10 JUL 2009 General News Rome, Italy

Bekele – ‘I’m dreaming about this jackpot’ - ÅF Golden League

Kenenisa Bekele brings his tally of sub-13-minute 5000m runs to 17, more than any other athlete in history (Getty Images)Kenenisa Bekele brings his tally of sub-13-minute 5000m runs to 17, more than any other athlete in history (Getty Images) © Copyright
As Kenenisa Bekele said himself tonight in the Stadio Olimpico: “I have achieved everything”. Yet, curiously, Ethiopia’s winner of multiple Olympic and World titles made a special effort in the Golden Gala merely to be acknowledged as the fastest 5000m runner of the year.

After making his move with 200m to go, Bekele had the 5000m won early in the home straight. A glance up at the screen ahead of him confirmed that he had seen off his challengers yet he denied himself an easy run-in and spurted for the line.

“Perfect planning,” Jos Hermens, Bekele’s manager, said as the athlete celebrated his first sub 13-minute clocking of the year but, more important, knocking Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge off his perch as holder of the World Leading time (12:56.46). Bekele clocked 12:56.23 to become last man standing in the chase for the AF Golden League $1m jackpot.

The defeat of Finnish javelin thrower Tero Pitkamaki leaves Bekele as the only man left at the halfway stage in the chase for season-long big money prize while three women – Kerron Stewart (100m), Sanya Richards (400m) and Yelena Isinbayeva (Pole Vault) – remain in contention. Have no doubt, Bekele is taking serious aim.

“I’m dreaming to win this jackpot, it is very important to me,” said Bekele, the Olympic champion and World Record holder at 5000 and 10,000m. Now unbeaten in 14 finals over 5000m since losing to Bernard Lagat, of the United States, in London in July 2006, Bekele said that it had been important to him to set a World Leading time.

“To run the fastest time on the World Leading list means that you are the best at this moment,” the 27-year-old Bekele said. “If you are a great athlete you have to have the World Lead. I’m so satisfied with this time.”

Only yesterday, at the eve-of-meeting press conference, Bekele had said that running fast times was “very difficult for me right now” and that “I’m not like I was before. I’m very tired during a race.” But his spirits were boosted by this latest performance, albeit one that was 19 seconds slower than his World Record 12:37.35, set in Hengelo five years ago.

“Now I am improving every week and I am happy with my condition,” Bekele said. Asked whether he felt invincible, Bekele replied: “I know only the races I have run, the future I don’t know. You never know. I am racing many athletes, many new athletes, and I cannot say. I’m improving, I’m preparing well, and that is enough.”

So far as the World Championships, in Berlin, are concerned, Bekele said: “I will definitely run the 10,000m but I have not decided about the 5000m.” It seems unlikely that he would double if, as expected, he wins the 3000m in Paris next Friday and needs to keep something in reserve for the last two Golden League meetings, in Zurich and Brussels.

Following in Bekele’s shadow tonight, the next six athletes set personal bests. Chief among them was runner-up Mark Kiptoo from Kenya (12:57.62) and he spoke of his admiration for Bekele – and his determination to beat him one day.

“I came to run a personal best and I finished second so I am happy,” Kiptoo said. “I was struggling hard to win the race but it was not my day. There was nobody to assist me to push the pace. I believe that, with time and hard training, nothing is impossible. I respect Bekele, he has done a great job, and he is somebody whom we admire, but still I am struggling so that one day I will beat him.”

David Powell for the IAAF