By Bob Ramsak
ZÜRICH (27-Aug)-- Just five days after completing the first ever 5000 and 10,000m double victory at a world championships, Kenenisa Bekele returns to the track to continue his chase for a piece of the $1 million ÅF Golden League Jackpot when the six-meet series continues with the Weltklasse here on Friday.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Bekele said that he remains in good shape and that he'll be targeting a "good time" in the 5000m, presumably an assault on his own world-leading 12:56.23 from Rome. He added that after choosing to double in Berlin, an attack on his 12:37.35 world record is not likely in the cards. Another problem is finding a non-Kenyan pacesetter --Kenyan officials aren't too keen on allowing one of their athletes to pace for an Ethiopian in a world record bid-- to bring him through 3000 meters in about 7:35 this late in the season.
Bekele hasn't lost a 5000m race since July 28, 2006, piecing together a 15-race win streak since, and one that doesn't look to be under serious threat this weekend.
The list of potential spoilers includes Kenyan Moses Masai, who took bronze in the 10,000m in Berlin and has a 12:50.55 career best; Ugandan Moses Kipsiro, who was fourth in the 5000 in Berlin and has a 12:50.72 best; Kenyan Leonard Patrick Komon, who was third in Rome with 12:58.24; and Kenyan Edwin Soi, who was fourth at the Kenyan Trials over the distance and hasn't raced since. Newcomer Sammy Mutahi of Kenya could be a factor as well. Just 20, he ran well in the London 5000 to finish second, has clocked 7:33.02 for 3000m this summer, and hasn't raced since 2 August.
Powered by what is widely thought to be the biggest athlete budget on the one-day meet circuit, there will be plenty of star power on hand at the sold-out Letzigrund Stadium. The main act will be double world champion and world record holder Usain Bolt, who'll compete twice, first in the 100m and then again in the 400m relay. Zürich organizers have managed to lure recently-minted world champions in all but one event on the program.
In the men's 800m, South African Mbulaeni Mulaudzi returns to the track, for the first time as world champion. He'll face Alfred Kirwa Yego, whom he edged by just 0.06 seconds in Berlin four days ago; Russian Yuriy Borzakovskiy, who was fourth in Berlin; and U.S. champion Nick Symmonds, who was sixth in Berlin. Looking to make amends for a lackluster showing in Berlin will be Kenyan David Rudisha, who didn't advance from the semi-finals.
Also looking to run better than in Berlin will be another Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the Olympic 1500m silver medalist, whose poorly planned and executed race in the world championship final cost him a medal (he finished fourth). Leading the field is the middle distance breakout from Berlin, Yusuf Saad Kamel, the 1500m champion who also took bronze in the 800m, his former event.
"I'm a little tired after six races in Berlin," Kamel said, "but I'm in really good shape at the moment, and I'm looking forward to a good race." He's hoping to join the ranks of the sub-3:30 club tomorrow.
In all, six of the 12 Berlin finalists will reunite here --the others include world leader Augustine Choge of Kenya, who was fifth, Moroccan Mohamed Moustaoui who was sixth, and Americans Lopez Lomong and Leo Manzano, who were eighth and 12th, respectively.
The steeplechase fields includes the top four finishers --medallists Ezekiel Kemboi and Richard Matelong from Kenya and Frenchman Bob Tahri-- and seven of the top 10 from Berlin.
In the women's 1500m, the only middle or long distance event on the women's program, five of the first six finishers from Berlin will toe the line. Two-time world champion Maryam Jamal will again take on Briton Lisa Dobriskey and America Shannon Rowbury, who took silver and bronze behind the Ethiopian-born Bahraini. Americans Christin Wurth-Thomas and Anna Willard, fifth and sixth respectively, are also in the field.
Notable absentees include Spanish Berlin finalists Nuria Fernandez, who finished fourth, and Natalia Rodriguez, who finished first but was later disqualified.
Along with Bekele, recently minted world 400m champion Sanya Richards of the USA, world 100m silver medalist Kerron Stewart of Jamaica, and Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva remain in the hunt for a share of the sport's biggest prize. Isinbayeva no-heighted in Berlin.
A pleasant evening is in the forecast, with temperatures in the low 70s (22 C.) expected, with a 20 percent chance of rain.