Richard Mateelong (r) en route to a Continental Cup record in Split. (Freelance) © Copyright
Mateelong, a two-time African champion, stopped to clock in 8:09.67 to break the 8:19.09 competition record set by Saif Saaeed Shaheen four years ago at Athens Olympic Stadium.
That the competition record would fall was evident from the gun thanks to Ugandan record holder Benjamin Kiplagat’s aggressive start. Going for broke from the gun, Kiplagat built a 10-metre lead after the first lap and extending it to more than 20 a kilometre into the race.
While his breakaway ambitions were short-lived, the honest pace continued. By the end of the second kilometre Mateelong, Gari and European champion Mahiedine Mekhissi ate up the gap but still shadowing the Ugandan. With two laps to go, Mateelong and Mekhissi moved to the front, with Gari in third and Kiplagat hanging on, but this time trailing the pack.
Gari took the lead at the bell and with 250 metres to go, the race became a stride-for-stride battle between the two Africans. Gari fended off Mateelong’s challenge until the Kenyan ran him down over the final 20 metres.
Gari’s efforts were rewarded with a national record in 8:09.87. Mekhissi was next in 8:09.96 to finish third, with Kiplagat crossing in 8:14.47 for fourth.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF