8 December 2012 – Melbourne, Australia – In racing terms, Emmanuel Bett looked a good bet to take the 2012 Zatopek 10,000m race.
The world’s fastest man this year, a near miss away from the Kenyan Olympic team, the defending champion and no obvious strong opposition – Bett had most bases covered.
No one controls the weather, however, and the weather gods were not smiling on this year’s Zatopek, the 52nd edition of the meeting. The relief of a cool change blowing in a couple of hours before the meeting, dropping the temperature from 37°C to around 20, was tempered by the resultant blustery wind which buffeted the 10,000m runners.
Bett ground the opposition into the dust, but the wind and the impact of running into it alone for all but the first three-and-a-half of the 25 laps, held him back to a winning time of 27:59.23, a long way from his target of Luke Kipkosgei’s race record 27:22.54.
It was different from last year, when Bett powered through the rain to defeat Kenyan teammates Bidan Karoki (who turned the tables in Eugene to take the third spot in the team for London) and Micah Kogo in 27:39.33.
“It was fine while the pacemaker was in, but then I felt (the wind),” said Bett, pointing to his chest to illustrate where it was hitting him. “Maybe next year,” he said of the record.
Behind him, London Olympic representative Ben St Lawrence took his third Australian title in 28:35.92, but only after a last-lap battle with the surprising Ben Moreau.
Moreau, who finished 11th for England at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, is now living and working in Sydney. He is registered in Australia, but will not be eligible for a national title until he registers for a second, consecutive year. He was very happy with his 28:40.83, a personal best by “around a minute”, he said. He will run the Beppu Marathon in Japan in February.
Spence first American winner of women’s race
Neely Spence set up a number of firsts in winning the women’s race in 32:16.51. It was the debut 10,000m for the 22-year-old who has won numerous NCAA Division II titles for Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.
Indeed, only one American has won the Zatopek before, a young athlete named Galen Rupp who took out the 2006 race from fellow-American Bret Schoolmeester.
Rupp has done very nicely for himself since, culminating (so far) in his silver medal behind Mo Farah in the London Olympic 10,000m.
Spence may not do that well, but she has the genes to go far. Her father, and her coach until this year, is Steve Spence, the marathon bronze medallist at the Tokyo 1991 World Championships.
Australian 1500m Olympic semi-finalist Zoe Buckman did a fine job of setting Spence up, leading for the first eight laps. From there on, she was on her own. She proved a master of tempo, passing through 3000m in 9:40 behind Buckman, 5000m in 16:09 and crossing the line almost 300 metres clear in 32:16.51.
Behind her, Lara Tamsett had the worst of her four runs in the Zatopek. The winner in 2008, she has also finished second and third in the intervening years.
Clearly struggling, Tamsett only threw off the challenge of third-placed Linda Spencer in the final laps. Her 33:03.84 was her slowest Zatopek time, but led to the sweetest reward. As the only Australian in the race with a World Championships qualifying time – from Stanford in May – her second place and national title win makes her an automatic selection for the World Championships in Moscow.
It will be Tamsett’s first World Championships team after narrowly missing out on previous occasions. She was 14th in this year’s IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in Kavarna, but this will be her first Australian track and field team.
In other feature events, James Nipperess took the Bronislaw Malinowski 3000m steeplechase in 8:50.46 while Declan Wilson, a nephew of former New Zealand and Australian representative Peter O’Donoghue, won the de Castella U20 men’s 3000m in 8:07.90. Wilson did most of the leading before losing, then regaining, the lead in a dramatic final lap.
Len Johnson for the IAAF