Berlin, Germany – So it took a very strong Kenenisa Bekele to restore Ethiopia’s long distance pride in Berlin at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, on Monday night (17).
Two days after the country’s shock defeat by Kenya’s Linet Masai in the women’s 10,000 metres it was the double Olympic Champion and world record holder, who took the gold medal in the men’s 25 lap race. “I am very happy to have won this one for Ethiopia. It is not easy if you run for your country in a major championship,” said Bekele who counting team results at cross country has won 23 senior global gold medals in his career.
4 in the bag, ambition to surpass Haile
And as so often when Bekele takes a major race, there was something special to come with it. We are not talking about a World record in a championship race, though with his great time of 26:46.31 minutes the 27 year-old improved his own championship’s record from Paris 2003 (26:49.57).
But it was the great Haile Gebrselassie, with whom Kenenisa Bekele is now on the same level regarding the number or World Championship wins in the 10,000m. While Gebrselassie took each of the golds in 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1999 Bekele now also has four in a row: Paris 2003, Helsinki 2005, Osaka 2007 and Berlin 2009.
So in two year’s time, when the World Championships will take place in Daegu (Korea), Bekele could even surpass Haile Gebrselassie with a fifth win.
“To surpass Haile is always a major challenge for me. But we will have to wait what will happen until then. I have to stay healthy and fit.”
Jos Hermens, Bekele’s Dutch manager, confirmed: “Oh, yes, Kenenisa is still very determined to surpass Haile whenever there is a chance.”
Well, there is one opportunity coming up very soon: next Sunday, when the 5000m final will take place. No man has so far taken both gold at 5,000 and 10,000m in the history of the World Championships. Gebrselassie had just missed out at his first World Championships back in 1993. In Stuttgart he took the 10,000m gold but then was narrowly beaten by Kenyan Ismael Kirui. After that Ethiopia’s superstar never tried doubling again at global championships.
Bekele also tried the double at his first World Championships in 2003. But he ended up with a bronze medal in Paris, narrowly beaten by Kenya’s winner Eliud Kipchoge and Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj. But of course Bekele succeeded in Beijing last year.
The prospect of a unique World Championships’ double seems to be an attractive feat for Bekele. “Yes, to take the double would be an important success for me,” said the world record holder at both distances. “But I will decide about the start tomorrow,” he added on Monday night. Asked if he feels that this might be the best chance at these championships to take both golds, Kenenisa Bekele replied: “It is never easy to win the 5,000 metres gold medal. Even if it might look so.”
Usain was very special
But chances seem to be very good that we will see more of Kenenisa Bekele in these World Championships. But first the Ethiopian will see more of World Championships’ action himself. “Yes, I watched the 100 metres and I enjoyed it. It was a superb race and the result from Usain was very special.”
Asked about his personal best at 100 metres Kenenisa replied: “It is 11.00 seconds.” Talking relaxed after the end of the official press conference in the dark outside the press conference tent next to the historic Olympic Stadium he was asked about his improved English: “I do not really study it at home, but because I speak regularly I am improving more and more.”
Over 800m Haile’s confident of his success
But back to Usain Bolt: How about an 800m race against the 100m World record holder? Who would win that one? “Oh I would definitely beat him if we would race 800 metres. I would be ready”, said Bekele, who, after answering this one, may prompt meeting directors to turn to him regarding a challenge with Usain Bolt.
Monday’s race had been Bekele’s first 10,000m event this year. Following his stress fracture in the foot in November 2008 he had to abandon any starts in the indoor season and in cross country this year. “Such an injury can happen, so I was not feeling too disappointed. I recovered well and the main goal of the year had always been the World Championships in Berlin.”
At the start of the season Bekele then concentrated on the 5000m and successfully stayed in the AF Golden League Jackpot with wins in Berlin, Oslo, Rome and Paris. But although he had not raced the 10,000m before Monday he was confident.
“Of course you can never be sure that you will win a race – you can only dream about that. But I prepared very well. And because of this I felt comfortable even with the fast pace. At first I stayed back a bit, but I felt fine all the way,” said Bekele and added: “There was no team tactic today. It can not work when the pace is so fast. You can do this if the race is slow, but if it is fast then you have to run for yourself only.”
Bekele once more did this in an impressive way.
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF