There was once again no way of beating Kenenisa Bekele in the final sprint. The 27-year-old Ethiopian took the 3000m in Thessaloniki with a great effort in the last lap. After a tactical and slow race the double Berlin World champion (5000 and 10,000 m) clocked 8:03.79 minutes and with that had once more denied Bernard Lagat (USA) a prestigious victory against him. Lagat crossed the line in 8:04.00, followed by Sammy Mutahi (Kenya/8:04.64) and Deresse Mekonnen (Ethiopia/8:05.32).
Exactly 20 days after the memorable 5000m final at the World Championships in Berlin Lagat and Bekele met again. The Ethiopian had meanwhile taken the AF Golden League Jackpot with 5000m wins in Zurich and Brussels while BLagat had just one race since Berlin, coming second in the Gateshead 3,000 m. That may have been a slight advantage for Lagat, who was able to save some energy compared to Bekele. But it did not help in the the end. “I ran pretty well but it was not an easy race after a very long season. I am very tired and so I will not run tomorrow’s 5000 metres,” said Bekele.
The pace was very slow for more than two thirds of the race. Kenya’s Silias Kipruto was the leader at the 1000m mark which he passed in 2:55.43. That was jogging speed for those runners and the split time would have suited better to a women’s race. It was not getting much faster in the next kilometre (5:40.21) and Bekele was comfortable running further back in the group, watching what happened in front of him. He then moved forward to third place with two laps to go and took the initiative at the bell.
The final part of the race was almost a copy of the Berlin 5000m final. Bekele went to front and further increased his speed with 250 metres to go. Coming out of the final bend he was in control, but Lagat was coming through strongly. At the beginning of the home straight it looked as if the American could finally beat Bekele, but the Ethiopian saw the danger coming and was able to put in another gear. “Kenenisa won once again – you know he is the guy who always wins,” said Lagat.
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF