NN Running Team star Kenenisa Bekele has enjoyed an incomparable career spanning almost 20 years. Here we reflect on ten very special moments from the Ethiopian running maestro’s dazzling time in the sport so far...
2001 – World Cross Country Championships – Ostend
The then 18-year-old first emerged as a global star in the making at the Hippodrome Wellington. On the opening day of competition, Kenenisa caused a major stir by winning a silver medal just two seconds behind Enock Koech of Kenyan in the senior short race. The following day Kenenisa returned to pulverise the opposition in the U20 men’s race, striking gold by a huge margin of 33 seconds.
2002 – World Cross Country Championships – Dublin
If the 2001 World Cross Country Championships give a tantalising insight into his enormous potential, the following year at Leopardstown racecourse offered overwhelming confirmation as he made history as the first man to complete the long and short course double. On the opening day, he sped to a seven-second victory in the 4.208km race from Kenyan’s Luke Kipkosgei before returning 24 hours later to clinch a six-second triumph in the 12km long race from Uganda’s John Yuda.
2003 – World Championships – Paris
Having produced some outstanding track performances leading up to his maiden global senior championships on the track, the ultra-gifted Kenenisa did not disappoint as he outsprinted the four-time former 10,000m champion Haile Gebrselassie to strike gold over 25-laps and announce his arrival as the new global distance running king.
2004 – Hengelo and Ostrava
In just eight days Kenenisa Bekele made history by posting world records times for the 5000m and 10,000m. In Hengelo on May 31 he scalped 2.01secs from Haile’s global 5000m best with a time of 12.37.35 (the mark still stands today). Then on June 8 he dissected 2.44 from another Haile world record this time over 10,000m to run 26:20.31 – which remains today the second fastest time in history for the 25-lap distance.
2004 – Olympic Games – Athens
At his first Olympic Games, Kenenisa landed 10,000m gold and 5000m silver in yet another outstanding display of distance running. In the former event, he sprinted clear of his compatriot Sileshi Sihine to stop the clock in an Olympic record time of 27:05.10 and rounding the bend of the 5000m he looked all set to complete the distance double only for Moroccan great Hicham El Guerrouj to catch and pass him in the latter stages and deny the Ethiopian a golden double.
2005 – Van Damme Memorial – Brussels
In a staggering display of endurance running on a chilly night in the Belgian capital, Kenenisa hacked almost three seconds from his 10,000m world record mark with a stunning 26:17.53 performance. The Ethiopian hit halfway paced by his brother, Tariku, in 13:09.19 and a 57-second final lap took him to a world record time, which some 13 years on still remains firmly intact.
2008 – Olympic Games – Beijing
Kenenisa Bekele became the sixth man in history to complete the 5000m and 10,000m double at an Olympic Games with an imperious display. Bekele accelerated clear of this opposition in the 10,000m to lower his Olympic record in 27:01.17 before then setting an Olympic record time of 12:57.82 over 12-and-a-half laps. His victory margin over the silver medallist and his NN Running team-mate Eliud Kipchoge was almost five seconds.
2009 – World Championships – Berlin
In the German capital, Kenenisa became the first man in history to complete the World Championship long-distance double. After cruising to his fourth straight World 10,000m title in a championship record 26:46.31 he returned to clinch 5000m gold from American Bernard Lagat courtesy of a stunning late burst of acceleration.
2014 – Paris Marathon
On his marathon debut, Kenenisa proved his ability as a top-quality exponent on the road with an outstanding run. The multiple winning global track and cross country champion complete the 42.2km test in a time of 2:05:03 to also chip eight seconds from Stanley Biwott’s course record time.
2016 – Berlin Marathon
Kenenisa truly came off an age as a marathon runner on the streets of the German capital by recording the second fastest ever marathon time. In a gripping battle with former world record holder Wilson Kipsang of Kenya, the Ethiopian star prevailed by 10 seconds in a time of 2:03:03 to erase Haile Gebreslassie’s national record of 2:03:59 from the record books.