One of the marquee events at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London is the Men’s 10,000 meters final on Saturday August 4th. Fortunately for the host country, one of the favorites to win the grueling event is of British heritage. But whether or not he can capture the gold medal in the highly anticipated event is up for debate and tremendous amounts of speculation.
The British Contender for the Gold Medal
The leading British contender is Mo Farah, who’s originally from British Somalia. He describes himself on his official website as “Britain’s greatest distance runner ever”, which seems like a rather lofty statement given the long storied history of other running legends such as Roger Bannister, Steve Cram and Steve Ovett and Sebastien Coe. But the 29-year-old Farah has done his best to support his claim as he has obliterated national distance records in the 3,000, 5,0000 and 10,000 meters, and was the 2011 European 10,000 meters champion. His personal best in the outdoor event was also set last year at the 2011 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon with a time of 26:46:57 and many running experts believe he has yet to reach his peak. Farah, who now lives in Portland, Oregon but maintains British citizenship, is considered to be a gold medal favorite in both the 10,000 meters on Saturday and the 5,000 meters next week.
Despite his many national distance records, Farah’s personal best in the 10,000 meters is nearly 30 seconds off the world record of 26:17:53 set in 2005 by Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, the Olympic defending champion in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters and also won the gold for the 10,000 meters in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Bekele remains a favorite although his ability to win a third consecutive gold medal has been marred by injuries in recent years. However the 30-year-old Ethiopian had the fastest 10,000 meters time last year and should never be counted out in an Olympic final.
The Other Contenders
Other leading contenders in the Men’s 10,000 meters finals at the Olympic Stadium located in the Stratford section of London are Moses Masai, Wilson Kiprop and Bedan Karoki, all from Kenya and Galen Rupp of the United States. If the conditions are just right on Saturday, any of these aforementioned elite runners are easily capable of surpassing the current Olympic 10,000 meters record of 27:01:17 set by Bekele in Beijing, since the top 25 fastest times in history are all well below 27:00.
Farah is one just a few athletes representing Great Britain that has a real chance at an Olympic gold medal in London and much of the nation is hoping that he fares well in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter events. It’s been a particularly long time since a British distance runner has won a medal in either event – 56 years for the 5,000 meters and 28 years for the 10,000 meters so a British victory and the associated national pride that accompanies it might resemble the sense of pride and admiration the nation felt when compatriot cyclist Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France late last month.
Legendary Olympic 10,000m Runners
Whoever the three athletes will be on the medal podium is still a toss up but the international stage has been set for what is expected to be an incredibly competitive and dramatic race. In previous Men’s 10,000 meter events, the Summer Olympics have featured many legendary runners including Finland’s Lasse Viren, Ethiopia’s Haile Gebreslassie and Miruts Yifter, Kenya’s Paul Tergat, and Australia’s Ron Clarke. And some of the greatest Olympic moments in history have come in the Men’s 10,000 meters such as Native American Billy Mills’ upset victory at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and Viren, who won the gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at Munich and four years later in Montreal.
Because of worldwide interest in running and in particular 10k races, a huge throng of spectators will be expected at the 80,000 seat Olympic Stadium, while avoiding the empty seat controversy of the first few days of the London Olympics. Of course, many of those in attendance on Saturday will be British citizens and rooting for who they would like to consider as Britain’s greatest distance runner ever.