Sunday, August 5, 2012

Olympic Men's 10,000 Meters

How's this for a headline:


Mo Farah of the UK won his country's first gold medal ever in the men's 10,000 meter event, while Galen Rupp of the US wins the first medal of any kind for America since Billy Mills won gold in 1964. The two train together in Oregon, and while they represent different countries, they have an amazing friendship and you could see as they crossed the line just how excited they were for one another.

Meanwhile, their coach, Alberto Salazar, looks like a freaking wizard right now. How often is it that something is expected to happen, and then it happens exactly that way? In Beijing, there was talk prior to the Games that Michael Phelps could win gold medals in each of his events. Off by just a hair in any of them, or someone on his relay screws up, and poof - gone. But he embraced the pressure and made it happen.

Such was the case for Farah, who had the weight of an anxious home nation on his shoulders. They expected him to win, he expected himself to win. And on paper, it looked like he should. Assuming the race would go out slow, he has undoubtedly the best kick in the field, and has won races all year in that fashion. But when the defending Olympic champion and current World Record holder is in the race, and only racing this one event, you can never count him out.

The race indeed went out slow, covering the first 5,000 meters in just about 14 minutes. Nobody seemed interested in making a move, and the field stayed large until the final kilometer. At some point in the later stages of the race, Farah moved up from the middle of the pack, went by Rupp, the two shared a glance, and then they moved up to the front. As they began to take control of the race, it was clear that nobody was going to beat Farah. He assumed the lead and took off, closing in a 53-mid last 400m. What wasn't clear was who would round out the podium. Tariku Bekele, brother of Kenenisa, was in 2nd and Rupp moved into 3rd, but Kenenisa was pushing hard on Rupp's heels.

Then Galen Rupp took decades of questioning the health of American distance running and in one beautiful acceleration, erased every doubt. Rupp opened up in the final straightaway and blew past Tariku Bekele, and crossed the line just behind his training partner, Farah.

It was the single greatest moment in American distance running I have ever seen.

Medals transcend records. Medals validate years of hard work, dedication, sacrifice. Medals prove that when the pressure is on, you handled it.

For the haters that will say this was a weak field, that the Kenyan team wasn't the best they could have sent, and that Kenenisa Bekele has been hurt. I say BS. Every country has the opportunity to field their best possible team. In the countries known for their distance prominence, notably Kenya and Ethiopia, if you had better people, you should have sent them. It comes down to who is best on that day, and Farah and Rupp showed that they were the ones who were best prepared. Kenya's Wilson Kiprop was a DNF. Moses Masai faded to 12th. Bedan Muchiri managed 5th. No medals for Kenya. Tariku Bekele finished 3rd, just ahead of his brother, and the two were the only representatives from Ethiopia. Cam Levins of Canada, best known for his amazing runs at the NCAA meet, in addition to his routine 150+ mile weeks, finished 11th and was with the pack until the final two laps.

For Farah and Rupp, their finish line embrace was a sweet moment that illustrated just how important each has been to the other's journey. So many things had to go right for them to even be in that position; they've truly found the perfect mix of coach, training, and belief, and that is why they won. I say "they" because collectively, that's what they did. Their bond is bigger than two competing nations, it's that of brothers.


GOLD: Mo Farah (UK) 27:30.42
SILVER: Galen Rupp (USA) 27:30.90
BRONZE: Tariku Bekele (ETH) 27:31.43


2. Galen Rupp, 27:30.90
13. Dathan Ritzenhein, 27:45.89
19. Matt Tegenkamp, 28:18.26

1 comment:

Tristram Thomas said...

As you say, "It was the single greatest moment in American distance running I have ever seen."

My country - America - earned a medal in the 10k.

Way to go Rupp and Farah!