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  • Bekele vs. Farah, updated

    I wrote this a couple of years ago and have updated it now that Farah has retired from the track. I hope it lines up correctly.

    The Bekele era and the 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, was passed over
    for selection to the Ethiopian 2016 Olympic Marathon team, and failed to finish the 10,000 track
    race June 29 at Hengelo, he was 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 2011-2017 "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 Kipchoge,   WC 5000 1st 13:23.36, beat Lagat, Gebremeskel,
         El Guerrouj                                 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, Longosiwa,
            Guerrouj, beat Kipchoge                          Lagat, Koech, Iguider, Rupp
    WR 5000 12:37.35
    WR 10,000 26:20.31         
    
    2005                                    2013
    WC 10,000 1st 27:08.33, from Sihine,    WC 10,000 1st 27:21.71, beat Jeilan, Tanui, Rupp, Kuma, Karoki
         Mosop, Kiprop, Mathathi, Tadese    WC 5000 1st 13:26.98, beat Gebrhiwet, I Koech, Longosiwa,
    WR 10,000 26:17.53                                 Soi, Lagat, Edris, Rupp, Alamirew 
    
    2007                                    2015
    WC 10,000 1st 27:05.90, from Sihine,    WC 10,000 1st 27:01.13, beat Kamworor, Tanui, Karoki, Rupp
                        Mathathi, Tadese    WC 5000 1st 13:50.38, beat C Ndiku, Gebrhiwet, Kejelcha
                        
    2008                                    2016
    OG 10,000 1st 27:01.17 from Sihine,     OG 10,000 1st 27:05.17, beat Tanui, Tola, Demelash, Rupp
         Kogo Masai, Tadese,Gebrselassie    OG 5000 1st 13:03.30, beat Chelimo, Gebrhiwet, Ahmed, Lagat
    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,     WC 10,000 1st 26:49.51, beat Cheptegei, Tanui, Karoki
                              Masai         WC 5000 2nd 13:33.22, lost to Edris, beat Chelimo,
    WC 5000 1st 13:17.09 from Lagat,                                             Kejelcha, Barega
      Kwalia, Kipsiro, Kipchoge (Farah 7th)
    So, Bekele was dominant for six global meets in a row, same as Farah;
    however, since Bekele did not double in 2005-7, he has two medals fewer than Farah,

    Three things, for me, stand out here: 1) Bekele ran considerably faster in most of
    his global-championship races than Farah did, although Farah added the 26:49 race in London; 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 ends his track career with 10 global golds and 2 silvers, compared to 8 golds, a silver and a bronze for Bekele.

    Now Bekele has become the 2nd-fastest marathoner of all time, with a 2:03:03 win in Berlin, so he is back to being one of the very best in the world. He may contest the 2017 Berlin marathon. It remains to be seen whether Farah will develop into a great marathoner.

    Cheers,
    Alan Shank
    Woodland, CA, USA

  • #2
    In your opinion, where does Geb fit into this discussion?

    Comment


    • #3
      Mo will never be a great marathoner....his stride is way too long...end of story.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by jazzcyclist View Post
        In your opinion, where does Geb fit into this discussion?
        Obviously, he was great, but he never doubled after 1993, leaving his 5000 efforts for one-offs. He set lots of records, too, switching off with Komen/Tergat sort of like Coe and Ovett.

        I am not advocating for either Bekele or Farah as "GOAT"; I just found it interesting how their careers lined up, with Mo "shifted forward" relative to Kenenisa.

        If somebody said I had to pick a male track-distance "GOAT" or else I would be shot, I'd say Bekele.
        Cheers,
        Alan Shank

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Conor Dary View Post
          Mo will never be a great marathoner
          That's what people said about Geb.
          Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne...

          Comment


          • #6
            I did a comparison of Mo vs Viren a couple of years ago on my blog!
            Viren won!

            Keeping the WC out of it---Viren didn't have them available!---it came down to the 2 OG's for each---Viren in '72 & '76, Mo in '12 & '16.
            Two OG doubles, two Golds each!

            BUT---
            In '72, the 5K WR was 13:16.6 by Ron Clarke!
            Viren won the 5K in 13:26.4---almost exactly 10 seconds from the WR

            The 10K WR was Clarke's 27:39.4 from 1965.
            Viren BROKE that by a second in winning Gold!!

            In '76, the 5000 WR was 13:12.9.
            Viren won Gold in 13:24.7, about 12 seconds removed!

            In the 10K, the WR had become about 27:30.
            Viren won in 27:40, so was about 10 seconds off the WR!
            (His splits were 14:09 & 13:31!!!))

            BTW, Viren broke Clarke's WR a bit after the '72 Games, running 13:16.4.

            Mo, it's well known, came nowhere near the WR's in either of his OG doubles!
            You know the numbers!
            His best OG result was probably this one--his 26:49.
            But that's still 32 seconds off the WR!
            His PR is still 29 seconds removed!
            His 5000 PR is about 36 seconds from Bekele's WR!

            Limited to the OG's (Only fair, considering the lack of WC's for Viren!), it's no contest!!

            And you can't say Viren's fields were any less formidable than Mo's!

            ADD: Almost forgot!
            Didn't they have heats in both events in Viren's time?
            If so, that mean't Viren had 30000 meters of racing to do!
            Mo has had 10K less in each of his OG's!
            (And then Viren added a 5th in the Marathon in '76!)

            ADD:
            Not many distance runners break a WR in an OG!
            Only other instance (since the '72 Games) that comes to mind is Ayana's 10K in Rio!
            Last edited by aaronk; 08-27-2017, 03:01 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Farah's career has been better than Viren's. Viren did little between Olympics whether there were WCs or not.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by NotDutra5 View Post
                Farah's career has been better than Viren's. Viren did little between Olympics whether there were WCs or not.
                but what would he have done had there been WCs in '73 and '75?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by gh View Post
                  but what would he have done had there been WCs in '73 and '75?
                  Who knows? All we know is he didn't do much....comparative to the Olympic years. Had he won some major races in those years I think there would be a point that the WCs weren't held and thus he suffered for it.

                  Any speculation that if the WCs were held that he would have fared as well as Mo has is just that...speculation.

                  FWIW...I am much more of a Viren fan than Mo Farah fan. I just think the record speaks for itself.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by aaronk View Post
                    I did a comparison of Mo vs Viren a couple of years ago on my blog!
                    Viren won!

                    Keeping the WC out of it---Viren didn't have them available!---it came down to the 2 OG's for each---Viren in '72 & '76, Mo in '12 & '16.
                    Two OG doubles, two Golds each!

                    BUT---
                    In '72, the 5K WR was 13:16.6 by Ron Clarke!
                    Viren won the 5K in 13:26.4---almost exactly 10 seconds from the WR

                    The 10K WR was Clarke's 27:39.4 from 1965.
                    Viren BROKE that by a second in winning Gold!!

                    In '76, the 5000 WR was 13:12.9.
                    Viren won Gold in 13:24.7, about 12 seconds removed!

                    In the 10K, the WR had become about 27:30.
                    Viren won in 27:40, so was about 10 seconds off the WR!
                    (His splits were 14:09 & 13:31!!!))

                    BTW, Viren broke Clarke's WR a bit after the '72 Games, running 13:16.4.

                    Mo, it's well known, came nowhere near the WR's in either of his OG doubles!
                    You know the numbers!
                    His best OG result was probably this one--his 26:49.
                    But that's still 32 seconds off the WR!
                    His PR is still 29 seconds removed!
                    His 5000 PR is about 36 seconds from Bekele's WR!

                    Limited to the OG's (Only fair, considering the lack of WC's for Viren!), it's no contest!!

                    And you can't say Viren's fields were any less formidable than Mo's!

                    ADD: Almost forgot!
                    Didn't they have heats in both events in Viren's time?
                    If so, that mean't Viren had 30000 meters of racing to do!
                    Mo has had 10K less in each of his OG's!
                    (And then Viren added a 5th in the Marathon in '76!)

                    ADD:
                    Not many distance runners break a WR in an OG!
                    Only other instance (since the '72 Games) that comes to mind is Ayana's 10K in Rio!
                    Your always about times. Here is one you missed. There is no way Sarah's PR 5k is 36 seconds slower than the WR. As for your OG comparisons I would just add that the competition is far superior now than then and the WR's as well. A comparison of the type you made (how far from WR) will pretty much ruin any comparison of any future competition to Viren. FACT is, by today's standards, those WR's were soft and the impact we see from the East African talent was barely beginning. Biden was a great runner, but those performances would not, by themselves put him above Fatah for GOAT discussions imo.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by odelltrclan View Post
                      ........... Biden was a great runner, but those performances would not, by themselves put him above Fatah for GOAT discussions imo.
                      I think Obama was better though.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Mea Culpa on the differential between Farah's 5000 PR & the WR!
                        It's more like 16 seconds than 36!!
                        LOL

                        Tuariki---
                        LOVE it!!!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Conor Dary View Post
                          Mo will never be a great marathoner....his stride is way too long...end of story.
                          Is that length of stride overall or relative to height? If it's the former, the WRs by the likes of Tergat, Waitz and Radcliffe suggest that a long stride does not preclude marathon success. However, they were all quite tall unlike Mo.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            And you can't say Viren's fields were any less formidable than Mo's!
                            Certainly a debateable point when it comes to 1976

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by gh View Post
                              but what would he have done had there been WCs in '73 and '75?
                              Virén, unlike Mo, never won gold at the Euros; he was 3rd in the 5K and 7th in the 10K in '74 (he had injury problems that year) and missed the '78 Euros entirely due to a new injury. The Olympics were always Virén's big target and that's undoubtedly the main reason why he was in better shape in Oly years; but he was also unusually free of injuries in both '72 and '76. He was basically healthy in '73, I think, but injuries disrupted his spring training in '75 and '77.

                              Of course Virén, also unlike Mo, broke the 5K and 10K WRs... But Virén wasn't even the greatest Finnish distance runner of all time, not by a long way.

                              --

                              Re: Virén and heats, here's a fun bit of trivia: Virén wasn't the fastest Finnish 5K runner in Montreal '76. That was Lasse Orimus, who ran faster in his heat than Virén did in either round - and still didn't qualify.

                              Comment

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