Class field for 5000 showdown
By Michael Gleeson
March 2, 2011
IT IS the riddle of the run. The 5000 metres in the Melbourne Track Classic at Olympic Park tonight will boast a field of men that would impress at any meet around the world.
That means winning is harder which, paradoxically, also makes winning easier. The quality of the competition might make it hard to win the race, but recording a time under 13 minutes, 20 seconds to qualify for the world championships is the race the runners most want to win and, hopefully, a field of outstanding talent pushes them to better that mark.
The quality of the field, headed by the great Kenyan-born American Bernard Lagat and boasting world-class talents in fellow Americans Chris Solinsky and Matt Tegenkamp, Kenyan Isaac Songok and Australia's Craig Mottram making his comeback after injury, as well as Collis Birmingham, Ben St Lawrence and David McNeill, ensures this is one of the races of the night.
''I have run against the gentlemen before, they are really tough athletes and I hope that all of us will do well,'' said Lagat.
''I came here to do well, run very well and hopefully get the A standard [time] … so when I go back to training I would already have that qualification, and I hope the Australian athletes will have that as well.
''This field could push me to get that and, hopefully, we will look at the end of the night at the number of people who have already gone under the A standard. The way I have been running indoor, if I may say so without being cocky or anything, I think I should be able to get under 13:20 tomorrow.''
Despite the quality of the field, much interest - at least locally - will be on the return of Mottram after nearly two years out with an Achilles injury.
Mottram, the national record holder over the distance with a time of 12:55.76 in 2004, was the man who blazed the trail for non-African runners in mixing it with the best middle-distance men in the world, but is acutely aware he is a distance from that sort of standard. He is more realistic in hoping to record a time around the 13:30 mark.
In other events, Jeff Riseley will be seeking to prove that last year's impressive win over Kenyan Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop was no cameo. The 24-year-old from Berwick, who had foot surgery last year, is stronger and ready to test himself again.
Sally Pearson will confront American sprinter Mikele Barber in the 100 metres and 200 metres sprints, and John Steffensen makes his comeback to the track after an Athletics Australia suspension late last year for disparaging remarks about the sport's governing body. He takes on Sean Wroe and national champion Ben Offereins in the 400.