May 15, 2015
(We recap the rest of the meet here: LRC 2015 Doha Recap: Track and Field’s Opening Day Amazes – The Rabbit Wins The Steeple, Dawit Sayeum Wins Her First DL Race, Ayanleh Souleiman Dominates, Justin Gatlin PRs + Two Triple Jumpers Over 18.00m )
2013 World Championship silver medallist at 5000 Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia, who turned 21 just four days ago, gave himself a nice birthday present as he took down reigning double Olympic and double world champion Mo Farah of Great Britian to win the men’s 3000 at the season’s-opening IAAF Diamond League track and field meeting in Doha, Qatar. Gebrhiwet used a 54-flat last lap to go from fourth to first and just hold off Farah in 7:38.08 to Farah’s 7:38.22. It was Gebrehiwet’s first career victory over Farah (0 for 3 coming in) and Farah’s first loss on the track since July 2013.
Coming in everyone expected Farah to smash Dave Moorcroft‘s nearly 33-year-old British record of 7:32.79, which had stood since July 17, 1982, but no one went with the rabbits as the race was run in 96-degree heat (35.5 Celsius).
Farah looked to be in control with 800 meters remaining as he was where he seemingly is in all track races, in front on the rail, controlling a tactical race. He still led as they approached the bell. However, 17-year-old Yomif Kejelcha, the reigning World Youth and World Junior champion at 5000, didn’t follow the normal script. He took the lead just before the bell with a surge that Farah didn’t respond to initially. At the bell, Kenyan Thomas Longosiwa (who would wind up third in 7:39.22) was in second with Farah third and Gebrhiwet second. Kejelcha’s surge proved too be too much too soon as he’d fade over the final 200 and end up fifth in 7:39.99 but it totally shook up the race.
Four different men held the lead over the final 450 meters in a wild finish. In the end, it was Gebrhiwet who emerged victorious, holding off Farah over the final 75 meters to earn a big win in front of a raucous crowd full of Ethiopian fans.
Commentators Tim Hutchings and Steve Cram noted that Farah was hoping for a fast time and the rabbits were assigned 59 seconds for the first lap and 60 seconds for every lap thereafter. It looked like we were in for a fast race after the first lap as the rabbits came through right around 59.5 with Farah near the front. However the rabbits opened up a 15-meter gap over the next 200 meters and with Farah sitting in fourth, no one in the field was bold enough to go with them. The rabbits ran 62.11 from 600 to 1000 but their lead only increased as they now had over 20 meters on the chasers behind them.
The pace remained relatively slow for the next few laps and Farah went to the lead with three laps remaining in attempt to use his classic “control from the front” strategy, hitting 2200 meters in 5:46. Farah still led with 600 remaining when Ethiopian World Junior 5000 champ Yomif Kejelcha pulled up on his shoulder in an attempt to move past. Farah was having none of it as he immediately accelerated to counter the move. Less than 200 meters later, Kejelcha challenged Farah again and this time the Brit surprisingly did not respond, with Kejelcha and Longosiwa taking the lead at the bell. Shockingly, Gebrhiwet too went by Farah on the backstretch and the man who has been invincible on the track over the past few years was in fourth place with 250 to go and fading.
Farah won all those gold medals for a reason however, and he showed his toughness over the final 200. Kejelcha, still only 17, was feeling the effects of his bold move and started fading backwards as Longosiwa inherited the lead. On the final turn, it was Longosiwa leading Gebrhiwet, but Farah refused to give up and started to draw upon his reserves, keeping contact with the top two.
With 75 meters to go, Gebrhiwet went by Longosiwa — the third lead change in the final 450 meters and started to pull away. But Farah still wasn’t dead. The hurt visible on his face, he began to close on the Ethiopian and it looked like his winning streak might survive after all.
No. Gebrhiwet never broke form and even Farah’s 3:28 1500 speed was not enough to overcome the gap as Gebrhiwet held on for a big win in 7:38.08 (final 400 was 54.40 leader-to-leader but Gebrhiwet closed faster than that), Farah crossing in second in 7:38.22. Longosiwa wound up third in 7:39.22.
Quick Take #1: Mo Farah is mortal
This was a massively important race as it shows that Farah can be beaten on the final lap. Farah’s speed will certainly develop over the course of the season (after all, he did run a 59:32 half marathon on March 22), but by losing today, Farah also lost what he had worked so hard to cultivate over the past few years: his air of invincibility. When you are kicking in the final 400 against a guy like Farah — one who has won five gold medals at the last three global championships — it’s hard not to be a little bit discouraged. Since the start of the 2012 outdoor season, the only times Farah lost on the track came when he was under the weather at Pre in 2013 and in the 1500 in Monaco in 2013 where it took a 3:27 from Asbel Kiprop to beat him. Now that Gebrhiwet showed that Farah can be beaten — and in a slower race — that provides evidence to the top guys that Farah isn’t invincible.
Quick Take #2: This makes the rest of the season more exciting
As much as Farah would have liked to keep his winning streak alive, this makes the summer racing season much more exciting for fans. Instead of a string of inevitable Farah victories, it’s now possible to envision a scenario in which he loses. Usually you wouldn’t even have to watch the final 200 of Farah’s races as if he had the lead at that point, it was almost always over. Gebrhiwet showed that in the right race, Farah can be had.
Farah also has something to prove now. As his first defeat on the track in almost two years, he won’t forget this one anytime soon and will be on a quest to prove he’s still king of the distances in Beijing (and hopefully at some other DL events). He’s still the prohibitive favorite for the world titles at 5,000 and 10,000 but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion.
Quick Take #3: Hagos Gebrhiwet is back
Gebrhiwet put together a huge 2013 as a 19-year-old, running 7:30 to win this meet and winding up with a silver medal in the 5,000 at Worlds. So it was disappointing when he returned to action last year and struggled, taking 5th at World Indoors in the 3,000 and putting together a poor DL season (his finishes, in order: 3rd, 7th, 12th, 1st, 7th, 13th). His season best was just 13:06 and he only broke 13:10 once after running 12:55 in 2013 and 12:47 in 2012.
Gebrhiwet looked like his old self today as he earned his first career victory vs. Farah. Add in a 4th-place finish at World XC at a distance — 12k — that is a little out of his comfort zone, and it’s clear that Gebrhiwet is in phenomenal shape. Remember, this is a guy who ran 12:47.53 — the #7 time ever — at just 18 years old. If he gets rolling, he’s going to be very difficult to beat.
Quick Take #4: Yomif Kejelcha is fearless and he made this race
Kejelcha may have finished only fifth overall, but he played a key role in how this one played out. He was the first to attack Farah at 600 and his surge before the bell derailed Farah’s “hold the lead” strategy, throwing off the usual race dynamic. Though he couldn’t hold onto the lead, Kejelcha deserves props as he has major cojones. How many 17-year-olds would be bold enough to repeatedly go after Mo Farah like that with over 400 meters to go?
It’s been driving us nuts for years how everyone has just handed race after race to Farah at recent World’s by letting him control things from the front, but this race shows you why they have done it. Kejelcha faded to 5th after his big move. Veterans play things safe and make sure they medal – brave teenagers go for broke.