ADDIS ABABA – Selemon Barega sprinted the last lap to beat world record holder Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda and bring the 10,000-meter title back for Ethiopia after nearly a decade.
The 21-year old powered down the home straight to cross the line in 27 minutes 43.22 seconds, ahead of world champion Cheptegei in 27:43.63. The bronze medal went to another Ugandan runner Jacob Kiplimo in 27:43.88.
Solomon had no major titles in the 10,000 before Friday, although he does have a world championship silver medal in the 5,000.
On Friday, he puts his name alongside Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia’s two greatest distance runners, who won the 10,000 title at the Olympics.
“Even in the future, I want to make history like my previous colleagues,” Solomon said. “I’m also very hopeful to achieve more in this Olympics.”
Solomon is also planning to run in the 5,000.
The last Ethiopian to win the 10,000 at the Olympics was Kenenisa, who won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2008. Haile won in 1996 and 2000, giving Ethiopia four straight titles before Mo Farah intruded.
Farah won gold at the last two Olympics.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma cruised to the final of the men’s 3,000 metres steeplechase at the Olympic Games on Friday with the fastest time of the round of 8 min 09.83 sec, sending a signal that he will be one of the contenders to watch going into the medal race on Monday.
The 20-year-old silver medalist at the 2019 world championships in Doha boasts the world’s leading time this year — 8:07.75 posted at the Diamond League meet in Monaco — and the Olympic title is wide open after the defending champion, Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya, failed to qualify for the Games.