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Date
25 Sep 2000
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Sydney 2000

Gebrselassie edges epic 10,000m battle

There are few sights more thrilling in track and field than a long-distance race that comes down to a sprint for the line, as athletes who have run thousands of metres at top speed are then forced to dig deep to find that extra bit of energy needed to push themselves to the finish.


There are few sights more thrilling in track and field than a long-distance race that comes down to a sprint for the line, as athletes who have run thousands of metres at top speed are then forced to dig deep to find that extra bit of energy needed to push themselves to the finish.

The 10,000m in Sydney delivered a magnificent example of such a spectacle, between two great runners resuming what had become a familiar rivalry. Four years earlier, in Atlanta, the race had come down to a battle between Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie and Kenya's Paul Tergat, with Gebrselassie taking a substantial lead and holding on for victory as the Kenyan nearly caught him on the line.
 
This time round, the cast was the same but the plot was very different. The race was the culmination of one of the most exciting nights of track and field in Olympic history. The Sydney crowd had already seen Cathy Freeman win her 400m title, Michael Johnson retain his 400m crown, and Great Britain’s Jonathan Edwards take triple jump gold. The 10,000m was the final race of the evening, and the anticipation was rich.

Gebrselassie had not lost over the distance for over seven years and held the world record. His preparations for the Games, though, had been disrupted by injury and it was not certain he would even compete.

When the Ethiopian’s name was put forward, Tergat, who had been entered into the 5,000m, pleaded with the Kenyan federation to put his name down for the 10,000m so he could face up to his great rival and friend once again.

The race turned into an East African tactical battle, with three Kenyans and two Ethiopians holding the first five positions when the bell sounded to signify the start of the final lap. Four years earlier, it had been Gebrselassie who seized the lead; this time it was Tergat who sprinted to the front with half a lap left.
 
Gebrselassie went after him, pulling back the advantage slowly. As they sprinted for the line, the two men were neck-and-neck, neither able to take an outright lead until, with just a few metres left of the 10,000, Gebrselassie moved a fraction ahead, dipped for the line and won by less than a tenth of a second.

It had been a sensational race and the two men embraced, aware that they had produced a remarkable spectacle.

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