The men’s 10,000 meters set to go off on Sunday evening in Daegu carries with it three big storylines for distance running fans. The return of three-time defending champion Kenenisa Bekele and the dominance of Mo Farah in 2011 has created much discussion about who will come out on top of the 25-lap championship event. Letsrun message boards have been abuzz in recent days over the possibility of Oregon wunderkind Galen Rupp contending for a medal.
The gun will go off at 6:30 am Eastern Time. Watch the race along with the rest of the IAAF World Track and Field Championships on Universal Sports.
1. Can Kenenisa Bekele return to form to win a record fourth World title?
Bekele is attempting to be the first athlete to win four consecutive World gold medals in a running event but has giant obstacles facing him. Not only does he have to face an undefeated Mo Farah but also must deal with his own lack of racing. The Ethiopian has not competed on the track since September 2009 but has a bye to Daegu based on being the defending champion.
Although many have confidence in Bekele based on his raw talent, I have my doubts. If he is truly fit and ready to go, he surely would have ran some rust-buster races to prepare. The fact that Bekele has not made an appearance in Europe or anywhere else makes his readiness seem very questionable.
2. Can Mo Farah’s early season success translate to a win in Daegu?
Rather than a final 100 meter kick that strong finishers like Bernard Lagat have perfected, Mo Farah prefers to take the lead with a lap to go and gradually increase his tempo until he drops his competitors. The strategy has worked in fast rabbited Diamond League races but I question whether it will be as effective in a championship-style final. The East Africans will surely employ team tactics to throw in suicidal surges to tire the Brit.
Despite these reservations, Farah should still claim the title. He utterly destroyed competitors in Eugene, Birmingham and Monaco to win those Diamond League races. His 25 second final 200 meters to win the 3k in London proves his kick off a relatively slow pace is top-notch as well.
3. Can Galen Rupp contend for a medal?
Rupp has long been maligned by the message board community for his nose strips and anti-pollen masks but his performances on the track in 2011 have really spoken for themselves. Most impressive was his runner-up finish at the Birmingham Diamond League where he kicked down World Cross Country champion Imane Merga. The steady progression that Alberto Salazar has Rupp on seems to finally have placed him among the world’s best.
Rupp’s biggest challenge will be dealing with the relentless surges the East Africans will surely throw into the second half of the race. As we saw with Shalane Flanagan in the women’s 10k yesterday, Americans are just not equipped to handle those drastic pace changes. The top American finisher at a World 10k was Dathan Ritzenhein’s sixth place finish back in 2009. Anything better than that should be considered a victory for Rupp.