Yenew Alamirew wins the 5000m at the 2014 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai (© Errol Anderson)
The fastest young talents in a decade are ready to challenge a 28-year-old defending champion and 39-year-old world champion at the Prefontaine Classic, an IAAF Diamond League meeting, over 5000m on 31 May.
The landmark 40th Pre Classic at historic Hayward Field, which later in the summer will stage the IAAF World Junior Championships, and the 5000m – the event in which meeting namesake Steve Prefontaine was famous for running at a feverish pace from the start – will have one of the best ever fields assembled in a US race over the distance.
In the prime of their careers are Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew and Kenya’s Edwin Soi.
Alamirew will be 24 on race day, and won the IAAF Diamond League race in Shanghai on Sunday in 13:04.83.
Soi, 28, earned the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games and won last year’s Pre Classic 5000m.
Perhaps the most consistent challenger will be ageless Bernard Lagat, who has won five times at the Pre Classic, but never over 5000m. He is 39 years young and owns five major championship gold medals.
Into the bargain, Lagat earned silver in the 3000m at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships, taking his tally to 13 major championship medals from 1500m to 5000m in a top-class career that spans 15 years.
Enter a new era of talent, led by Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet. Now 20, Gebrhiwet set a world junior record with his 12:47.53 last July, then earned the silver medal at the World Championships in Moscow last August.
Isiah Koech, 20, also represents a country with great tradition. Kenya leads the world in sub-12:50 runners, with eight men, and Koech is their youngest of all.
At 19, Koech earned a bronze medal last year at the World Championships. He already has incredible international experience over 5000m, finishing fifth as an 18-year-old at the London 2012 Olympics Games after placing fourth at the 2011 World Championships, when he was the youngest-ever finalist.
Many more in the world-class field are in their early 20s. This includes Albert Rop, 21, of Bahrain and Muktar Edris, 20, of Ethiopia.
Along with Koech, Kenya has even more superb athletes capable of winning this race.
Caleb Ndiku, 21, is the reigning world indoor 3000m champion. He was also only the second junior to ever go sub-3:50 in the mile.
John Kipkoech, 22, is a sub-12:50 runner who earned silver at the 2010 IAAF World Junior Championships while the experienced Augustine Choge is still the world junior record-holder over 3000m, from 2005, and ran 3:35.5 to edge out Ndiku over 1500m in Kenya on Saturday.
The fastest outdoor time in the world this year at the moment is by the USA’s Ben True, who flashed to a 13:02.74 time earlier this month at Stanford’s popular Cardinal/Payton Jordan Invitational.
Inches behind him was another US runner, Hassan Mead, who ran 13:02.80. Both will also be on the start line in Eugene.
More US runners committed to the field include 24-year-old Ryan Hill, a finalist at last year’s World Championships, and 23-year-old Chris Derrick, a top-10 finisher at last year’s World Cross Country Championships.
Honorary starter for this year's IAAF Diamond League 5000m will be last year's No.1 at the distance, Mo Farah of Great Britain, who is still recovering from his debut at last month's London Marathon, where he ran 2:08:21.
Organisers for the IAAF
2014 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 9 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
Eugene, USA – 31 May
Rome, ITA – 5 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 11 Jun
New York, USA – 14 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 3 Jul
Paris, FRA – 5 Jul
Glasgow, GBR – 11-12 Jul
Monaco, MON – 18 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 21 Aug
Birmingham, GBR – 24 Aug
Zurich, SUI – 28 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 5 Sep