RIO DE JANEIRO—In the final night of competition at the Olympic track and field venue, 41-year old Washington State University hall of famer Bernard Lagat (left/photo courtesy IAAF/Getty Images) closed out his Olympic career as he finished fifth in the men’s 5000 meter finals Saturday at Estádio Olímpico João Havelange.
The man who began his Olympic career sixteen years ago in Sydney with a surprise third place finish in the 1500 meters, entered these Olympics knowing that his chances at obtaining a medal would be based on a slow first 3000 meters.
It was not meant to be, as the three Ethiopians in the field—Dejen Gebremeskel, Hagos Gebriwet, and Muktar Edris—took the pace out fast, knowing that defending champ Mo Farah of Great Britain and the Nike Oregon Project, along with Lagat were the two whose kicks were feared by the field.
Through the first 3000, the Ethiopians kept the pace honest, going through 3000 in 7:57.15, which is roughly 13:15, a decent time in a championship race.
Meanwhile, Lagat and former Emerald Ridge HS standout Hassan Mead sat in roughly the middle of the main pack, while US teammate Paul Chelimo, stayed a few paces ahead of the duo.
Entering the bell, Farah was up front with Chelimo in third, Lagat in sixth, and Mead in ninth.
As they entered the backstretch, Lagat suddenly found himself gapped by the leaders with the distance growing larger as they got to the middle of the final turn.
Down the final straight, Farah accelerated one more time with only Chelimo willing to go with him, as Farah became the first man since Finland’s Lasse Viren in 1972 and 1976 to win both the 5000 and 10000 in consecutive Olympics, crossing the line in 13:03.30
Chelimo, who is based in Portland and trains under former US Olympian Dan Browne as part of the US Army World Class Athlete program, hung on to take second in 13:03.90. Gebrhwiwet took third in 13:04.35.
Lagat was sixth in 13:06.78, while Mead was 12th in 13:09.81.
The real drama began shortly afterwards, as Chelimo, Canada’s Mo Ahmed and Ethiopia’s Edris were all disqualified for running inside the rail, which was removed for athletes competing in the women’s high jump.
Lagat for a few moments was moved up to third, earning a final Olympic medal, but after appeals were heard, Chelimo and Ahmed’s results were reinstated, while Edris was indeed disqualified.
In comments to USA Track & Field afterwards in the mixed zone, Lagat said, “My last lap I was just following the guys, I wanted to run as hard as possible because I told my coach, my agent and my wife that I want to give my best. I do not want to just walk out of that field and say I wish I had done something different. For me, I gave all I had, there’s nothing else. That’s why I finished and I was still smiling and saying to everybody, ‘hey, good job’ and that’s when I went to the warm up area there to call down and to see my kids and hold my kids.”
Mead said, "I think about ninety-five percent of the race was a great race. It was fast, I think it was good for the spectators and for many of us, I don't mind a fast pace. I just kind of lost some momentum going into the final lap - there was a lot of people moving in and out and I kind of backed off because someone was moving from inside to outside... I didn't finish where I liked but overall I think it was a good race. I'm bummed out I didn't get to finish in the top 10.”
In other events, the Nike Oregon Project’s Matthew Centrowitz was the fastest kicker as he won the men’s 1500 for Team USA in a pedestrian 3:50.00. Both the men’s and women’s 4 x 400 relay teams emerged victorious. while veteran high jumper Chaunte Lowe was fourth with a clearance of 6-5.5 (1.97m), the same mark as winner Ruth Beitia of Spain.
The Olympic track and field competition ends Sunday on the streets of Rio with the men’s marathon, starting at 5:20 am Seattle time (9:20 am in Rio).
NOTE: The IAAF and USA Track & Field contributed to this report.