SPORT

Kenenisa Bekele wins gold with new record

ATHENS, AUG. 21. Kenenisa Bekele extended Ethiopian dominance in distance running by winning the 10,000 metres gold medal in an Olympic record time of 27:05.10 on Friday night and also eclipsed compatriot Haile Gebrselassie's 1996 Atlanta record of 27:07.34 at Athens 2004.

It was a glorious night for the Ethiopian runners, who at one point looked like sweeping all three medals on offer. Sihane Silesi won the silver medal in 27:09.39, but Gebrselassie, aiming for a hat-trick in the event, looked tired with six laps remaining and finished a poor fifth in 27:27.70.

Bekele planned the race beautifully and was well placed for the final burst. "I am happy I won today. This is my first Olympic medal, so it is always going to be special for me," he said.

What made it doubly special for Bekele was adding the Olympic record to his kitty after having set the world record 26:20.31 at Ostrava (Czech Republic) on June 8 this year. Bekele beat his boyhood hero Gebrselassie in the Paris World championship last year. There has been intense rivalry between the two which was expected to surface in a big way on Friday. But the 22-year old Bekele proved far too strong for the 31-year old veteran.

Setting the pace

Bekele was content to run with the bunch, allowing the rest to set the pace. For a brief while, it was Dieudonne Disi of Rwanda upfront. When 18 laps remained, Gebrselassie took charge followed by Silesi who was striding gracefully to remain among the top three.

The pace soon picked up and by the 15th lap, it was Silesi, Bekele and Gebrselassie in that order, suggesting an Ethiopian sweep. When the field surged into the last 10 laps, Bekele took control. With Silesi pushing him, Bekele shifted gear, and the only challenge to the Ethiopian supremacy came from the veteran Kenyan, John Cheruiyot. He was in the front even as Gebrselassie began slowing down.

Quiet race

It was a two-man race with Bekele and Silesi pushed by the Kenyan. Near the 300m-mark in the penultimate lap, Bekele made his move; after that it was a marvellous spectacle as he gained momentum to conquer an Olympic peak. It was a classic effort, and a memorable one indeed.

"It was a quiet race. I do not know how I got the energy for the final sprint. I gave everything I had in the last lap because I wanted to break the Olympic record. During the race we worked hard as a team and wanted to win all the medals for Ethiopia," remarked Bekele.

"It was a fantastic day for Ethiopia and Africa, but not for me. I could not keep up with the speed even though I wanted and tried. I am very happy to see Bekele win and also see everything he has done," Gebrselassie said.

In the men's 400m second heat, Binu K. Mathew clocked 45.97s to finish seventh. Earlier in the first heat, this gallant quarter miler hit a new high with a career best time of 45.48s to set the national mark in a truly international meet.

Ever since Milkha Singh finished fourth at Rome in 1960, the event has been the cynosure. Binu clocked 45.59 in the Circuit meet in Delhi and has trained meticulously for the event since then.

Drawn in lane three, Binu accelerated nearing the third bend, almost closing in on Santos Carlos and Lewis Banda.

It looked like Binu might finish second, but Banda of Zimbabwe got the better of him and qualified for the second round as the best loser.

Women disappoint

All three Indian women failed to make the grade in discus throw.

Neelam J. Singh accomplished 60.26m, Seema Antil 60.64m and Harwant Kaur's best was 60.82m.

Neelam Singh's, the Asian Games champion, best is 64.55m and her best for the season, 63.99m. Seema set a national record of 64.84m in Chennai.

But the women were nowhere near where they performed this season in the earlier meets.