Whilst the men's high jumpers were performing on a sub-par level, the 5000 metre finalist were following suit, as Benjamin Limo (KEN) sprinted past three rivals over the final eighty metres to win the gold in 13:32.55, the slowest winning time in the history of the World Championships.
At 2:54.47, the opening kilometre was leaden, as Isaac Songok (KEN) immediately led the 15-man troupe on a jog, which eventual winner Limo took over by the end of the first lap. The second kilometre improved noticeably to 2:44.93 before the runners slipped back again into sleep mode with 2:48.34 during the third.
Conservative tactics formed the adhesive holding the pack of runners together until Marius Bakken (NOR) forced the pace at the 3400 mark, with Athens 10K silver medallist Sileshi Sihine (ETH), Songok, and defending champion Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) going with him.
With two laps left, Bakken still held the advantage over Sihine and Moukheld Al-Outaibi (KSA), but Craig Mottram (AUS) was moving up on the outside as 600 metres remained.
At the bell, it was Sihine leading Kipchoge and Mottram, but still with no one really going into an all-out final sprint. The Ethiopian then began to kick with 200 left as Mottram went along. Kipchoge then passed Mottram on the curve as it appeared that the medallists had identified themselves with only the final straight remaining.
That was the signal for Limo, who had been lagging just behind the leaders, to sprint hard the final 80 metres, passing the three front-runners and stealing the gold medal at the last moment.
The silver medallist six years ago in Seville, Limo admitted, “The race was slow, and I knew the last lap was going to be very fast. I have trained well, and I knew I would be strong at the end.”
The Kenyan Army engineer admitted that he and his teammates had a plan to work together. “We just wanted to win a medal for Kenya, hopefully a gold one. The plans went very well, although I did not expect to win today.”
The champion also announced that his wife had given birth to a son only last Monday, adding “It’s obvious that I should name him ‘Helsinki’,”
Sihine barely held on for the silver in 13:32.81 as Mottram put on a late kick to pass Kipchoge on the run-in, falling just short of getting the second prize. The Australian’s time in winning the bronze was 13:32.96, with Kipchoge’s 13:33.04 placing out of the medals in fourth.
Sihine, in getting outkicked at the end, was not surprised by the Kenyans’ strength, “but I did not think Limo would win. Their tactics surprised me a little,” he admitted.
Mottram credited patience during a slow race for his success. “The first few laps were very slow so I just tried to stay calm,” the tall Australian said. “Over the last kilometre I stepped up my speed a little, and then I just waited for the last 250. At the finish, I gave it all I had.”