Mo Farah in the 5000m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
The men’s 5000m field was thinned from 51 to 15 on Wednesday morning (17) ahead of the final on Saturday. The field was split between two heats with the first five finishers from each race, plus the five fastest non-automatic qualifiers progressing.
The first heat started slowly with Japan’s Kota Murayama leading through the first kilometre in 2:47.22 and the second in 5:31.78, well ahead of most of the pursuing pack.
Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet took over shortly before the 3000m mark and led a large pack past Murayama, but the pace did not increase significantly until the final laps.
Defending champion, Mohamed Farah of Great Britain, moved to the front with 700 metres remaining but didn’t break away and sat behind Kenya’s world silver medallist Caleb Ndiku at the bell.
With half a lap remaining, a stumble in the pack saw Farah almost go down, bringing back memories of his tumble in the 10,000m final, and did bring USA’s Hassan Mead down, the latter getting up to finish 13th and out of contact.
At that point, the sprinting began in earnest but it was not to Ndiku’s benefit; Gebrhiwet would reach the line first in 13:24.65, followed closely by Bahrain’s Albert Rop, Farah, Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, and USA’s Bernard Lagat, with Ndiku at 13:26.63 the first outside the automatic qualifiers with an anxious wait until after the conclusion of the second heat.
This was always a tenuous position, with the second heat knowing exactly how fast they needed to run and having plenty of athletes willing to risk taking the pace to get the time qualifiers.
Faster second heat
South Africa’s Elroy Gelant led from the start and carried through 3000m at a pace 10 seconds ahead of the first heat, at which point Great Britain’s Andrew Butchart took over and worked with Uganda’s Philip Kipyeko to keep the pace up.
Butchart continued to lead until barely 200 metres remained, at which point a pack including Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris and Dejen Gebremeskel moved past.
Butchart attached himself to the back of that group and the quintet ran together to the finish, with Paul Chelimo of the USA taking the heat win in 13:19.54 followed immediately by Edris, Gebremeskel, Birhanu Balew of Bahrain, and Butchart.
As expected, the five time qualifiers followed directly, starting with Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed, then Gelant, Abrar Osman of Eritrea, Australia’s Brett Robinson, and finally David Torrence in a Peruvian record of 13:23.20, well ahead of the now eliminated Ndiku.
In the end, most of the favourites advanced, including 2012 gold and silver medallists Farah and Gebremeskel, as well as 2012 Olympic fourth place-finisher and 2007 world champion Lagat.
The most striking consequence of the qualifying rounds was an absence of Kenyan uniforms from the final, which hasn’t happened since Kenya boycotted the 1980 Games in Moscow.
Parker Morse for the IAAF