Tariku Bekele (ETH) comes home to 5000m gold (© Getty Images)
As much as Ethiopian runner Tariku Bekele wants to avoid comparisons with his elder brother and multiple world 10000m champion Kenenisa, his victory in the 5000m race in Beijing was like a page torn from the latter’s distance running textbook.
The 19-year old was always in control of proceedings in twelve-and-half laps of competition tearing apart the field with a tremendous display of front running before overtaking compatriot Abraham Cherkose to sprint to victory in an unofficial last lap of 56.2seconds.
“After the final lap, I knew it was only me and Abraham left and I just took off at 200m,” he said. “I said Good Luck to him and just run as fast as I can. I was not thinking of the fact that my brother Kenenisa usually took off at 200m.”
Victory in Beijing also culminates Tariku’s perfect junior and youth career which also includes 5000m junior bronze and 3000m youth silver.
“I had been trying a lot of times to win gold at youth and junior levels, but I had not been successful,” he said. “I am happy that I managed to do that today. I cannot find words to tell you what I feel.”
Abraham Cherkose followed Tariku to the finish line to complete Ethiopia’s first double at these championships and only the second ever 5000m double by athletes of the same country. Coincidentally, the last duo to achieve a similar feat was the Ethiopian twosome Fita Bayissa and Abraham Assefa.
“It is not easy to win both gold and silver but we are happy to do it,” says Cherkos. “We talked before the race that we would help each other.”
In particular, Cherkose feels lucky to be among the medals today. Because of a breakdown in communication with between the Ethiopian Athletics Federation and the Ethiopian delegation in Beijing, the 17-year old had to sleep on the floor of the Beijing International airport until the wee hours of Saturday morning and could only find the rest of his team-mates and complete his athlete accreditation much later in the day.
“I feel extremely fortunate,” said the world youth 3000m champion. “I was trying to arrange my tickets to return back home when they found me. I hope that never happens to anyone.”
Not content with his achievements in Beijing, Cherkos has set his targets for this year. “I have a big heart and I will not seat comfortably on this,” he says. “I want to run at least 12.50 or better this year.”
Tariku is even more focused about his ambitions this year. “I feel that I am in good condition to run 12:48 or better,” he says. “I have not been able to run in a race that suits my pace because there were other elite runners who dictated the race to their liking.”