A look back at the men’s 10,000m at the IAAF World Championships

The first 10,000m at the Worlds in Helsinki remains the most exciting in the championships’ history. In the heats, the enigmatic Fernando Mamede won in a fast 27:45.54, but the Portuguese, who suffered from nerves, was a lowly 14th in the final, 30 seconds slower than in his heat.

The final wasn’t particularly quick, though it was livened up by a 62.9-second 19th lap by former European champion Martti Vainio but 13 men were still in contention in the last kilometre. Werner Schildhauer burst to the front 450m out and held a small lead for most of the last lap. However, in the straight, a chasing quartet closed and all five were abreast just before the line. European champion Alberto Cova finished the quickest and went from fifth to first in the last 30 metres with a 54.4 last lap.

The first five were covered by less than a second and the leading Briton, Nick Rose, was seventh. Steve Jones, who would go on to break the world marathon record, ran 27:47.51 in his heat but was only 12th in the final. No Briton would run faster in the world championships for 28 years. Alberto Salazar was the final finisher in 17th.

Kenyan Paul Kipkoech dominated the 1987 race. A 2:36.88 seventh kilometre broke the field and with a 13:25.57 second half he won by more than 10 seconds from Italian Francesco Panetta, who won the steeplechase a few days later.

Hansjorg Kunze won his second successive bronze and Steve Binns excelled to finish fifth. Kipkoech died eight years later of malaria and tuberculosis.

Kenyans dominated the 1991 event in Tokyo and a world record pace of 13:30.27 at halfway gave Richard Chelimo a clear lead and then Moses Tanui surged and caught him in the eighth kilometre. World cross-country champion Khalid Skah, who was to win the 1992 Olympics, gradually closed but fell three seconds short at the finish as Tanui left Chelimo in the final straight.

Richard Nerurkar was an excellent fifth and Britain had three finalists but in most of the following championships they didn’t even have someone qualified to select.

In 1993 in Stuttgart, the pendulum swung from Kenya to Ethiopia and they were to win nine of the next 10 finals, but Tanui and Chelimo were back and put up a fight. Chelimo led at 8km but faded as Tanui took over. Tanui complained continually about his only remaining rival, Haile Gebrselassie, catching his heel and on the last lap he kicked one of his shoes off and sprinted away. The Ethiopian, who had narrowly lost the 5000m, sprinted past him in the final straight having run a 54.98 last lap. Tanui retrieved his shoe and waved it in the gold medallist’s face.

Two years later in Gothenburg, the Ethiopian defended his title courtesy of a superb 25.1 last 200m to easily run away from top-class runners such as Paul Tergat, Khalid Skah and Salah Hissou. The time of 27:12.95 broke the championship record of Josephat Machuka’s excellent 27:29.07, set a few days earlier in the heat.

In Athens in 1997, the result was identical to the 1996 Olympics as Gebrselassie produced an electrifying burst in the last 600m. His 56.0 final lap proved sufficient for a one-second victory, as Tergat closed a little on the final circuit with Hissou third.

It was the same one-two in searing heat in Seville in 1999. The Ethiopian produced a top-class 2:24.9 final kilometre to win by more than a second and take his fourth successive title with Tergat again finishing strongly.

The pair battled again in one of the greatest races of all time in Sydney and it was the same outcome. However, Gebrselassie wasn’t fit for the next world final in Edmonton in 2001 after an Achilles operation and he also had influenza. He put up a good fight but faded in the straight and the fastest finisher was surprise winner, Kenyan Charles Kamathi. Assefa Mezegebu won his second medal, overtaking his team-mate, who suffered his first 10,000m defeat for eight years.

Gebrselassie was in much better form for Paris in 2003 and ran a 56.23 last lap and an incredible 12:58.8 second half, but he was well beaten by his younger teammate Kenenisa Bekele, who ran the 10th fastest 10,000m in history – 26:49.57. Sileshi Sihine ensured a clean Ethiopian sweep. Karl Keska was the first British finalist in six championships. In ninth place and a minute down on the winner, he just missed Jones’ world championship GB best with 27:47.89 as he was second European.

Bekele defended his title in Helsinki in 2005 courtesy of a 25.9 last 200m and 1:56.7 last 800m with Sihine only four metres back at the finish.

Osaka in 2007 was hot and humid and, having beaten Bekele in the world cross-country championships, Eritrean Zersenay Tadese tried everything to repeat his victory but faded on the last few laps as Bekele won easily with a 55.51 last 400m opening up over three seconds on Sihine, who himself won his third successive medal at the distance.

The Eritrean tried again to win gold in Berlin in 2009 and set a much faster pace, including an incredible 7:57.28 3000m between 5000m and 8000m. He succeeded in dropping everyone bar Bekele, who eased away over the final lap to win by almost four seconds. The championship best time of 26:46.31 brought him his 12th 10,000m victory in 12 races and he had an average of 26:45.7!

Bekele lost his unbeaten record in Daegu in 2011 as in his first race in 19 months, after a calf injury, he dropped out. European champion Mo Farah was the favourite and a searing burst 450m out pulled him clear. However, despite a 53.36 last lap, he was slowing in the last 200 metres and the unfancied Ibrahim Jeilan caught him in the last 25 metres.

By the time Farah lined up in Moscow, he had won the Daegu 5000m and won a double at London 2012. Jeilan was back and clung on to Farah in a pulsating last lap, but Farah saved more for the straight this time and won by half a second, having run a 54.41 last 400m and 1:55.04 last 800m.


Year | Winner | Time | Top Brit
1983 Alberta Cova (ITA) 28:01.04 7th Nick Rose 28:07.53 (28:06.05 ht)
1987 Paul Kipkoech (KEN) 27:38.63 5th Steve Binns 28:03.08
1991 Moses Tanui (KEN) 27:38.74 5th Richard Nerurkar 27:57.14
1993 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 27:46.02 No competitor
1995 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 27:12.95 9th ht Paul Evans 28:14.76
1997 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 27:24.58 No competitor
1999 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 27:57.27 dnf Jon Brown
2001 Charles Kamathi (KEN) 27:53.25 No competitor
2003 Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 26:49.57 9th Karl Keska 27:47.89
2005 Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 27:08.53 No competitor
2007 Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 27:05.90 No competitor
2009 Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 26:46.31 No competitor
2011 Ibrahim Jeylan (ETH) 27:13.81 2nd Mo Farah 27:14.07
2013 Mo Farah (GBR) 27:21.71 Farah

Top points (8 for 1st etc)
1. ETH 165
2. KEN 146
3. GER 27
4. MAR 26
5. GBR 25
6. ERI 21
7. ITA 18
8. USA 16

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