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BEIJING — For the third consecutive global championships beginning with the London Olympics in 2012, Britain’s Mo Farah completed the 5000m/10,000m double, winning the shorter event with a heart-pounding homestretch run against Kenya’s Caleb Ndiku at National Stadium. Off of a very slow early pace, his winning time of 13:50.38 was the slowest in the history of the IAAF World Championships.
“They’ve all been difficult,” Farah said of his three double gold performances at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 and 2015 World Championships. “It’s never easy to continue double/double.”
For nine of the 12 and one-half lap race, the pack dawdled along, running 400m circuits as slow as 73 seconds. Lap after lap, Farah ran in last place, staying away from potential trouble and conserving energy.
“I was really pleased early on when the pace was so slow,” Farah said at his post-race press conference. “From that point on I was really trying to relax and see what I could do towards the last lap.”
With seven laps to go, Farah moved up on the outside of the field, and settled in near the front. The pace dropped a bit to 68 seconds, then 66, still not fast enough to whittle down the pack. Ndiku, last year’s world indoor 3000m champion, saw that the pack was still too big and knew needed to take action. He waited for 800 meters to go, then launched an explosive move to break up the race.
“For tonight, the race was very technical,” Ndiku said. “Eight hundred meters to go, everybody was in the pack. Then, I decided to split the pack… I knew the last lap would be very fast. So, I had to push hard to break the group.”
Ndiku ran a 58.4 second lap, followed by another at 54.3, too much for everyone else in the field except for Farah. With 200 meters to go, he was leading the Briton by two steps with Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet and Yomif Kejelcha a few steps behind.
“Ndiku really put his foot down with two laps to go,” Farah observed.
Coming into the homestretch it was still a two-man race, but Farah had saved something for the end. He put in one more acceleration, finally pulling away from the exhausted Ndkiu. Spreading his arms to the side, he crossed the finish line as the crowd roared with approval.
“Ndiku is a great athlete,” said Farah. “He’s a class athlete, and he’s still young. Tonight, he really put his mark down. He definitely tested me.”
Ndiku clocked 13:51.75 to get the silver, and was not disappointed.
“For me, getting the silver was the best moment, ever, because I was not expecting that,” he said.
Gebrhiwet, who had won the silver at these championships in Moscow two years ago, had to settle for bronze. His time was 13:51.86, about half a second up on the teenager Kejelcha.
Behind the podium finishers, Americans Galen Rupp, Ben True and Ryan Hill finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, the first time ever that the United States placed three athletes in the top-7 at these championships.
“I was trying to stay in position the whole time and give myself a chance,” said True. “I let them jump me a little bit. I thought I was right there with 600 to go, right where I wanted to be. But, they kind of jumped me with 500 to go.”
In the women’s 800m, Marina Arzamasova of Belarus won her nation’s first ever medal in that event at these championships, winning a surprisingly tactical contest over Canada’s Melissa Bishop (silver) and Kenya’s Eunice Sum (bronze).
“Of course I expected the podium,” said Arzamasova, who clocked 1:58.03. “After the semifinals, I expected [the] gold medal.”
Hers was an odd race. Sum, the defending champion, shot out from the start, running the first 200 meters in a blistering 27.2 seconds. But then she slammed on the brakes, and the 400 meter split was only a modest 59.1 seconds.
“Normally, I’m a front runner,” Sum later explained. “I was really doing my tactics as usual.”
On the backstretch, Arzamasova increased the pace, and both of the eventual medalists responded. She kept the lead coming out of the final bend, running in lane two with Bishop on her left and Sum on her right. She had only half a stride on her rivals, but it was enough.
“Of course, I’m really honored to get this medal for my country, my family,” said Arzamasova, choking up. “I really don’t have any words.”
Bishop, who set a Canadian record in the semifinals, was thrilled to get silver. Her coach, Dennis Fairall, told reporters that “she was content to get in the final.” She earned Canada’s seventh medal at these championships, adding to the teams already record total.
“It’s a feeling of pride,” Bishop said. “We have a really great generation and group of athletes in Canada right now. We’re working really hard to put ourselves on the map. I’m really happy to be part of that medal count.”