On Friday, Selemon Barega of Ethiopia won the men’s 10,000 metre Olympic final by edging out Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda in a photo finish (July 30).
S. Kissa Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
In 2020, Cheptegei broke the world records for both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres on the road and track, making him the Commonwealth champion. He finished sixth in the event in Rio before capturing silver and gold at the global championships in 2017 and 2019.
Although he had won the silver medal at the world championships in the 5000 metres, 21-year-old Barega of Ethiopia won the Tokyo Olympics in a time of 27 minutes, 43 seconds with a perfect last-lap sprint.
The time of 27:43.63 was good enough for Cheptegei to win silver, while the time of 27:43.88 was good enough for Jacob Kiplimo to win bronze for their team.
Mo Farah, the defending champion who won both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics but did not make the British team for Tokyo, was noticeably absent from the competition.
Teammate Stephen Kissa, not Cheptegei, led the Field Early on, for the First Six Laps.
Cheptegei was satisfied to wait in the middle of the clustered pack lead by Kiplimo while Barega and the Kenyan Rhonex Kipruto broke off to pursue Kissa.
By lap 13, the field had regrouped behind Kissa, with Kenya’s Weldon Langat pressing Cheptegei as the field began to separate due to team-surging tactics designed to eliminate individuals who cannot maintain faster-than-normal intervals.
With ten circuits remaining, Kissa made another push, but Langat stayed with him, and Cheptegei advanced to third.
There were still eight laps to go in the sweltering 30 degrees Celsius heat when Kipruto took the lead. Kissa had to pull up.
With 2 kilometres to go, Cheptegei made his move to the front, cheered on by scattered pockets of Ugandan competitors in the otherwise empty 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium devoid of fans due to Covid-19 limitations in the Japanese capital.
Rodgers Kwemoi of Kenya ran side by side with the Ugandan, who was now leading a group of only eleven runners.
Then, when the bell rang, Canadian Mohammed Ahmed took off ahead of Cheptegei and Kiplimo, carrying with him the Ethiopian quartet of Barega, world silver medalist Yomif Kejelcha, and Berihu Aregawi.
Ahmed Struggled to keep up with the Pace set by the East Africans.
With 200 metres to go, Barega surged to the front, his long silver chain jingling all over his chest and chin.
He refused to give up as first teammate Aregawi, and then the Ugandan combo, sought to pull him in, instead keeping his teeth gritted and his eyes fixed on the large screen over the finish line.