Tuesday July 20, 2010
Posted by Mihira Lakshman
Kenya's Dennis Chepkongin Masai was in a class of his own in the 10,000-metre final at the IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in Moncton, on Tuesday night.
Masai ran away from the field, winning easily in 27:53.88. Ethiopia's Gebretsadik Abraha hung on until the final three laps, when Masai surged away.
Abraha finished in a personal-best time of 28:03.45. Kenya's Paul Kipchumba Lonyangata was the bronze medallist in 28:14.55, also a personal best.
Canada's hopes fell on the wiry shoulders of Mohammed Ahmed of St. Catharines, Ontario. And the 19-year-old delivered a memorable performance, finishing fourth in 29:11.75. Guelph's Andrew Nixon was 13th in 30:35.43.
No Canadian has ever won a medal in the 10,000m at the world juniors.
"I had to give everything I had," Ahmed said. "It was a great crowd. My name was being yelled out all over the place, and that really encouraged me and made my mind forget about the pain that I was going through."
Ahmed, who owns the national junior record of 28:57.44, ran a patient race, and seemed to get stronger over the course of the 25-laps.
"I felt pretty good. I wasn't in really really tough pain, but I was still hurting. I just kind of put my head down, and did my best."
The large pack stayed tightly bunched for the first 2,000m, running an average of 72-second laps. Then, Masai decided enough was enough, and put the hammer down.
He injected a devastating change of pace, leading the field through a 64-second lap between 2200m and 2600m.
It broke the runners up in a hurry, and soon a breakaway pack of three -- the eventual medallists -- was followed by a chase duo of Ethiopia's Debebe Woldesenbet and Uganda's Joseph Chebet. Behind them was a pack led by Ahmed.
At one point, Ahmed's pack was 50m behind Woldesenbet and Chebet, and about 75m behind the leaders. But gradually Ahmed clawed back, and swallowed up the Ugandan and Ethiopian with about six laps to go.
Masai, meanwhile appeared to be toying with the competition. Anytime there was the slightest challenge from Abraha, Masai responded by opening up a gap. Masai's run was so impressive, he lapped the entire field, except the medallists.
On the final straightaway, Masai waved to the crowd before kissing the track after crossing the finish line. Ahmed, who also received a huge ovation, couldn't help but be impressed.
"I got fourth, and I got lapped," Ahmed mused.
"It just shows that they are very fit athletes and I've got a long way to go before I reach the top of the world."
About the Author
Mihira Lakshman is an avid distance runner and has covered track and field for the CBC, and various other publications, since 2001.
He covered the 2003 Pan-Am Games, as well as several national championships over the past decade. He is also an online editor with Canadian Running magazine.