The World Athletics Championships have produced a few notable results.
Australian girls Sally Pearson (Silver 100m Hurdles) and Kim Mickle (Silver Javelin) have flown the flag for us, Usain Bolt won again, and now has even less competition due to recent PED bans to Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell,
and Britain’s Mohammed Farah won the 5000m/10000m double.
Now this is a pretty rare achievement and needs some proper context to put it in as well as provide an opportunity to look at the whose who of middle distance champions in recent times.
Farah, with this result puts up a claim to some heady company, judge for yourself where he sits.
Nourredine Morceli was an Algerian mile and 1500m specialist, setting the World Record in the mile in 1993 from Britain’s Steve Cram which had been held since 1985, breaking it by nearly 3 seconds. Morceli would also break the 1500m record which wold go on to become the more contested event at IAAF meets. Morceli was a huge favourite for the 1992 Barcelona games, but with bad form coming in and a slow pace he finished out of the places despite being the 1991 World Champion. Going on to win the 1993 and 1995 World Championships he was again the favourite for the Gold in Atlanta, winning every race he entered for four straight seasons. In Atlanta he would not be disappointed but it was the man who was his main rival at the time and would fall on the final lap of the race who would succeed his crown. (1 Olympic Gold 1500m, 3 World Championships 1500m, held WR in Mile +1500m)
Hicham El Guerrouj from Morocco extended the north African dominance of middle distance running and extended it to the longer 5000m. One month after the 1996 games, a final in which he fell with a lap to go, El Guerrouj beat Morceli, breaking the Algerian’s 4 year streak. 2 years later he would beat Morceli’s World Record for the 1500m and then in 1999 claim the mile record. A race that can be seen here where he goes toe to toe with Kenya’s Noah Ngeny who would also go under the old world mark.
In 2000, El Geuroouj was the overwhelming favourite off the back of World Championship wins in 1997 and 1999 however Ngeny would win in Sydney at the peak of his personal form and relegate El Guerrouj to Silver. Re-gathering his dominance of the event, the Moroccan would win World Championships again in 2001 and 2003, capitalizing on the new IAAF Golden league and fortunes to be made there, literally in Gold. In 2004 El Guerrouj fought off Bernard Legat in one of the best finishes of a 1500m race ever. If you haven’t seen it, its a must watch. Legat takes the lead in the last 100m and El Guerrouj takes the lead back. On top of that performance, El Guerrouj was now competing in the 5000m and would win the Gold their too, defeating Kenenisa Bekele the 10000m champion. El Guerrouj’s 1500m/5000m double had only been done once before by Finalnds great Paavo Nurmi.
(2 Olympic Gold 1500m, 5000m. 1 Silver 1500m. 4 World Championships Golds, 2 Silver 1500m. Current WR in Mile +1500m)
Haile Gebrselassie is the iconic 2 time Olympic champion in the 10000m from Ethiopia, who also held the world record in the 5000m at 4 different times as well as holding the World record in the marathon from 2008 to 2011.
Gebrselassie won back to back Olympic gold in the 10000m in 1996 and 2000 as well as 4 World Championships. A charismatic figure, he is a living legend in his home country and around the world.
(2 Olympic Gold 10000m. 4 World Championship Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze 10000m. 1 Silver 5000m. Held world record in 5000m, 10000m and Marathon.)
Kenenisa Bekele is the Ethiopian successor to Gebrselassie. A quite and mild mannered athlete, Bekele is referred to by none other than Usain Bolt as far too over-looked for his achievements. Bekele holds the current world records in both the 5000m and 10000m and only Hicham El Gurrrouj ‘s 5000m win in Athens keeping Bekele from going back to back for the 5000m/10000mm double.
Bekele was unbeaten at 10000m between 2003 and 2011, he broke Gebrselassie’s 10000m world record in 2004 and a 5 time World Champion.
(3 Olympic Gold total, 2 @ 10000m, 1 @ 5000m, 1 Silver @ 5000m. 5 World Championships 4 @ 10000m, 1 @ 5000m. Current World record holder in 5000m and 10000m)
So now to compare Mohammed Farah to these greats. Farah won the 5000m and 10000m at both the London games and then the World Championships this week. Only Bekele has done that, and he almost did it twice.
Hannes Kolehmainen, Emil Zatopek, Vladimir Kuts, Lasse Viren (twice) and Miruts Yifter all won the 5000m/10000m double at the Olympics. Bekele and Farah joining them in the modern era. When looking at Farah’s times for 5000m and 10000m though, they are not close to Bekele. Farah’s best of 26:46:57 is half a minute of Bekele’s world mark of 26:17:53 and Bekele has run 7 races under Farah’s best. Gebrselassie has also ran 5 races under Farah’s best time for 10000m. In the 5000m, Farah’s best is 16 seconds behind Bekele’s world mark. Bekele has 10 finishes faster than Farah, El Guerrouj has 2 and Gebrselassie has 5.
(2 Olympic Gold. 500m and 10000m. 3 World Championships 2 @ 5000m, 1 @ 10000m, 1 Silver @ 10000m.)