OSAKA, Japan: Kenenisa Bekele made a huge admission after winning this third straight 10,000-meter title in the world championships.
The Olympic champion and world record holder smiled when he said it, but he acknowledged some vulnerability on Monday.
"With three laps left with the changing pace, I was a little bit tired and I was worried."
In the end he came through with a powerful kick, running 27 minutes, 05.90 seconds and winning by 25 meters over fellow Ethiopian Sileshi Sihine in 27:09.03. Kenyan Martin Mathathi took bronze in 27:12.17.
Struggling to adjust to humid conditions in western Japan, Bekele still showed his dominance. It was his first 10,000 this year, and his eighth victory in as many tries at the distance over four years.
Bekele ran in third place from the start with Zersenay Tadesse of Eritrea leading for most of the race. Mathathi led a break away with three laps to go, but the Ethiopians went with him and Tadesse faded.
On the final lap, Bekele edged in behind Sihine and then overtook him with 200 meters left but still was far off his world record of 26:17.53 set two years ago in Brussels.
"It's not easy to win a third time in a world championship," Bekele said. "I'm very happy."
"I prepared very well for this weather," he added. "It's not easy to run in this weather and with strong competition. As you can see the race was very tough."
Sihine, called the "silver man" for finishing second so often to Bekele, was second in the 2004 Olympics and second in the world championships two years ago at both 10,000 and 5,000 meters. Bekele won all those races, too.
Bekele showed some frailty this spring, losing in the world cross country championships in March after 10 wins over five years.
The 1-2 finish, and Ethiopia's victory on Saturday for Tirunesh Dibaba in the women's 10,000, is a big deal back home. Ethiopia will celebrate it's new millennium on Sept. 12. This is because the country uses a calendar that is seven years behind most of the rest of the world.
"This gives us a double win," said Abdirashid Dulane, Ethiopia's ambassador in Japan who attended the race at Nagai stadium.
"We had first and second tonight and first the other night. This is the greatest gift we have for Ethiopians. It will mean a big celebration."
International Herald Tribune