Selemon Barega dismissed the challenges of Ugandan pre-race favorites Jacob Kiplimo and Joshua Cheptegei to win the men’s 10,000m in 27:43.22 and secured the first gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Friday night (30).
New Champion Crowned In 10,000m
The event went off without two-time defending champion Mo Farah after the Great Britain legendary failed in his pair of bids to qualify for the Olympics. Farah won in 2012 and 2016 in London and Rio.
In Tokyo on Friday night, Barega slipped into the lead on the final lap before dropping a blistering 53.94 seconds over the last 400m to become the fifth Ethiopian champion in this discipline in the last seven Games.
Barega’s success saw him following in the footsteps of Ethiopian greats Haile Gebrselassie, the 1996 and 2000 Olympic champion, and Kenenisa Bekele, the 2004 and 2008 gold medalist.
After taking a silver medal over the 5,000m at the World Championships in Doha in 2019, the 21-year-old Barega returned two years later to elevate to the top of the podium in Tokyo, and claimed his first senior major title to close out the short evening session on Day One.
Silver and Bronze For Cheptegei and Kiplimo
World record holder Cheptegei had to settle for the silver medal in 27:43.63 with world-leader Kiplimo getting the bronze medal with a time of 27:43.88.
“I have two feelings,” Cheptegei told reporters. “One is that I’m very happy to have won an Olympic silver medal today, but the other side of me is really not satisfied with the result because I came here expecting to win a gold.”
Grant Fisher, the runner-up at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials last month, ran 27:46.39 to finish in a very respectable fifth-place against a specially strong field, while Canadian Mohammed Ahmed who was in a medal position on the final lap, ended sixth in 27:47.76.
USA champion Woody Kincaid finished back in 15th place with 28:11.01 and his teammate Joe Klecker was a spot behind him 28:14.18.