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Ethiopia - Kenenisa Bekele gets Olympic long-distance double
Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele gets Olympic long-distance double

Ethiopia - Kenenisa Bekele gets Olympic long-distance double

The Associated Press
Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kenenisa Bekele made it a unique double Olympic long-distance double for Ethiopia on Saturday with relentless front-running that wore down everyone who dared to keep pace in the 5,000 meters.

In 30 degree C (86 degree F) heat, cutting through the muggiest of conditions at the Bird's Nest, Bekele took over from his teammates with 2 kilometers to go an imposed such a punishing pace that he didn't need an explosive finishing kick this time, just unmatched stamina.

His win by 30 meters over Eliud Kipchoge added to his 10,000 victory for the first double since Lasse Viren in Montreal 32 years ago.

And with Tirunesh Dibaba doing the same in the women's distance races, it was the first long-distance sweep for one nation.

It was also redemption for Bekele, who had missed out by just .20 seconds for a similar double in Athens four years ago when he was beaten by Hicham El Guerrouj in the 5,000.

This time his tactics were totally different. Dragging all others through in Olympic record pace, he finished in 12 minutes, 57.82 seconds, the first sub-13 minute Olympic race in history.

Victory also meant he now has one more Olympic gold than Haile Gebrselassie, who is considered Africa's greatest runner ever.

With Kipchoge and Edwin Cheryiyot Soi taking silver and bronze, it added to a great Olympics for Kenya, too.

World champion Bernard Lagat of the United States was flat again. Seeking to repeat the 1,500-5,000 double of last year's world championships, he failed twice, finishing only ninth to end a disappointing Olympics.

Kenya extended its middle-distance domination with a golden double from Wilfred Bungei in the men's 800 and Nancy Jebet Langat in the women's 1,500.

Despite civil unrest and riots which killed hundreds and disrupted Kenya's preparations, the east African nation had a great games which already yielded four golds and 13 medals overall.

It all but assured Kenya of African domination. Ethiopia also had four gold but trailed badly in the overall standings with six.

Kenya got its first boost from Bungei in the 800 Saturday.

Arms flailing wildly down the finishing straight, the 2006 world indoor champion completed a great front-running race to win, pushing his chest first across the line in 1:44.65, beating Ismail Ahmed Ismail of Sudan by .05 seconds.

When world champion Alfred Yego of Kenya got the bronze, it made for the first ever African sweep in the event. It was another indication that Africa is spreading its running far beyond the traditional long-distance races.

Defending champion Yuri Borzakovsky, world indoor champion Abubaker Kaki and Olympic silver medalist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi all failed to make the final.

Soon afterward in a muggy Bird's Nest filled to its 91,000 capacity yet again, Langat won the 1,500 at the Beijing Olympics.

In a seesaw battle with world champion Maryam Jamal of Bahrain, Langat came out on top during a draining last lap.

Slowly, Langat pulled away to finish in 4:00.23 while Jamal slumped under the pressure and the heat. The pre-race champion was even overtaken by Ukrainian teammates Iryna Lyshchynska and Nataliya Tobias for silver and bronze.

Yelena Soboleva, who set a world indoor 1,500 record earlier this year, was provisionally suspended for a suspected anti-doping violation and dropped from the Russian Olympic team.

In the javelin, Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway successfully defended his title with an Olympic record throw.

Thorkildsen's fourth toss went 90.57 meters, beating Jan Zelezny's mark of 90.17 from the 2000 Sydney Games.

Ainars Kovals of Latvia moved up two places into the silver medal position with his final attempt, relegating world champion Tero Pitkamaki of Finland to the bronze.



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