Tanui timed it to perfection to survive men 10000m carnage
It was a race that defied all logic. The favourites started falling off like dominoes in what ended up being carnage on the track but in the end, Paul Tanui stood tall as he detached himself with three laps to go to complete an amazing victory in the men 10000m final at the Kenyan Olympics Trials on Friday.
Japan based Tanui, the bronze medallist over the distance at the Beijing Worlds last year, was not considered a factor in the prelude to the showdown despite having a solid record at global events.
His tactically astute performance at the Dr. Kipchoge Keino Stadium where he ran the fastest time at altitude this year of 27:46.15 made everyone sit and take notice in yet another tactical masterclass.
The Punta Umbria World Cross silver medallist was able to safely navigate the high altitude minefield and escape the carnage that saw only nine of the 24 starters finish the competition in a competition where more illustrious competitors were scorched by the intensity of the battle.
Charles Muneria, who was not even included in the start list followed home in 27:57.07 as Wilfred Kimeli closed the podium in 28:23.56 ahead of former world junior champion, William Sitonik Malel (28:28.31) who placed just outside.
“For those athletes who have dropped out, I feel sorry for them and I hope some are considered for the team. This is my first time to qualify for the Olympics and I’m very grateful to have won today.
“I saw the hand of the Almighty God and now I’m praying hard to get out of Rio with a medal,” the graceful Kyudenko Corporate team athlete in Japan offered.
It all started unraveling after only ten laps in when the figure of World Half and World Cross silver medallist; Bedan Karoki who has been struggling with a left foot tendon injury bowed out but not after injecting two bursts of speed that broke up the field as a group of seven surged ahead.
Alongside overwhelming favourite, two-time World Half and Beijing Worlds silver medallist, Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor, who was only competing after his wish to get a wildcard in 10000m was declined, Karoki and Tanui who ran in China had been trading the lead.
Tucked behind them, the challengers led by another Japan based runner and 2014 Africa Cross champion, Leonard Barsoton who declined the opportunity to defend his crown in Yaounde, Cameroon in March as well as the 2006 Commonwealth 5000m champion, Augustine Choge, Kimeli, Malel and Cleophas Rotich were also in contention.
Barsoton was the next favourite to go with 12 to go and five laps later, there were collective gasps when Kamworor who was looking strong at that point went out in the side track clutching his stomach.
“I feel cramps,” he said as he was led away and shortly after, he was attended on by doctors as his condition worsened before he was eventually released groggy from severe dehydration.
And after sparring with his challengers in the four laps, Tanui made the decisive change in acceleration that saw him run against the clock in the last 1200m.
Selectors later decided to add Kamworor and Karoki to the provisional squad that had the second and third finishers after the dust had long settled.
Choge, the 2014 World Indoor 3000m silver medallist and Stephen Arita who had moved to the lead mid race trailed in seventh (29:13.35) and eighth (29:32.64) as the furious running by Tanui in the closing stages knocked the stuffing out of their Rio challenge.
The deeply religious Keroka Technical Training College alumnus can now begin plotting a medal charge always comfortable with staying out of the limelight but delivering the goods in the end as he did on Friday.
For his Beijing 2015 teammates Karoki and Kamworor, the race against time to convince selectors they merit to be in the plane to Brazil amid fitness and injury doubts has just started.
10000m: 1.Paul Kipng’etich Tanui 27:46.15, 2. Charles Muneria 27:57.07, 3. Wilfred Kimeli Kimitei 28:23.56, 4. William Sitonik Malel 28:23.56; 5. Vincent Kipng’etich 28:28.31, 6. Cleophas Kiprotich 29:04.37, 7. Augustine Choge 29:13.35, 8. Stephen Arita 29:32.64, 9. Patrick Muendo 29:55.43