Kenenisa Bekele on his way to breaking the world 5000m record in Hengelo (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Hengelo, The Netherlands

Bekele takes two seconds off world 5000m record

Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia destroyed the World outdoor 5000m record at the Thales FBK-Games – IAAF Grand Prix – this evening, adding this prize to the indoor mark he set in Birmingham earlier this year. The World 10,000m champion’s time of 12:37.35 bettered Haile Gebrselassie’s 12:39.36 which had been set in Helsinki in 1998.

Bekele had reportedly been battering the rest of the Ethiopian national squad to pieces at a recent training camp in the heights of Addis Ababa, and he was happy to let his feet, and in turn the eyes of the packed Fanny Blankers-Koen stadium, confirm his outstanding form tonight.

Display of solo determination

With six laps to go in the 5000m Bekele was out on his own in a race which only a lap or two earlier had been paced by Kenya’s David Kiplak (1000m 2:33.24; 2000m 5:05.47).

Bekele took the race through 3000m in 7:37.34, approximately a couple of seconds slower than the pace required to break Gebrselassie’s record. 4000m was passed in 10:07.93 in his lone assault, and if there had been any doubts that he lacked the concentration for such a World record attempt given his still relatively limited experience at the distance, the World bronze medallist was not about to confirm them.

The bell lap was reached in 11:39.5, now more than a second adrift but the 21 year-old powered home encouraged by the spectators who rose to their feet and shouted him across the line. ‘12:37.35’ flashed on to the clock: a staggering two seconds had been sliced off Gebrselassie’s record time.

A distant second was compatriot Mulegeta Wondimu (13:01.28 PB), with Hillary Chenonge of Kenya, third in 13:08.77. In seventh Craig Mottram improved his Oceania record to 13:10.47.

10,000m in Athens

This was a display of sheer solo determination but in no way should it be judged that Bekele is anyway near his limits. If he had had more assistance there is little doubt that his finishing time would have been significantly quicker.

“I was very self-confident today,” confirmed Bekele. “I felt very strong. At 3000m I was convinced I would break the record.”

“I have been training very hard in the last three weeks with the idea of breaking this record. This result is from hard work. I am very happy.”

“As to the Olympics, although I feel comfortable at both 5000m and 10,000m, I will run the 10,000m in Athens,” concluded a calm Bekele.

Haile on Bekele -

“10 years ago I first set the 5000m record here and now Kenenisa has his turn,” commented the previous record holder Gebrselassie. “I am so pleased to see such beautiful runners in Hengelo. I am very happy for Kenenisa...."

Pole vault record

Drawing the loudest applause tonight after Bekele’s record was Rens Blom’s Dutch record win in the men’s Pole Vault (5.77m) with which he saw off the German’s Lars Börgeling (5.70) and Tim Lobinger (5.60). Blom improved on the old mark of 5.76 of Christiaan Tamminga (1998).

Night of distance running

However, this vibrant IAAF Grand Prix meet was in all other respects a middle and long distance running feast, which would have been the case even without Bekele’s performance.

Maria Mutola gave us her usual dominant run in the women’s 800m winning in 1:58.49 (a world season’s lead). Holland’s Sandra Stals (2:00.60) and Agnes Samaria of Namibia (2:00.69) were second and third. Bram Som in the men’s 800m also raised a cheer nearly on par with that which greeted Blom’s vault win, taking the race in 1:45.01, another of tonight’s many world season bests.

10,000m mirrored 2003 race

Yet it was the men’s 10,000m which did the most to match Bekele’s brilliance, as Sileshi Sihine led a Ethiopian clean sweep in 26:39.69.

‘Mr. Hengelo’, Gebrselassie who had set the current World record on this track in 1998 (26:22.75) was always in the vanguard of the race which via the pace of Francis Bowen (Ken) passed through 1000m in 2:38.75 and 2000m in 5:18.50. By 3000m (8:00.03) it was the renowned timing of Martin Keino (KEN) who directed the schedule, with Gebrselassie guiding the rhythm from behind throughout these early stages.

Yet this was always going to be a real race for the reigning double Olympic champion, as shadowing him was World bronze medallist Sileshi Sihine, and with Gebrselassie taking the initiative before 4000m was reached (10:39.03), it was this pair who traded the pace throughout the remaining 6000m.

Sihine was credited with the race’s 5000m split of 13:19 and later the 8000m mark of 21:25. However, Gebrselassie made the larger effort up front, particularly in the final kilometre.

Haile lost for sprint speed

However, in scenes reminiscent of his defeat last year at the hands of Bekele, as the race hit the bell (25:43) we sensed that Gebrselassie was under pressure, and sure enough, at about 150 metres from home – the point at which Bekele struck last year – Sihine blasted past Gebrselassie and in one brief moment the race was over.

Crossing the finish in 26:39.69, Sihine was a very clear victor, with Gebrselassie left for a final sprint, finishing in 26:41.58. In a distant third came Abebe Dinkesa (27:23.60 – personal best), with a Ugandan national record from Wilson Busienei (27:29.95) in fourth.

“I still have a chance at 10,000m which I will run in Athens but the future for me is the half marathon and marathon,” confirmed Gebreslassie, “and 26:41 is pretty good speed for a marathoner!”

Meeting began with records aplenty

An exuberant run by Isabella Ochichi of Kenya in the women’s 5000m opened the international track programme of the evening with appropriately a meeting record of 14:46.42 (previous - Adere 14:51.67; 1991). The time was also a personal best and a world season’s lead by a huge margin, improving as it did on Lucy Wangui’s 14:57.09.

Also under 15 minutes were Britain’s Jo Pavey in second (14:55.04), and France’s Margaret Maury (14:59.12) for third. Benita Johnson, Australia’s newly crowned World Cross Country champion was due to start but pulled out as a precaution with a slight shin injury.

Hurdles win continues record pattern

The women’s sprint hurdles which followed next also bade well for the later programme as Jamaica’s Delloreen Ennis-London sped to a meet record too. Her time was 12.81 seconds, way inside the 12.92 which had stood as the previous Hengelo best.

Though the men’s 110m Hurdles didn’t hold to the developing record plot - Larry Wade won in 13.37 from fellow American Robby Hughes (13.54) - the following men’s 3000m Steeplechase put us back on an improving course, with Brimin Kipruto setting yet another meet best (8:05.52).

Kipruto entered the final lap on the heels of Kenyan compatriot Paul Kipsiele Koech, who held the meet record but in a perfectly timed last 100m sprint Kipruto passed his opponent to cross the line first. Koech in second finished in 8:05.92.

Of note, Olympic champion Reuben Kosgei did not start as a precaution due to a strain felt in warm-up.

No El Guerrouj

Quadruple World champion and World record holder Hicham El Guerrouj had been the star attraction on tonight’s start list for the 1500m but decided to withdraw from the competition a few days ago. The Moroccan middle distance master cited simply he was not ready to start his season as his preparations had been interrupted due to recent bad weather at his training camp in Ifrane, in Morocco’s Atlas mountains.

There is no doubting that El Guerrouj would have needed to have been in his best shape to have comfortably contended with tonight’s field which included the Kenyans Eliud Kipchoge, the World 5000m champion who so famously beat El Guerrouj to that title in the Paris, and Bernard Lagat who was crowned World Indoor 3000m champion this winter.

Perfect timing by Kipchoge

In a race which passed through 800m in 1:52, with Lagat taking the lead from that point, Kipchoge timed his moment of victory to perfection only putting his vest ahead of Lagat in the last 60 metres. His winning time was 3:33.20, a world season’s lead, with a fast finishing Isaac Songok nipping past Lagat even closer to the line to take second (3:33.45), with Lagat finishing third (3:33.52).

Alan Webb of the USA (3:33.70) and Tim Kiptanui (3:33.80) produced notable personal bests in fourth and fifth.

The women’s 1500m was taken in a personal best (4:04.85) by Canada’s World Indoor silver medallist Carmen Douma-Hussar, with Ethiopia’s Gezelet Burka also running her fastest ever with 4:06.10 for second.

Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic took the women’s High Jump victory with 1.96m leap.

There was a 63.07m win in the women’s Javelin for Czech Nikola Brejchova, and a 20.63m second round victory for Finn Ville Tiisanoja in the men’s Shot.

Ottey - sprint win

Slovenia’s Merlene Ottey won the women’s 100m in 11.35, and Ghana’s Eric Nkansah, the men’s dash in 10.36.

In the men’s Discus, South Africa’s Frantz Kruger the Olympic bronze medallist won with a third round 64.79m, with a final attempt of 62.19 to back it up. All his other attempts were fouls. His nearest challenger was way adrift with 57.86m.

Latvia’s World championships finalist Valentina Gotovska took the women’s Long Jump. Having led with her third round 6.48, she improved to 6.53 with her last leap.