Australian Craig Mottram, a 2007 IAAF World Championships 5.000m gold medal hope, won the Prefontaine Classic Grand Prix 2-mile yesterday evening - smashing nearly nine seconds off his previous personal best and Australian record, and in the process, clocking the sixth-fastest time ever in the distance, 8.03,50.
Mottram entered the meet after suffering a slight setback at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York last week (results link), finishing third in the mile (3.54,54 SB) to Americans Alan Webb (3.52,94) and Bernard Lagat (3.53,88), but bounced back in superb fashion in the 12-strong field Sunday, covering his mile splits in 4.04,0 and 3.59,5.
"It's a win and it is better than last week and better than three weeks ago and I will be a lot better in two months. I was strong today. I will take the fast time but it doesn't mean much come August; I will have to beat five or six more of them," he told the Register-Guard.
Mottram handed Ethiopia's Tariku Bekele (8.04,83) a spirited defeat in front of a standing-room only crowd at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field, which let out a loud roar when third-place finisher, American Matt Tegenkamp, crossed the line in 8.07,07 - setting an American record by sheering more than four seconds off of the two-year-old record national standard set at the 2005 Pre Classic. Free video of the race can be found here courtesy of NBC.
Bekele, who is the younger brother of 5.000m and 10.000m world-record holder Kenenisa Bekele, holds 7.29,11 3.000m and 12.53,81 5.000m personal bests - both Ethiopian national junior records, is 0-5 lifetime against Mottram. They've clashed twice at 5.000m (13.03,37-13.12,49 in Bislett in 2004; 13.32,96 - 13.34,76 at the 2005 World Championships), and the young Ethiopian has also been unsuccessful at beating Mottram indoors at the 2-mile distance, with Mottram winning the 2005 BIG Boston indoor Games in 8.26,54 to Bekele's 4th-place 8.27,56. Mottram also defeated the younger Bekele in their only 3.000m clash as well, with Mottram finishing third in the 2005 Zürich Weltklasse in 7.38,03 to Bekele's ninth-place 7.43,47.
Webb set the previous American record in finishing 2nd in the 2005 Pre Classic 2-mile to Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge, 8.07,68 to 8.11,48, but managed only a ninth-place finish (8.23,97) on Sunday.
Mottram lingered back in the middle of the pack for the first 1.320 yards of the eight-lap race right in front of Webb, but made a decisive move up behind Bekele and the two pace-makers in the race to hit a very good first mile split at a desirable pace (rabbits were asked to split 4.03).
Bekele and Mottram held tempo and command of the race, and made decisive moves at the beginning of the final lap, but Tegenkamp, who began making a long charge with three laps remaining - running just ahead of American Dathan Ritzenhein (8.11,74) - had launched into his own extended kick with 300m remaining.
Mottram passed Bekele on the backstraight with approximately 250m remaining and held a comfortable lead heading into the homestretch - where he began waiving to the crowd with 40m remaining. Neither Bekele nor Tegenkamp were able to gain on Mottram following his explosive kick.
Mottram, whose previous best was established in a victory over Kenya's Boniface Songok - 8.11,27 to 8.12,86 - at the 2005 Norwich Union Grand Prix in Sheffield, England (results link), holds seven track and road national Australian records, and appears to be in excellent form heading to the world championships to be contested in August in Osaka, Japan, where he is one of the favourites.
Mottram's 2-mile time equates to a 7.27,69 3.000m according to Track & Field News, with Bekele's new personal best equating to a 7.29,85, followed by Tegenkamp netting a 7.31,0 equivalent.
"It's too early to get too wound up about the world championships just yet," Mottram said to Australia's Herald Sun newspaper.
Indeed, the European season has not yet kicked off (the Oslo Golden League Meet is first on tap this Friday), yet Mottram is in excellent position heading into what promises to be an exciting year for the 2005 bronze medalist at 5.000m, and 2006 Commonwealth Games champion.
The world two-mile record - 7.58,61 - was set by Kenya's Daniel Komen in Hechtel, Belgium in 1998. Komen, the only man who has broken the eight-minute barrier, twice achieved the mark, with his second-best effort - 7.58,91 - set in a 1998 blow-out in Sydney, Australia. The only other person on the all-time in front of Mottram is Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie, the outer-worldly two-time Olympic and nine-time World Champion (indoors, outdoors, road), who ran 8.01,08 in Hengelo in 1997, and followed that effort up with great performances at Hengelo (8.01,86) and London (8.01,72) two seasons later.
Mottram is traveling back to his London base camp in preparation for his first European Circuit race on 27-June in Ostrava Golden Spike meeting, where he will contest the Emil Zatopek Memorial 5.000m (meet site), a favourite stop for early-season fast times and excellent racing. Kenya's Stephen Cherono holds the meet record in the event, running 12.48,81 there in 2003.
Mottram holds a lifetime best of 12.55,76 in the 5.000m, and has broken the magical 13.00-minute barrier a total of three times (12.56,13, 12.58,19).
The top-10 2-mile times outdoors:
- Daniel Komen (KEN) 1997 7.58,61
- Daniel Komen (KEN) 1998 7.58,91
- Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 1997 8.01,08
- Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 1999 8.01,72
- Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 1999 8.01,86
- Craig Mottram (AUS) 2007 8.03,50
- Daniel Komen (ETH) 1996 8.03,54
- Tariku Bekele (ETH) 2007 8.04,53
- Matt Tegenkamp (USA) 2007 8.07,07
- Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 1995 8.07,46
- 1.500m: 3.33,97
- Mile: 3.48,98 (3.54,81 indoors)
- 2.000m: 4.50,76
- 3.000m: 7.32,19 (7.39,24 indoors)
- 2-Mile: 8.03,50 (8.26,54 indoors)
- 5.000m: 12.55,76
- 10.000m: 27.50,55