BEIJING (Reuters) – Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele outsprinted his rivals with a stunning last lap to win the 5,000 metres on Saturday and become the first man to complete the Olympic long-distance double since 1980.The 26-year-old, who retained his 10,000 title last Sunday, raced home in an Olympic record time of 12 minutes 57.82 seconds to give Ethiopia a sweep of all four distance titles after Tirunesh Dibaba completed the women’s double on Friday.
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“It’s very special,” he told reporters. “It’s not easy to achieve this for me, after hard work, after so much effort.”
It was a first major 5,000m title for the world record-holder and matched the feat last achieved by his compatriot Miruts Yifter in Moscow 28 years ago and never managed by another Ethiopian great, Haile Gebreselassie.
Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, who denied Bekele a world championship double in Paris in 2003, was unable to follow the leader when he broke for home and finished well adrift in 13.02.80.
“In this final the pace was fast,” said Kipchoge. “But if we were in the same position in the last lap, maybe I could have caught up with him. I expected myself to get a gold medal, but I lost it and he was faster.”
The 24-year-old’s compatriot Edwin Cheruiyot Soi took bronze in 13.06.22, while American Bernard Lagat, whose kick was enough to win him the world title last year, found the pace just too quick and trailed in ninth.
“I’m very proud that we Kenyans did a really good job,” said Soi, who ran a personal best to finish third. “I’ve called my family but they didn’t pick up. I guess they’re still yelling.”
Bekele, who won silver in Athens four years ago, was never going to allow a slow pace on Saturday despite the heat and humidity and he raced into the lead after the first half a lap.
“My plan was to pick up the pace very fast,” he said. “It was a very fast race.”
He remained at the front guarded by his brother Tariku and the third Ethiopian, Abreham Cherkos, with the two Kenyans and Lagat tucked in behind.
When the field stretched out with three laps to go, Lagat and the two other Ethiopians faded leaving a straight race between Bekele and the Kenyans.
Bekele kicked at the bell and, glancing frequently behind him, had a 10-metre advantage over Kipchoge midway through the back straight which he extended to 30 by the time he crossed the line.
“I had just enough, just enough, I was tired,” he said.
Although outside his world record of 12:37.35, Bekele’s time was good enough to beat the previous Olympic mark of 13:05.59 set by Morocco’s Said Aouita when he won gold in 1984.
Kenyan-born Lagat won the 1,500m and 5,000m double at last year’s world championships but failed to reach the final of the shorter race in Beijing.
“Inside me I was not ready,” said the 33-year-old. “My mind, my body, my Achilles. I could not kick at all. It’s been a tough two weeks for me.”