Athletics: Pressure builds at double time as Bekele keeps 10,000m title

Two days after Ethiopians had dominated the women's 10,000m with a stupendous last-lap sprint which ended with 19-year-old Tirunesh Dibaba winning, their men responded in kind, although on this occasion Kenya's Moses Mosop prevented a clean sweep by taking the bronze.

It may well turn out to be the first part of a double for the 23-year-old champion here, as his federation clearly wants him to emulate Dibaba in attempting the 5,000m as well.

The name "Sihine" means "victory" in Amharic, but the 22-year-old might need to consider changing it if he continues to run with the athlete who has established himself as a worthy successor to his fellow countryman, Haile Gebrselassie.

Bekele remained deep in the pack until the closing stages of the race, only moving to the front with seven and a half laps remaining and saving his most punishing burst for the final bend before finishing in 27min 08.33sec, almost 50 seconds slower than his world record. Sihine was timed at 27.08.87, with Mosop at 27.08.96.

The runners took to a glistening track which had been industriously cleared of the rain which had fallen all day, and Japan's Terukazu Omori took an early lead which, given his personal best time of 27:43.94sec, was doomed.

As the 3,000m mark approached the race began to take shape, with Dinkesa taking the lead and Sihine sitting on his shoulder.

By 8,000m, three Ethiopians had established themselves at the head of the pack - Sihine, Bekele, and Abebe Dinkessa. Six others were still in touch at this stage, including a Kenyan trio who attempted to infiltrate the Ethiopian ranks repeatedly over the next 1,000m. But their mission was in vain as the men in green prepared for their charge just before the sounding of the bell.

Bekele had arrived in Helsinki amid confusion over his intentions. His Dutch manager, Jos Hermens, announced that he did not wish to double up at 10,000m and 5,000m as this would effectively ruin the rest of his season. "But I don't know what will happen," Hermens said.

The Ethiopian team leader, Dube Jilo, said a decision would be made before Thursday's 5,000m heats. "But we expect that he will run," he said. The Ethiopian athletics federation has already selected Tirunesh Dibaba, who sprinted to the women's 10,000m on Saturday with a last lap of 58.8sec, to attempt the double in the 5,000m.

The pattern of debate over Bekele's programme has become familiar. Two years ago, after completing his third double at the World Cross-Country Championships in Brussels, Bekele said that he would not double up again the next year. The following year he doubled up - at the behest of his national federation - and added a fourth set of titles.

The latter feat was given unwanted resonance by the trauma which Bekele had suffered in January, when his fiancée, Alem Techale, collapsed and died while they were on a training run.

Should Bekele accept his mission to double up, he will not face the man who frustrated that ambition in Athens last summer, Hicham El Guerrouj, who is a spectator here after a virus. But Bekele said: "Whether he is there or not, the competition would not just be against him." Bekele's compatriots have presented him with his strongest challenges this season.

Justin Gatlin, who will seek this week to add the 200m and sprint relay titles to the 100m he won by a record World Championship margin of 0.17sec on Sunday, has indicated that he may face the world record holder Asafa Powell at Sheffield this month. Gatlin has pulled out of the 200m in the Norwich Union Grand Prix on 21 August in order to compete over the shorter distance, which raises the possibility of a meeting with Powell. Event organisers are hopeful that the Jamaican, who missed the World Championships with a groin injury he exacerbated at Crystal Palace last month, will accept an invitation to race.

"My 100 metres victory showed I am one of the greatest right now," Gatlin said. But he is not ready to assume a place on the all-time list with the nine-time Olympic champion Carl Lewis and the former world record holder and Olympic gold medallist Greene. "I'd probably put my name at the bottom and in parentheses put, 'Coming soon'."

Today's schedule

09.35 Decathlon: 100m

09.45 Men's javelin qualifier A

10.10 Men's pole vault qualifier

10.20 Men's 200m heats

10.40 Decathlon: long jump

11.20 Men's javelin qualifier

11.40 Men's 400m heats

12.15 Women's long jump qualifier

12.25 Decathlon: shot put

15.30 Decathlon: high jump

16.35 Women's discus final

16.40 Women's 100m hurdles heats

17.25 Men's 200m quarter-final

18.00 Men's 3,000m steeplechase final

18.15 Men's triple jump qualifier

18.25 Women's 800m final

18.45 Decathlon: 400m

19.25 Men's 400m hurdles final

TV Times

BBC2 09.30-12.30

BBC2 16.30-20.00

British Eurosport 09.30-13.30; 16.00-19.45

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