (link).
"I don't know if I have the same hunger," he confided.
"That's why I won't do the world-cross again. I still want to improve my times, run fast on the track. I may try for some world records this year. I don't know where, or which one, either the 5000 or 10,000 metres. They are both my favourite events, but I think the 5000m record is harder."
However, IAAF post-race reports quote Bekele as stating he may consider running at the Cross Country World Championships if there is a new challenge.
Bekele’s manager, Jos Hermens, said that the 24-year-old Ethiopian is only 80 per cent fit, adding “he is a little bit chubby and could have been more prepared,” something one should possibly take with a grain of salt.
Bekele, who has broken 13.00-flat 13 times in his career, set the world 5.000m record of 12.37,35 in Hengelo nearly three years ago, swiping 2,01 seconds from Haile Gebrselassie's world and national record time of 12.39,36 set in Helsinki six years before that.
He first set the 10.000m world record of 26.20,31 in Ostrava in 2004, and eclipsed that with a mark of 26.17,53 one year later in Bruxelles.
Gebrselassie held the previous world record (26.22,75), a mark which he set in Hengelo in 1998.
The Herald quotes Bekele has stated that doubling up at either this August's world championships or next year's Olympic Games would be off the cards, citing that he'd prefer to race great in one race, rather than run two poor races.
Bekele was upstaged in the 2003 IAAF World 5.000m Championships in Paris after taking the 10.000m gold when Kipchoge (12.52,79) held off mile world-record holder Hicham El Guerrouj (12.52,83) by 0,04 seconds for the gold, with Bekele finishing with a bronze (12.53,12).
Bekele tried his hand at the double the following year in Athens, winning the 10.000m (27.05,10) ahead of teammate Sileshi Sihine (27.09,39) and Tadesse (27.22,57), but falling short to a reverse 1-3 world champs finish from El Guerrouj (13.14,39) and Kipchoge (13.15,10), running 13.14,59 to earn silver in a race which played into El Guerrouj's hand as a strong kicker.
Two years ago, running in his third major track championship, Bekele opted to contest the 10.000m only, narrowly edging out Sihine (27.08,87) and Kenyan Moses Mosop (27.08,96) by a total spread of 0,63 seconds. Bekele was tested to the limit and ran 27.08,33 - the 2nd-fastest winning time in meet history behind his 2003 triumph (26.49,57) - a race which he negative split under 13.00 to close out the 2nd 5.000m segment.
Perhaps it is high time for Bekele to rest during the spring months, and get in optimal athletics training for the busy summer ahead. He has demonstrated the capability to run hard and run fast following cross country training, and even snuck in a gold medal in the 3.000m at the 2006 IAAF World Indoor Championships to boot.
It shall be a marvel to see what Bekele can do in 2007 with his concentrations focussed specifically on the track rather than the hills.
Kenenisa Bekele was born 1982-13-June in Bekoji, Arsi Province, Ethiopia.
He holds personal bests of 3.33,08 (2006), 7.30,67 (2001), 12.37,35 (2004), 26.17,53 (2005) and 42.42 over 15km (2001).
9,3km Results (Courtesy IAAF):
Men’s Race (9.3km)1 K Bekele (ETH) 28:14; 2 Z Tadesse (ERI) 28:24; 3 E Kipchoge KEN) 28:51; 4 F Joseph (TAN) 28:52; 5 G Gebremariam (ETH) 29:00; 6 D Ritzenhein (USA) 29:02; 7 S Bairu (CAN) 30:34; 8 A Letherby (AUS) 30:35; 9 C Rooney (IRE) 30:43; 10 T Abyu (GBR) 30:51.
Bekele's achievements to date:
- 2006 1st African Championships in Athletics 5.000m
- 2006 1st IAAF Short Race World Cross Country Championships
- 2006 1st IAAF Long Race World Cross Country Championships
- 2006 1st IAAF World Indoor 3.000m
- 2005 1st IAAF Short Race World Cross Country Championships
- 2005 1st IAAF Long Race World Cross Country Championships
- 2005 1st IAAF World Track & Field Championships 10.000m
- 2004 1st IAAF Short Race World Cross Country Championships
- 2004 1st IAAF Long Race World Cross Country Championships
- 2004 1st Olympic Games 10,000m
- 2004 2nd Olympic Games 5.000m
- 2003 1st IAAF World Track & Field Championships 10.000m
- 2003 3rd IAAF World Track & Field Championships 5.000m
- 2003 1st IAAF World Short Race Cross Country Championships
- 2003 1st IAAF World Long Race Cross Country Championships
- 2002 1st IAAF World Short Race Cross Country Championships
- 2002 1st IAAF World Long Race Cross Country Championships
- 2001 1st IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships