© Copyright
General News

Edmonton 5000 metres an open race

Edmonton 5000 metres an open race
K. Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
1 August 2001 - The hallmark of the great distance runner is a successful double at the global championships.  Had a schedule allowed it,  two runners are capable of attempting and possibly winning the 1500m/5000m double in Edmonton.  They are Hicham El Guerrouj, and Ali Saidi-Sief, both silver medallists in Sydney, El Guerrouj at the 1500m and Saidi-Sief at the 5000m. 

In fact, at the World Indoor Championships, El Guerrouj had expressed his desire to attempt the 1500m/5000m double in Edmonton.  Unfortunately, the schedule did not change and El Guerrouj will be concentrating on the 1500m, perhaps for the final time at the championships level.  Since Ali Saidi-Sief is running brilliantly at the 1500m this summer, presumably he too will be concentrating on the 1500m.  The showdown between El Guerrouj and Saidi-Sief at the 1500m should be exciting, especially because the strength of both runners are in sustained sprint at the end of the race.   If the race is slow, Rui Silva, who won the 2001 World Indoor Champion with blazing kick will became a factor.  Winning the World Indoor Championships may have boosted Silva’s confidence. 

In the absence of Saidi-Sief, the 5000m final in Edmonton is wide open with no clear favourite.  Co-favourites presumably are three Kenyans - Richard Limo, Sammy Kipketer and John Kibowen, and three Ethiopians - Million Wolde, Hailu Mikonnen, and Abiyote Abate.  Since five of these six contenders are quite young, a major breakthrough is a definite possibility for any of them. 

20-year-old Richard Limo, who won the Kenyan Trials, has run 13:00.32 this year; he has a personal best of 12:58.15 from 1999.  Limo finished second in the junior division of the 1998 and 1999 World Cross Country Championships.  However, it should be noted that runners who finished ahead of Limo were Ethiopians, Million Wolde and Hailu Mekonnen in 1998 and 1999 respectively.  Limo who was third in the 5000m at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, ran in the Olympic Games last year, however, he only finished 10th.

19-year-old Sammy Kipketer who finished second in the Kenyan Trials this year was a sensation in 2000, having recorded 12:54.07 and 12:55.03 at the 5000m.  However, he only finished fourth at the Kenyan Olympic Trials and missed the Olympics.  Although Kipketer has not captured the form that made him a sensation last year, he still ran 12:59.34, and 12:59.94 this year. 

The oldest Kenyan on the team, John Kibowen, made a sensational breakthrough in 1997 as a 28-year-old.   He recorded 3:30.44 at the 1500m, yet unexpectedly, he went out in the heats in the World Championships in Athens.  However, his later championships records are better.  He won the World Cross Country Championships short event (4Km) in both 1998 and 2000.  This year, he ventured into the 5000m and recorded 12:59.97 in Athens. 

The 1998 World Junior Champion at the 5000m as well as the 1998 World Cross Country Champion at the junior division, Million Wolde was the surprise Olympic Champion in Sydney. His personal best at the distance is 12:59.39, nothing exceptional. Was Sydney a fluke?  We will know in Edmonton.  

Hailu Mekonnen whose personal best at the 5000m at the time was only 13:10.98 finished seventh in the 1999 World Championships.  This year he improved his personal best to 12:58.57, and also ran 13:02.01.  His best showing in the championships was at the 1999 World Cross Country Championships.  After finishing 3rd in the short course (4Km), Mekonnen finished first in the junior division a day later. 

20-year-old Abiyote Abate may be on the verge of major breakthrough.  With personal bests of only 13:10.7, and 7:42.58 last year, at the 5000m and 3000m respectively, Abate made a dramatic improvement this year.  He recorded 13:00.36 in the Golden Gala in Roma. 

Turning to non-East Africans, it is reported that Smail Sghir, a former Moroccan who became a French citizen will be running for France in Edmonton.  Sghir is a proven championships runner, who finished fourth at the 5000m in both the 1995 and 1997 Worlds.  He is rounding into shape as he ran 13:01.64 in the Golden Gala in Roma. 

The best of the Europeans in the race may be Alberto Garcia of Spain, and Mark Carroll of Ireland; they both seem to be peaking at the right time.  Garcia won the 5000m in the DN Galan in Stockholm.  Although he went out in the heats in both the 1999 Worlds and 2000 Olympics, his third place finish at the World Indoor Championships may gave him the confidence he needs to run well at the Championships.  Carroll, a bronze medallist at the 1998 European Championships has run 13:08.32 and 7:33.52 at Bislett and Monte Carlo respectively.  With Bob Kennedy out of the race, the best US hope is Adam Goucher, who ran 7:34.96, a new personal best at the 3000m, in Monte Carlo.  It should also be noted that since the Africans are not running low 12:50s, the gap between Africans and Europeans seem to be narrowing. 

Until last year, the Kenyans have won a medal at the 5000m in every Olympics and World Championships since 1988 when John Ngugi won the Olympic gold medal with a courageous mid-race surge.  However, in last year’s Olympics, the best Kenyan finish was fifth by David Chelule.  

Will someone push the pace from the start, as Michael Chesire did in the 1993 Worlds?  Chesire covered the first 1000m in 2:31.76.  If the race starts out slow, will someone attempt to break the race open with a mid-race-surge, as Yobes Ondieki, Ismael Kirui and Daniel Komen did in the 1991, 1993 and 1997 Worlds respectively?  In 1991, Ondieki covered the laps two to five in 4:02.46 (59.88, 60.47, 60.61, 61.50) and he ran away from the field.  In 1993, Kirui ran the fifth and sixth laps in 62 and 60.21 seconds respectively, after Chesire covered the first four laps in 4:08.4.  In 1997, Komen ran the 8th and 9th laps in 56.8 and 58.38.  If nobody takes an initiative in the mid-race, will someone push the pace with two or three laps to go as Murray Halberg has done in the 1958 Empire Games and again at the 1960 Olympics?  Or will the race comedown to the finishing kick as it did in the 1992 Olympic Games? 

As shown by John Ngugi in the 1988 Olympics, Yobes Ondieki in the 1991 Worlds, Ismael Kirui in the 1993 Worlds, and Daniel Komen in the 1997 Worlds, historically, the Kenyans run best when they run aggressively.  On the other hand, when they run passively, as they did in the Sydney Olympics, they can get shut out of the medals.  If the race is slow, door open up for runners with slower personal bests.  The slower the race becomes, the more runners will have a chance to win, which is exactly what the Kenyans would like to avoid.   One might think that John Kibowen’s chance would increase if the pace is slow, for he is the best 1500m runner in the field.  However, if the race come down to the final 100m sprint, 1500m speed is not a good indicator at all. 

Whether or not the Edmonton final becomes a classic race to remember will depend on how the Kenyans run the race.