The men’s 10,000m is the first athletics final of the rescheduled Tokyo Games and with exactly one year to go, we take a look back at past Olympic action

The first finalists to take to the track at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will battle for men’s 10,000m gold, with that race scheduled to take place at 20:30 local time on Friday July 30, 2021.

Having announced his retirement from the track in 2017 to focus on marathon running, Britain’s Mo Farah has since reversed that decision and now intends to defend his 10,000m title in Tokyo, with the 37-year-old also having won gold in the 25-lap event on home soil in London four years earlier.

Exclusive interview: Mo Farah talks training and Tokyo

Here we take a look at some of the event’s Olympic history.


1912: 1 Hannes Kolehmainen FIN 31:20.8; 2 Lewis Tewanima USA 32:06.6; 3 Albin Stenroos FIN 32:21.8
1920: 1 Paavo Nurmi FIN 31:45.8; 2 Joseph Guillemot FRA 31:47.2; 3 James Wilson GBR 31:50.8
1924: 1 Ville Ritola FIN 30:23.2; 2 Edvin Wide SWE 30:55.2; 3 Eero Berg FIN 31:43.0
1928: 1 Paavo Nurmi FIN 30:18.8; 2 Ville Ritola FIN 30:19.4; 3 Edvin Wide SWE 31:00.8
1932: 1 Janusz Kusocinski POL 30:11.4; 2 Volmari Iso-Hollo FIN 30:12.6; 3 Lauri Virtanen FIN 30:35.0
1936: 1 Ilmari Salminen FIN 30:15.4; 2 Arvo Askola FIN 30:15.6; 3 Volmari Iso-Hollo FIN 30:20.2
1948: 1 Emil Zatopek CZE 29:59.6; 2 Alain Mimoun FRA 30:47.4; 3 Bertil Albertsson SWE 30:53.6
1952: 1 Emil Zatopek CZE 29:17.0; 2 Alain Mimoun FRA 29:32.8; 3 Aleksandr Anufriyev URS 29:48.2
1956: 1 Vladimir Kuts SOV 28:45.6; 2 Jozsef Kovacs HUN 28:52.4; 3 Allan Lawrence AUS 28:53.6
1960: 1 Pyotr Bolotnikov URS 28:32.18; 2 Hans Gordotzki GER 28:37.22; 3 David Power AUS 28:37.65
1964: 1 Billy Mills USA 28:24.4; 2 Mohamed Gammoudi TUN 28:24.8; 3 Ron Clarke AUS 28:25.8
1968: 1 Naftali Temu KEN 29:27.40; 2 Mamo Wolde ETH 29:27.75; 3 Mohamed Gammoudi TUN 29:34.2
1972: 1 Lasse Viren FIN 27:38.35; 2 Emiel Puttemans BEL 27:39.58; 3 Miruts Yifter ETH 27:40.96
1976: 1 Lasse Viren FIN 27:40.38; 2 Carlos Lopes POR 27:45.17; 3 Brendan Foster GBR 27:54.92
1980: 1 Miruts Yifter ETH 27:42.69; 2 Kaarlo Maaninka FIN 27:44.28; 3 Mohamed Kedir ETH 27:44.64
1984: 1 Alberto Cova ITA 27:47.54; 2 Mick McLeod GBR 28:06.22; 3 Mike Musyoki KEN 28:06.46
1988: 1 Brahim Boutayeb MAR 27:21.46; 2 Salvatore Antibo ITA 27:23.55; 3 Kipkemboi Kimeli KEN 27:25.16
1992: 1 Khalid Skah MAR 27:46.70; 2 Richard Chelimo KEN 27:47.72; 3 Addis Abebe ETH 28:00.07
1996: 1 Haile Gebrselassie ETH 27:07.34; 2 Paul Tergat KEN 27:08.17; 3 Salah Hissou MAR 27:24.67
2000: 1 Haile Gebrselassie ETH 27:18.20; 2 Paul Tergat KEN 27:18.29; 3 Assefa Mezgebu ETH 27:19.75
2004: 1 Kenenisa Bekele ETH 27:05.10; 2 Sileshi Sihine ETH 27:09.39; 3 Zersenay Tadese ERI 27:22.57
2008: 1 Kenenisa Bekele ETH 27:01.17; 2 Sileshi Sihine ETH 27:02.77; 3 Micah Kogo KEN 27:04.11
2012: 1 Mo Farah GBR 27:30.42; 2 Galen Rupp USA 27:30.90; 3 Tariku Bekele ETH 27:31.43
2016: 1 Mo Farah GBR 27:05.17; 2 Paul Tanui KEN 27:05.64; 3 Tamirat Tola ETH 27:06.26

Olympic record: Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 27:01.17 2008

Double champions: Paavo Nurmi 1920/1928, Emil Zatopek 1948/1952, Lasse Viren 1972/1976, Haile Gebrselassie 1996/2000, Kenenisa Bekele 2004/2008, Mo Farah 2012/2016

Rio 2016

Farah retained his title with the fastest ever Olympic second half of 13:11 – a time that would have won 19 of the previous Olympic races over 5000m.

As Steve Smythe wrote in his 2017 analysis of Farah’s top track races, a 55.37 last lap and 1:56.61 800m are also impressive but the reason the win was most notable was that Farah sustained a fall in the first half. It looked as if it had an effect as he unusually lost the lead 300m out as Paul Tanui attacked but he came back in the straight to win by 0.47 of a second. It was the Kenyan’s third successive global medal.

READ MORE: Mo Farah retains Olympic 10,000m title

Most memorable

In 1996 in Atlanta, Haile Gebrselassie held on to world cross-country champion’s Paul Tergat’s very fast last five laps and his 13:11.4 second half would have won all bar one of the previous 18 5000m titles. The pair returned to battle in Sydney, though the Ethiopian was known not to be quite as fit after missing three months of training with an Achilles injury.

Tergat was more patient this time and surprisingly made no move as five runners ran together in the final kilometre and last lap – three Kenyans and two Ethiopians. Tergat was boxed in down the back straight by the Ethiopian Assefa Mezegebu and had to slow down. He swung sideways and with 250 metres left went into a full sprint. Striding out faster than ever before, the Kenyan rounded the bend at a tremendous pace with Gebrselassie in full pursuit but a stride down on the outside.

Tergat had finished behind the little Ethiopian in three previous World Championships as well as Atlanta but he had never been ahead like this before. Fifty metres out, Gebrselassie got up to Tergat’s shoulder but couldn’t get past as Tergat continued at full speed. In the last few metres, the Ethiopian inched past and his dip gave him the gold medal by nine hundredths of a second.

Highlights 1912-2012

Finland dominated the first four Olympic finals. Hannes Kolehmainen won the first of these in Stockholm 1912, by more than 45 seconds as only five finished from eleven starters and fifteen qualifiers.

In Antwerp in 1920, Paavo Nurmi won his first Olympic gold, outsprinting Joseph Guillemot, who had beaten him in the 5000m. The Frenchman vomited over the Finn’s shoes at the finish. Having just had a large lunch, he was informed the race was being moved from the scheduled 5.30pm to 2.15pm at the request of the Belgian king.

World record-holder Viljo Heino was one of the favourites in London 1948 and expected to keep Finland’s success going but he dropped out when trying to keep pace with Emil Zatopek, who brought the Olympic record inside 30 minutes with 29:59.6 to win by 48 seconds.

Between 1948 and 1954 Zatopek won 38 consecutive races and the next athlete to dominate the event was Vladimir Kuts of the Soviet Union. Kuts reduced the world record to 28:30.4 in September 1956, just prior to the Melbourne Olympics. In Australia he was a big favourite and a 61.2-second opening lap showed his intent. Only Britain’s Gordon Pirie stayed with his seemingly suicidal 14:07.0 halfway time. Kuts’ repeated surges had no effect and almost in despair he let Pirie lead the 20th lap and rested before trying one final effort. This time Pirie folded – so much that he lost 64 seconds in those last few laps and ended up eighth as Kuts won in 28:45.6.

By the time of Tokyo 1964, Ron Clarke was world record-holder with 28:15.6. He was favourite in the closing laps when relative unknowns Mohamed Gammoudi and Billy Mills were his only challengers and neither had broken 29 minutes before. On the final lap, Mills looked out of contention when Clarke knocked him sideways to unbox himself, only for Gammoudi to surge ahead. Clarke caught and passed Gammoudi in the straight, but the Tunisian fought back only for both to be run down by a late sprint by Mills, who won in 28:24.4.

Haile Gebrselassie won the first of his two golds in 1996, retaining his title four years later. Ethiopia won their third and fourth successive titles in 2004 and 2008. Gebrselassie could only finish fifth in Athens in 2004 but his nation gained a one-two with world record-holder Kenenisa Bekele scorching a 53.0 last lap to easily beat Sileshi Sihine.

It was the same one-two in Beijing with a 53.4-second last lap and 2:27.1 final kilometre seeing Bekele retain his title in another Olympic record of 27:01.17. Bekele returned in London in 2012 but finished fourth as his brother Tariku gained the bronze in a race won by Mo Farah.

Click here for a more in-depth look at the history of the men’s 10,000m at the Olympic Games from 1912-2012 by Steve Smythe.

» Part of this feature was first published in AW magazine and online in 2015

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