5000m MEN : MO FARAH CONTINUES HIS WINNING STRIP
The first step is to explain why athletes knowing they go to lose with Mo Farah in a tactical race continue to use the same tactic (to follow a slow pace without trying some other solution), for obviously being defeated once again.
Everybody understands there is something strange in this way of running. What I want to explain here, are the reasons of this behavior, and the points at the base of the tactics from African athletes.
- Don’t give too much credit to what you read on newspapers. If you read some interview with Kenyans or Ethiopians in their newspapers, you can see questions and answers are the same in the last 20 years. You can change the name of the interviewed athlete and of the event, but everything around never changes. “How is your shape ?” “My preparation was very good and the last period in training camp gave me the confidence to go for gold” “Which tactic do you use for winning ?” “We need to work as a Team, and we know what we have to do for winning the gold, after the lesson of last Championships” “The last victory was 20 years ago, what do you think possible to do?” “Now the situation is different, we worked for a tactic making us able to beat [Bekele, or Gebrselassie, or Farah, or Dibaba, or Defar, or El Guerrouj, or the best champion in the event] , for the pride of our Country”.
- This fact creates, inside local people, a lot of expectations the most part of times not supported by real possibilities. And local people don’t know anything about global athletics, they know only the names of their “heroes”, without understanding the difference between winning a local competition and a medal in Olympic or World Championships.
- Typical example was what happened last year, when the Kenyan expedition was considered a “disaster” after the interviews of the head coach Julius Kirwa, claiming for ALL the titles and ALL the medals in middle and long distances, men and women. Kenyan results were not wonderful, but not bad, and Kenya in any case dominated every global classification with every type of calculation (number of medals, points giving 5-3-1 for gold, silver and bronze, points about finalists). But when you speak with normal people, they consider you “lose” gold when you “win” silver, so are not happy and for them this is a failure.
- When you speak with the athletes in the Team, they have well present their real possibilities. If you speak with Rudisha, Asbel Kiprop, Ezekiel Kemboi, Silas Kiplagat, Conselsus Kipruto, for example, they KNOW can win. But if you speak with the specialists of 5000 and 10000m, or with all the other athletes running 5000m with Defar, they know their chances to win are very few, while the chances of podium can be very high.
- Everybody knows Mo Farah at 99% is the winner with a race like today. But they also know Mo Farah can run under 12:50, exactly like them, already having this time in some race with rabbits for the first 3 km, like Paris last year.
- The only way to beat Mo is to have one athlete running, for example, 800m in 2’ during the 2nd km, with the teammates staying behind Mo without doing anything, but waiting his reaction. And after, supposing Mo moves for catching the leader, a second teammate escapes while the other stay behind Mo. This is a tactic normally used in cycling.
- Why never that tactic can be applied ? Because there are not 3 Kenyan only, or 3 Ethiopians only, so if a Kenyan escapes is one Ethiopian going to catch him, or vice versa, while Mo Farah can stay relaxed using the work of the other runners.
- The rivalry on track between Kenyans and Ethiopians is too strong for working together, so everybody fears to help some runner of the other Country more than hoping to go for Gold. The final goal is not to defeat Mo Farah, but is not to lose by a Kenyan (if Ethiopian) or an Ethiopian (if Kenyan).
- Last thing, everybody knows to have some chances of a medal (silver or bronze), which is very important for their international evaluation, and nobody accepts to scarify his personal chances for favoring some other athlete, when the chances are about the same.
For all those reasons, the race went exactly how expected, in a way not very different from the Olympic final.
The first 3 km were very slow, and the last 2 very fast (4:58 last year, 4:59 this year). What was different is the distribution of the final 2 km, because today the final km was the fastest ever in a top Championship, with 4 athletes able running under 2:23.0.
After a first km in 2:45.12 (Isaiah Koech in front, with Mo very far in 2:49.0), Mo overtook all the group for going in front (5:38.11), with a 2nd km at even pace for him, while Koech slowed down running 2:53.0. The 3rd km was again in 2:49, with Koech in front (8:27.79) and all the group together.
At this point, Koech increased the pace progressively, but with 3 laps to go Mo Farah went in front again (11:04.70 for a km in 2:36.91).
Nobody is able to control the pace when is in front of the race, like Mo Farah. Under this point of view, he remind very much Lasse Viren, winner of two Olympic Golds in 5000m (1972-76) with splits of about 8:25 at 3 km, and a progressive acceleration, lap after lap, in the last 2 km. But, while Viren was able to finish in about 5:05.0, Mo is able to finish under 5:00.0, and the splits of today were unbelievable.
These are the 5 last fractions of 200m by Mo : 30.30 + 30.05 + 28.42 + 26.77 + 26.74. This means last km in 2:22.28, and last 600m in 1:21.93 with last lap in 53.51.
But his gap with the followers was not very high : 38/100 for both Isaiah Koech (who lost silver in the last centimeter) and Gebrihwet, 69/100 for Longosiwa. All these athletes ran the last km under 2:23.0, showing their shape was at the top, and really the top 4 were today the strongest, since the gap between Longosiwa and Edwin Soi (5th) is 1.36, that can divide the athletes in two groups : the first 4 inside 69/100, then an interval of 1.36, and a second group (5th -8th ) with Soi, Lagat, Edris and Rupp again inside 88/100.
Alamirew tried to push the pace attacking in the last 600m, but at the end went to pay this action, showing his recovery when there are competitions very close is not very good.
Speaking about Bernard Lagat and Galen Rupp, I can say the first starts to feel the age, because in the shape of some year ago probably could compete for the Gold medal with the current Mo Farah, while Galen Rupp is clearly weaker than the African, not having the same speed in the last lap (always between 2 and 3 seconds by Mo in 400m, in 5000m such as in 10000m).
This year the value of Kenyans was better than in London. Isaiah Koech became faster in the final, while Longosiwa finished more close to Mo Farah, being competitive for a medal till last 15 meters.
Personally, I’m very happy about Thomas, who confirmed to be one of the most consistant specialists in the World, always able to peak in top Championships, while I hoped something better from Edwin Soi, not able to use his kick at the end of one km so fast.
About the Ethiopians, Gebrihwet showed he can win every competition, but has a mentality too conservative, and paid the wrong position he had at the bell, due to the fact he never tried to go in front of the group, being obviously boxed during the first turn of the last lap. In the last 400m he was faster than Farah, but this was not enough because he spent time for overtaking Rupp, Soi, Edris and Lagat who were in front of him.
Edris can be a good competitor in the future, especially in 10000m. However, till when there are races finishing in 2:22.00 in the last km, the chances for all the athletes not able running under 3:34 in 1500m are very little, and no one of the Ethiopians or Kenyans of today have this attitude (apart Caleb Ndiku, who can really become the next star in the event in the future).
TOPIC OF THE DAY
Never in the past there was some Relay at top level almost made with the same family. Now, we have a particular situation with the 4X400 of Belgium, which in the first 3 fractions put together the 3 Borlée brothers (the twins Jonathan and Kevin, and the younger Dylan, born in 1992).
While Jonathan and Kevin are already part of the “Gotha” of the event, Dylan is new, but just before WCh was able running in 45.80
The Borlée family has a long tradition in the long sprint. Jean Pierre, the father born in 1947, ran 200m and the relay 4x400 in 1971, during the European Championships of Helsinki.
The first daughter, Olivia, born on 10th April 1986, has PB of 11.39 (2007) and 22.98 (2006) and competed in WCh and OG.
The two twins are really twins in their results, too. Born on 22nd February 1988, they have PB of 44.43 (Jonathan, in the heat of OG 2012) and 44.56 (Kevin, always in 2012). They were both in the Final in the European Championships 2010 (Kevin winner in 45.08 and Jonathan 7th in 45.35), in WCh 2011 (Kevin bronze medal in 44.90, Jonathan 5th in 45.07) and in OG 2012 (Kevin 5th in 44.81, Jonathan 6th in 44.83).
Also the average of the best personal 10 competitions is very similar : 44.731 for Jonathan, 44.761 for Kevin.
Waiting the improvement of Dylan, the problem for Belgium is to find another specialist of international level for completing a 4x400 able to win medals in every Championship.More than what they did, the members of the family cannot do.