2009 IAAF World Championships In Athletics: Distance Preview
Ah yes, my bread and butter, the distance events! There are lots of question marks over health and fitness when it comes to some of the usual suspects in these events, making for a very interesting set of circumstances surrounding the meet in Berlin. On the top of the list lands the health and fitness of marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe of the UK and 5000m world record holder Triunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, both of whom are total question marks. Without going further in to it lets get in to the races, see the contenders and see how my combination of distance running knowledge and some educated guessing comes up with what I think will be our podium finishers in Berlin!
Ethiopian great Kenenisa Bekele will look to add the world 5000m championship to his resume. It is hard to believe Bekele doesn’t have a world championship at the distance, as he is the world record holder and has an Olympic gold medal in the event. Bekele comes into the meet undefeated at 5000m in 2009, but he might not even run the event, as he is almost certainly going to run the 10,000m as the reigning Olympic and world champion at that distance. There are plenty of other contenders who will happily take advantage of Bekele’s absence, and who may be capable of dethroning him even if he does race. Defending world champion Bernard Lagat of the US has had a solid, though not spectacular, season thus far. He set a PR at 3000m, albeit losing to Bekele, in Paris and ran a 13:03.06 5000m in May. Beijing Olympic silver medalist Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya has the world-leading time in the 3000m (7:28.37) and has looked stellar throughout the season. The remaining East Africans could all contend, lead by Ali Abdosh of Ethiopia, who is only 20 years old and ran a personal best 12:59.56 in Hengelo, and compatriot Bekana Daba (12:59.22), who was left slightly behind in the kick to the line in Rome. Steeplecahse world record holder Saif Saaeed Shaheen will certainly be a factor as well, the Kenyan born Qatari citizen has run a personal best 7:32.46 over the flat 3000m distance this year. A few additional athletes to look for on the bell lap are Moses Kipsiro of Uganda, Matt Tegenkamp of the US, Mo Farah of Great Britain and James Kwalia C’Kurui of Qatar, all traditionally strong closers.
Competitor.com says: 1. Kenenisa Bekele (ETH), 2. Eliud Kipchoge (KEN), 3. Bernard Lagat (USA) and add Ali Abdosh (ETH) for a podium spot if Bekele doesn’t run.
A true battle of the East African powerhouses, the women’s 5000m race will almost certainly be won by either an Ethiopian or Kenyan. Tirunesh Dibaba is the world record holder and a two-time world champion in the event. Dibaba has been hampered with injuries throughout 2009, but ran a world-leading 14:33.65 in London, proving she is still deserving of favorite status. Dibaba, like Bekele, will not declare her intent in the event until later due to the fact that she is also entered in the 10,000m. Her compatriot, though fierce rival, Meseret Defar, the defending world champion and Olympic gold medalist, will be ready to go to battle, having clocked a victorious 14:36.38 in Oslo. Hot on her heals in there was Kenya’s top entrant, Vivian Cheruiyot. Cheruiyot ran a season-best 14:37.01 in her defeat to Defar and was just ahead of Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu, who ran a personal best 14:34.17 in Ostrava. Another athlete to look out for is Turk Elvan Abeleygesse, the silver medalist from Beijing. Abeleygesse has a tendency to race well in championships, although she has run only one 5000m this season in a very unimpressive 15:30.47. With all of the toss-ups over who may or may not run the event it is hard to make a true prediction of the outcome until we see who is on the line.
Competitor.com says: 1. Meseret Defar (ETH), 2. Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH), 3. Meselch Melkamu (ETH), and if one of the above scratches, throw Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) into that bronze medal slot.
The wizard of the 10,000m, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia has won all five world and Olympic medals at the distance since 2003. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that the outcome of this race will be any different. Bekele will need to hold off “Mr. Silver Medal” Sileshi Sihine. Sihine has played second fiddle to Bekele four consecutive times on the world stage. Husband of Tirunesh Dibaba, Sihine would love more than anything to share a gold medal with his wife in Berlin. Looking to take down the dynamic duo will be a “who’s who” of world-class distance running. Fellow Ethiopians Abebe Dinkesa and Gebre Gebremariam will likely work as pawns for Bekele and Sihine throughout the race and will probably fall off over the final laps. Kenya will look to Beijing Olympic bronze medalist Micah Kogo and fourth-place finisher Moses Masai to contend for medals. Rift Valley neighbor Eritrea, original home of US Olympian Meb Keflegizighi, will send 2007 cross country world champion Zersenay Tadese, the fifth-place finisher in Beijing. Also in the mix for a medal will be Ugandan former 10,000m world junior champion Boniface Kiprop and former Kenyan, now Qatari, Ahmad Hassan Abduallah. Americans Galen Rupp and Dathan Ritzenhein will probably look good through the first 6k or so, but it will be a true test over that final 4k for them to stay with the world’s best.
Competitor.com says: 1. Kenenisa Bekele (ETH), 2. Micah Kogo (KEN), 3. Zersenay Tadese (ERI) (UPDATED AFTER NEWS OF SIHINE’S WITHDRAWAL)
The women’s 10,000m will also see a defense by the Olympic champion, in the form of Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba. Dibaba, like Bekele, may well run both this event and the 5000m in Berlin, which could affect the tactics of her rivals. Although Dibaba would usually be the favorite, she has to face off against compatriots Meseret Defar (29:59.20) and Meselech Melkamu (29:53.80), both of whom have run personal bests in 2009. Melkamu’s time ranks second all-time and has solidified her right to be considered a favorite going into Berlin. Not to be underestimated is Turk Olympic silver medalist Elvan Abeleygesse, who, as mentioned previously, is untested in 2009. Not to be taken lightly is the American contingent containing Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan and national champion Amy Yoder-Begley. The Kenyan contingent is lead by Linet Masai, who took the win over Dibaba over 5000m in New York earlier this year and set a 5000m personal best in Ostrava with a time of 14:34.36. A surprise could come from Russian champion Lilya Shobukhova, who set a personal best at those championships, clocking an impressive 30:30.93. The Russian was sixth at the 2008 Olympics at 5000m and silver medalist at 3000m at the 2006 indoor world championships. Don’t leave Kim Smith of New Zealand or Hilda Kibet of Kenya off your list of dark horses.
Competitor.com says: 1.Meselch Melkamu (ETH), 2. Linet Masai (KEN), 3. Meseret Defar (ETH) (UPDATED AFTER NEWS OF DIBABA’S WITHDRAWAL)
With 2008 Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru not in the field, it could become lucky number three for Moroccan Jaouad Gharib. Gharib, the 2003 and 2005 world champion, was runner-up to Wanjiru at the Olympics in Beijing. However, it may finally be time for the Kenyans to take their streak of world and Olympic championships to three. Leading the charge will be the duo of Abel Kirui and four-time Boston champion Robert Cheruiyot. Kirui will have the distinction of holding the fastest personal best on the line in Berlin, having clocked a 2:05:05 in Rotterdam this year. The top Ethiopian contender comes in the form of Deriba Merga with a personal best of 2:06:38 from 2008, as well as a Boston Marathon victory notched on his belt. Fellow Ethiopian Tsegay Kebede was the bronze medalist in Beijing and definitely has a shot at a medal in Berlin. The marathon is inherently unpredictable, and less favored runners could survive the war of attrition to claim one or more medals. The strongest dark-horse contenders are Yared Asmeron of Eritria, Atushi Sato of Japan and Young-joon Ji of Korea.
Competitor.com says- 1. Deriba Merga (ETH), 2. Jaouad Gharib (MOR), 3. Tsegay Kebede (ETH)
Until last week it looked as though German Irina Mikitenko was going to be the clear favorite in the women’s marathon; however, a death in her family has taken her out of the race and left it wide open. It may be time for a Japanese athlete to take the nation’s first gold medal in the event since Suzuki Hiromi won in 1997 in Athens. Leading the Japanese charge will be Yoko Shibui, who ranks number seven all-time with a personal best of 2:19:41 from 2004 at the Berlin Marathon. Along with Shibui, the Japanese contingent will send three other athletes who have run under 2:27. American Kara Goucher has a legitimate shot at a medal in Berlin , as she is coming off of two top-three finishes at major marathons (New York ’08 and Boston ’09). Goucher ran an impressive tune-up race in Chicago, clocking in 1:08:05 over the half-marathon distance on August 2nd. The last American to medal was Marianne Dickerson, who took the silver in 1983 in Helsinki. East Africans will certainly play their usual part in the 26.2-mile affair. Ethiopian Dire Tune is the most experienced in the group, having won Boston in 2008, and brings a 2:24:40 personal best with her. Countrywoman Bezunesh Bekele has shown some promise lately with a win in Dubai and a fourth-place finish in Boston this year. The unusual dark horse will be 2005 world champion and world record holder Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain. The world’s fastest marathoner in history recently had foot surgery but is still declared for the race. Although she may not be in top form, any time Radcliffe toes the line she is a serious threat, and could even be considered the favorite, simply based on her credentials.
Competitor.com says: 1. Dire Tune (ETH), 2. Kara Goucher (USA), 3. Yoko Shibui (JPN)