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  • Bekele era vs. Farah era

    I don't pay much attention to the "Greatest of All Time" (GOAT) discussion on the message boards. People don't even agree on what constitutes a "GOAT". Is it peak performance? Is it sustained performance over many years? Is it about records? championships? doubling? To me, these discussions (read - arguments) are pretty pointless.

    However, as Kenenisa Bekele, with considerable support as distance GOAT, has been passed over for selection to the Ethiopian Olympic Marathon team and failed to finish the 10,000 track race June 29 at Hengelo, he will not be able to get back to the Olympics on the track, where he would have been meeting Mo Farah, who has been building his case since 2011.

    It occurred to me that Bekele won his first global title in a World Championship (WC) before an Olympic year, and so did Farah, 2003 for Bekele and 2011 for Farah. What if we compare their accomplishments in parallel, starting with those years? We will call 2003-2009 "The Bekele Era" and 2011-2015 (or 2016) "The Farah Era".

    By the way, although Bekele found great global, senior success at age 21, Farah took a lot longer to reach global-medal class, at 28. Note that Farah is only about nine months younger than Bekele is. If we were to line their careers up by age, Bekele would have a huge edge until 2010, when Farah started to improve massively and Bekele was injured all year. In the Tilastopaja Oy database, they both show results starting in 1999.
    Code:
    Bekele Era                              Farah Era
    2003                                      2011
    WC 10,000 1st 26:49.57             WC 10,000 2nd 27:14.07 beaten by Jeilan, 
       from Gebrselassie, Sihine        beat Merga, Tadese, Mathathi, Kirui, Rupp,
                                                  Sihine, Tanui (Bekele DNF)
    
    WC 5000 3rd 12:53.12 behind         WC 5000 1st 13:23.36, beat Lagat,  
    Kipchoge, El Guerrouj                Gebremeskel, I Koech, Kuma, Longosiwa,  
                                                  Kipchoge
    
    2004                                    2012
    OG 10,000 1st 27:27:05.10, from Sihine, OG 10,000 1st 27:30.42, beat Rupp, Tariku, 
    Tadese, Kiprop, Gebrselassie                                      Kenenisa
               
    OG 5000 2nd 13:14.59,behind El          OG 5000 1st 13:41.66, beat Gebremeskel, 
    Guerrouj, beat Kipchoge                           Longosiwa, Lagat, Koech,Iguider, Rupp
    WR 5000 12:37.35
    WR 10,000 26:20.31         
    WR 5000 indoors 12:49.60
    
    2005                                    2013
    WC 10,000 1st 27:08.33, from Sihine,    WC 10,000 1st 27:21.71, beat Jeilan, Tanui, 
    Mosop, Kiprop, Jathathi, Tadese              Rupp, Kuma, Karoki
                                            WC 5000 1st 13:26.98, beat Gebrhiwet,   
                                                    I Koech, Longosiwa, Soi, Lagat               
    WR 10,000 26:17.53                              Edris, Rupp, Alamirew 
    
    2007                                    2015
    WC 10,000 1st 27:05.90, from Sihine,    WC 10,000 1st 27:01.13, beat Kamworor,
    Mathathi, Tadesse                        Tanui, Karoki, Rupp
                                            WC 5000 1st 13:50.38, beat C Ndiku,
                                                     Gebrhiwet, Kejelcha
    
    2008                                    2016
    OG 10,000 1st 27:01.17 from Sihine,     TBD
         Kogo, Masai, Tadese,Gebrselassie       
    OG 5000 1st 12:57.82 from Kipchoge, Soi
                 Kipsiro, Cherkos, T Bekele
                    (Farah 6th DNQ in heat)
    
    2009                                    2017
    WC 10,000 1st 26:46.31 from Tadese,     TBD
                              Masai
    WC 5000 1st 13:17.09 from Lagat,
      Kwalia, Kipsiro, Kipchoge (Farah 7th)
    So, Bekele was dominant for six global meets in a row, while Farah has been for four; however, since Bekele did not double in 2005-7, he has only two more medals than Farah, 10 to 8. Presumably, Farah will compete in Rio and next year in London, so he will fill in the right column for the last two years.

    Three things, for me, stand out here: 1) Bekele had to run considerably faster in most of his races than Farah did; 2) Bekele dominated several of his races as Farah never has -- check out his last 1600 in 2008, and the last 5K of the 10K in 2003 (12:58!); and 3) the four world records. I watched YouTube videos of his 12:37 and 26:17; he ran the last 3K of the 5 and at least the last half of the 10K all by himself, grinding out the laps like clockwork and still having something left to "tidy up the time" on the last laps.

    Oh, and let's not forget Bekele's 11 gold medals in world cross country championships, plus a silver.

    So, Farah has a way to go before his resume stands up to that of Bekele, but he's got two more global meets in the next two years to reach 12 medals and 11 golds. Get back to me in 2017.

    Cheers,
    Alan Shank
    Woodland, CA, USA
    Last edited by Alan Shank; 07-14-2016, 08:44 PM. Reason: spelling

  • #2
    Thanks, Alan. I appreciate your analysis.

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    • #3
      Same here. Wonderful analysis, and we still have at least 2 more years to see what Mo accomplishes. It is sufficient to say they both dominated the medal count in their respective eras. Bekele has the added dimension of WR's, while Farah has doubled more often. I wish the Ethiopian Federation had named Bekele to their marathon team.

      I agree that the last 1600 of the 2008 5k was absolutely stunning. And to think Kipchoge ran his last 1600 in 4:02, only to be blitzed by 5 seconds in the last lap!

      His second 5k in 2003 was equally amazing, but props to Geb for leading all but the last 400 of that amazing second half.

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