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« 5 points about Usain Bolt | Main | Best Olympic Distance Performers »

August 30, 2008


The Other 50

The fact is Dibaba did win the the distance double gold in Beijing. I agree, it is very hard to argue against tactics that achieved such outstanding results. However, I have to agree with Pat Butcher that her never pushing the pace in the 5K created a race that I felt lacked excellence and passion. To me, it seemed she was racing not to lose as opposed to racing to win. She didn't race to beat her opponents, she waited passively to see if her opponents could beat her. Isn't this tactic similar to the prevent defense in football, shot clock stalling in NCAA basketball, or blue line checking in hockey that we all complain about so much? Her olympic distance double will be added to the stats book, but I'll remember her 5K win as just another "tactical 5K championship race" or in my opinion "pretty lame, just like the NBA, you only need to watch the last lap to see who wins".

Jimmie R. Markham

Hi Bryan,

I had read that article and had filed it away under the "undecided" category, so I'm glad you wrote from another point of view. I'm still undecided but I offer a few of my own observations and comments:

Samitova led at 1000m of the 5000m final with a time of 3:39.20. At that point they were on their way to a final time of 18:16. Any reasonably-trained high school female athlete could have kept up. That's bordering on the ridiculous.

I know there's no comparison between a 5000m run and a 400m dash, but what if (work with me here) the women in the 400m final had run a time of 28.7 seconds for the 1st 200m of that race? It would have been a joke. It also would have been the equivalent of what they ran in the women's 5000m final of the Olympic Games!

On the other hand, Dibaba threw out a last 1000m of 2:36.63. If she would have been in a mile race, she would have needed to run just another 609.344m at that pace and she would have set a world record with a time of 4:12.07. No connoisseur of track & field could ever say that a fact like that is boring!

I hate, hate, hate slow, tactical, "kickers'" races to the extreme, but I can usually console myself if the winner does something awesome during the kick. Dibaba's last 1000m qualifies as awesome.



Well I guess one thing does draws fans to Pre is just one thing: his guts. Like he said he ran to test the limits of the human heart. Which certainly excites fans when u see a guy give 101% almost every time.
I can see where this pat Bucher is heading towards. Maybe he isn't advocating a reckless approach for Dibaba, perhaps he was hoping she could be more a runner of Bekele's style? I mean bekele is the complete all rounder, he can front run from the beginning and still produce a sub 54 final lap almost every race. " At the mile we were 7 seconds off 12:55 and he still ran 12:57" Matt tegenkemp.

Well purists may judge her cowardly for holding back till the end. But i say we each gotta do what works. Dibaba's approach brings her gold medals, this is no reason to change it. Pre goes hard at the start for fear he gets out kicked at the end by the more established milers, it worked for him too.


Thanks for the great comments, guys!

I think the major variable that we aren't discussing here is Meseret Defar. Dibaba may be the world record holder for 5k, but Defar was the defending Olympic champion and has run 14:12 I believe, just one second off of Dibaba's time. Defar was also fresh, not having run an Olympic Record 10k earlier in the week.

From Dibaba's perspective, she's arguably not even the favorite in this situation. We're all discussing Dibaba as if she could have won this race by running from the front. It's not clear that she would have, since Defar could have just sat and kicked on her. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that Defar was the person who should have been pushing the pace, not Dibaba.

As for her last 1000m, Jimmie, I agree it qualifies as awesome. It's hard to argue with a display of speed endurance like that. And to Dom's comment about Bekele's ability, I would argue he doesn't have anyone in his races who is his equal, the way Defar and Dibaba have been over the past year or two. The one time Bekele was in a race with an equal (Athens 5k against El Guerrouj) he got beat. He learned from that and changed his tactics this year.

It's the responsibility of her competition to force Dibaba to change her tactics. Until they can do that, she's got no one to apologize to for racing to win. I keep thinking, what if someone like Kara Goucher had just thrown down a 63 in the first few laps...would anyone have gone with her? How would the dynamic of the entire race have changed? Would the top three have remained the same? We'll never know...


Hey Bryan, I gotta admit your comments about how no one forced the pace was to blamed than Dibaba's unwillingness to take risks is pretty true. Though i have a feeling Dibaba and Defar would have gone with whoever tried to break away( meaning we wouldn't have a Constantina incident).

Well the last major event Bekele went up against El G before Athens was at the 2003 paris 5k, he did front run at the start and still lost. I guess El G was just too good and has a kick no one can match on his day(save Noah Ngeny). I think the only way Bekele can beat El G in a 5k will be to have run on WR pace from the start and not relax the pace at all.

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