It’s tempting to rhetorically consign this gold medal to Mohamed Farah of Great Britain, the defending champion.
To do so is acknowledging that nobody has beaten him at a global championship since Ibrahim Jeilan leaned a little farther than Farah at the IAAF World Championships Daegu 2011. Farah’s dominance over both this event and the 5000m in the past Olympiad has been remarkable, but with few competitive opportunities at the longer distance outside the championships, it’s difficult to gauge the real fitness of any entrants, Farah and his likely main rivals ncluded.
With that in mind, it’s worth considering those who will be contesting the lesser medals, or for the gold should the 33-year-old Farah find the title defence beyond his grasp.
The man who has most recently been Tergat to Farah’s Gebrselassie – for those that remember the epic battles between the pair in the 1990s and at the 2000 Olympic Games –has been Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor, the reigning world cross country champion and the winner of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships earlier this year, two championships which were also Tergat’s province.
Kamworor was runner-up to Farah at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 in this event but bested him in Cardiff over 21km on the roads earlier this year, and clearly has set himself up to solve the problem of devising a strategy which can bring him to the top step of the podium on the track.
The question is whether he’ll have support in his quest.
His teammates will be the same as they were in Beijing, Paul Tanui and Bedan Karoki; they were third and fourth respectively in that race and will stand to take over for Kamworor should he not be up to the challenge.
Ethiopia returns to the fray
The strangest thing about the Beijing final was the absence of Ethiopian athletes from the top places. Normally intensely competitive with the Kenyans, their best place in 2015 was a modest 10th.
This year their trio for Rio stands first, fourth and fifth on the 2016 performances list, while Farah is second.
Yigrem Demelash leads the 2016 world list with his 26:51.11 in Hengelo; Demelash was the 2012 world junior champion in this event. The most senior member of the trio and the second-fastest, Tamirat Tola, will turn 25 on Thursday (11) while Abadi Rmbaye Hadis, their third man, is still a junior, with his 19th birthday not to come until November, and only surfaced internationally in 2015.
Another competitor not to be counted out is the silver medallist from London, USA's Galen Rupp, who was fifth in Beijing last summer.
Unlike in London, Rupp will also be racing the marathon (only his second) on the last day of the Olympics, but feels he's sharp enough to take on the 10,000m as a warm-up and even attempted to set up a Zatopek-like schedule by racing the 5000m at the US Trials.
Rupp shares a coach with Farah and will likely attempt a complementary racing strategy, but will he settle for silver again if gold is within his reach?
First he’ll have to get to the closing laps where the real racing usually begins and then see if it is a possibility.
Parker Morse for the IAAF