Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of interesting athletics. First, there was the IAAF World Indoor Championships, followed last weekend by the World Half Marathon Championships. Both of these gave us an insight into what the level of competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics will be like. Most interestingly of which was the incredibly high standard in the distance races; first of which Yomif Kejelcha, backed up last week by Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor. Both of these athletes became world champions, in the 3000m i and the half marathon respectively, making themselves serious contenders as Mo Farah’s competition in the Rio Olympics.
Both of these athletes were not too far behind Farah in Beijing, both being in contention over the final 400m in the 5000m for Kejelcha and the 10000m for Kamworor. Following their recent form in this winters races, it is certainly to be expected that they will once more be strong contenders.
In fact, from what we have seen, I expect both to be considerably stronger than we saw last year in Beijing. Yomif Kejelcha is still only 18 and is quickly growing in experience. Over the last 800m in the 5000m final at las year’s World Championships, Kejelcha got himself in a great mess, tagging with athletes at the back of the group. This put him in a significantly hindered position going into the final 300m, a deficit too great for him to make up.
Despite this, it was certain that he had the talent to stick with the front runners, having showed his ferocious speed over the last lap at the 2015 Prefontaine Classic with a final lap of just under 55 seconds. This is something which he couldn’t emulate in the World Championships final, however fast forward 7 months and he has shown he has better his ability to another level, a level which could see him take gold at the Olympics.
In the 3000m in Oregon, Kejelcha was able to hold on over the hard last 1km (2:22.89) after Ndiku had led it out in a similar fashion to the World Championship 5000m final. Being able to hold off fast finishers such as Ndiku and Olympic medalist Abdalaati Iguider showed Kejelcha certainly could be a threat in the closing stages in Rio.
Another factor to take into account for Kejelcha will be that Mo Farah will have come off an inevitably hard 10000m final before the 5000m, therefore maybe having some tiredness in his legs. That is of course making the assumption that Farah will double up as he has previously.
Although this task of winning the 5000m in Rio will be one of the hardest for Farah, he may have an even tougher race over the 10000m. Historically, the fields which have been assembled for the 10000m have not been as strong as those in the 5000m, especially one the last 10 years, however, we may be seeing a new wave of excellent 10K track runners.
This was proven at the World Half Marathon championships where the Africans were back to their usual dominance, taking gold and silver in the men’s race. Mo Farah was third here, running a time of 59:59 in awful conditions, still a very notable time. However, it was the fact that he didn’t win and the fact that the performances ahead of him were a never before seen standard which brings worry to Farah fans.
The eventual winner of the men’s half marathon was indeed Geoffrey Kamworor who ran one of the most astonishing races seen for many years. Having fallen at the start of the race, he would have had to run a 4:15 mile at the very beginning just to catch the leaders. From then onwards, he was on world record pace for the majority of the race until the end where the weather ruined all chances of breaking the record. Nonetheless, the pace at which he ran – closely tracked by Bedan Karoki Muchiri – was so fast that not even double Olympic champion Farah could match them.
This would on the face of it look to be very worrying for Farah, potentially giving his opponents an insight into maybe his only weakness: a very, very fast race from the start. Despite this however, there shouldn’t be too much to worry about surrounding Farah’s form. In the middle of there race, from 5km to 15km, Farah ran a 27:30 10km split, one of the fastest 10000m times ever run by a Briton. Alongside this, he also managed to break the European 15km record, proving that, although beaten, he is in great shape to go forward to year.
The real question being however, that even given his incredible shape, is the performance level of Kamworor just a level above what Farah is capable of? It must be assumed that Kamworor is in world record shape for the half marathon, but it is just a question to whether he can transfer that onto the track and emulate world record times over 10000m on track. Given his endurance pedigree though, given that the pace doesn’t wend up being very quick in Rio, he may certainly struggle with pace over the closing stages.
Putting this all into perspective, Farah is certainly in great shape. Potentially at an even higher level than he was this time last year, although so is the rest of the competition, making his task of completing the double at Rio much harder than 2012 when there was significantly less expectation.