EUGENE, Ore. — World record-holder Kenenisa Bekele took the lead heading into the final lap and sprinted to the finish to win the 10,000 meters at the Prefontaine Classic on Friday night.
Bekele finished in 27 minutes, 12.08 seconds, ahead of fellow Ethiopians Imane Merga and Abera Kuma.
London Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah withdrew from the race a day earlier because of a stomach bug, instead choosing to run Saturday in the 5,000 in the elite Diamond League meet at Hayward Field.
Bekele set the meet record in the 10,000 at the Prefontaine back in 2008, when he ran it in 26:25.97. He went on to win gold medals in the 10,000 and 5,000 in the Beijing Olympics that year.
Farah won gold in both events at the London Games. But he decided to skip the 10,000 in Eugene to run the shorter distance with training partner Galen Rupp. While Farah is British and Rupp is American, the two have become close pals, training under Alberto Salazar.
Farah picked up the virus at the Oxy High Performance meet in Los Angeles two weeks ago. It forced him to miss a few days of training.
“Having an extra day of rest and running half the distance is probably in his best interest,” Rupp said.
Farah was supposed to be one of the star attractions of the Prefontaine Classic’s “distance night” in advance of the main meet Saturday.
He thrilled the home-country crowds at the London Olympics by winning gold the 5,000 and 10,000. A British newspaper ran a banner headline exclaiming “Golden Mo-Ment!”
He was the seventh man to win at both distances at a single Olympics, the first from Britain. He also was the first man to win the Olympic 5,000 title as the reigning world champion.
Rupp finished second to Farah in the Olympic 10,000 for the silver medal. The two runners, part of the Nike Oregon Project, have been training together recently at altitude in Park City, Utah.
“We both understand that we’re both pretty fierce competitors and both want to win,” Rupp said Friday. “Anything that happens on the track we don’t take personally. In fact, we see it as an advantage to have each other in a race. We tend to key off each other.”
Farah won the 5,000 at the Pre Classic last year in 12:56.98, the fastest time ever run in the United States. And for Rupp, the Prefontaine meet is special because it’s at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, his home track in college.
Other athletes participating in the Pre include Olympians Nick Symmonds in the 800 meters, Allyson Felix in the 100 and LaShawn Merritt in the 400. Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross was a late entrant in the women’s 400 after a foot injury held her out of the adidas Grand Prix in New York.
The women’s 800 meters will include Bronxville (N.Y.) High School junior Mary Cain, who two weeks ago set a high school record in the 1,500 meters with a time of 4 minutes, 4.62 seconds. The mark gave her the “A” standard to compete at the world championships.
Kenyan David Rushida, world record holder in the 800, had to withdraw from the Pre because of a right knee injury. Rushida had an MRI on Thursday in Eugene, revealing bruising of the bone and ligaments.
This year’s 10,000 was originally supposed to be the IAAF World Championship Trials for Ethiopia, but meet organizers said the Ethiopian Athletic Federation decided to go in a different direction.
Among events Friday night, world record-holder Betty Heidler of Germany won the hammer with a throw of 246 feet, 9 inches, and two-time Olympic gold medalist Valerie Adams of New Zealand won the shot put at 66-1½. Russian Aleksander Menkov won the men’s long jump at 27-6½.
An estimated 7,000 fans attended the free events on Friday night.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press