Kenenisa Bekele became the first man to complete the Olympic long-distance double for 28 years when he romped to the 5,000 metres title on the final evening of athletics competition at the Bird’s Nest on Saturday.
There was more east African success on the track when Kenyan Wilfred Bungei took gold in the men’s 800m and compatriot Nancy Jebet Langat claimed the women’s 1,500m.
Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen retained his javelin crown but there was a shock in the high jump were Blanka Vlasic, unbeaten all season, lost out to Belgium’s Tia Hellebaut.
The United States, who suffered double disaster in the sprint relay heats, roared back in the 4x400 with a thrilling win in the women’s race and dominant victory in the men’s, the traditional finale of the last night session.
Bekele, who retained his 10,000 title on Sunday, wanted to go one better than his silver of four years ago and, as world record holder, started hot favourite to emulate the double of his compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba in the women’s long-distance events.
The race followed a predictable pattern as Bekele was given a ride by brother Tariku and the third Ethiopian, Abreham Cherkos.
The rest of the field, bar the Kenyans, dropped back before Bekele took off at the bell to win comfortably.
His time of 12 minutes 57.82 seconds was an Olympic record and made him the first man to do the double since compatriot Miruts Yifter.
There were two more medals for Kenya as Eliud Kipchoge took silver and Edwin Cheruiyot Soi the bronze.
No dropped baton
AFTER THEIR sprint relay failures, where both teams dropped the baton, the U.S. had a point to prove and they looked like they meant business when the women came out in red kit instead of the blue the country’s athletes have worn all Games.
“I think it gave us a new attitude to come out here and win,” said final-leg runner Sanya Richards. “I knew I had to pull out a supreme effort to help our team win and I’m happy we were able to do that. I came to the Olympics to win a gold medal and when I saw it was going to happen I was really, really excited,” she added while clenching her fist in the air.
There was a red shirt leading until the last 25 metres of the final leg, but it was worn by Russian Anastasia Kapachinskaya.
However, Richards, who missed out on her expected gold in the individual race, completed a marvellous last leg to snatch gold in 3:18.54, the fastest time for 15 years. Jamaica took bronze.
LaShawn Merritt, Jeremy Wariner and David Neville, the three medallists in the individual 400, and Angelo Taylor, the 400m hurdles champion, were always going to be a formidable quartet in the men’s race and they duly delivered ahead of Bahamas and Russia.
The two victories enabled the U.S to overtake Jamaica and Russia at the top of the athletics medals tables with seven gold medals and just the men’s marathon to come on Sunday.