Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Olympic Trials Preview: Men's 5K

The men’s 5K Olympic Trials final is Thursday night.  According to the 'experts' at, 4 men have a realistic shot at the 3 slots for London:  Galen Rupp, Andrew Bumbalough, Lopez Lomong, and Bernard Lagat.

Galen Rupp, who already won the 10K on Monday in a trials record of 27:25, didn’t have any problems running basically the same pace for a 5K in his qualifying heat.  He has a personal best of 12:58, and with completely fresh legs I’d have him in the favorite in this race.  Considering he has already raced 10K more than the other three, I think that will be enough to give the rest of the field a slight advantage, but doubtful that will enough to keep him out of the top 3.  He must live on a treadmill.

Andrew Bumbalough has run a 13:16 this season and matched Rupp stride for stride down the stretch of the preliminary heat.  He also has the high school course record at good old McAlpine Park in Charlotte, a 14:32... which is still absurdly fast but at the same time shows just how much improvement is needed to get to the elite level.  I’d still put him at only having an outside chance at making the team – basically only if he has a good day and one of the other 3 have a day (assuming no one else runs the race of their life).

Lopez Lomong is one of the “Lost Boys” from Sudan, which makes him a great human interest story for Olympic television audiences.  NBC will be rooting for him to place top 3.  In our ADD culture, having guys like him in the field is the only way to generate interest.  Lomong was our flag bearer in the 2008 Olympics, when he ran the 1500m.  He has since moved up in distance and in 5K earlier this season, threw down a 13:11 despite stopping with a lap left because he thought he had finished the race.  In a close race toward the end, I like his chances based on his shorter distance background.

Bernard Lagat must be about 55 years old and it seems like he is trying to qualify for his 10th Olympics games.  Rupp has never beaten Lagat, who still has plenty of speed in his advancing age.  I have a hard time envisioning an Olympics with Bernard Lagat not there, and up until this year I’d have him as the favorite, but I think one of the younger guys will take the title.

So I’ll go (somewhat) out on a limb and say it will be Lomong, Rupp, Lagat

Other tidbits from the Trials:

Alan Webb placed way far back in his qualifying heat in the 5000m, and was hardly even mentioned on TV.  So ends his Olympics chase, and by 2016 he’ll be 33 years old which is ancient for a competitive middle distance runner (unless you are Bernard Lagat).  I’ve followed his career from a distance since he was in high school, just as the internet was getting big, and finding results easily from all across the country became an easy thing to do (before 1999, you actually had to buy a magazine for this… unreal).  It’s hard to watch him struggle the past few years, but the sport has clearly become more competitive recently too.  Other runners from his era, Ryan Hall (marathon), Dathan Ritzenhein (10K), and Matt Tegenkamp (10K) are all in, but none of these guys have received the attention that Webb has in the past 12 years.

Ashton Eaton is a physical freak.

In the course of his world record accomplishment, he had the following performances:
10.2 100m
27 foot long jump
6-8 3/4 high jump
46-7 shot put
46.7 400m in pouring rain
13.7 110m high hurdles
140-5 discus
17-4 pole vault
193-1 javelin throw
and closed with a 4:14 1500m

The video hardly does justice to how fast that is for a guy of his size.  He makes it look easy, but that time is under 70 seconds a lap.

It puts my summer track performances to shame.  5 weeks in, I have 20 events toward the Ironman award.  I’ll miss next week, and a week in early August, but as long as I get 4 more in each of the weeks I’ll be in town, I should get 36 or 3 more than the cutoff for the award.  The pursuit of the Ironman has pushed me into some strange events - like the 100m or the mile race walk, which seems to take forever (broke previous best by over a minute and a half today, and probably still plenty of improvement...) The tradeoff here is not being able to go 'all out' in any events, but maybe toward the end I'll see what I can do in the mile or 5K.

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