Alistair Cragg beat race favourite Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) in a dramatic 3000m metre race at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games on 29th January 2005 held in the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Centre. South-African born Cragg now running for Clonliffe Harriers and who represented Ireland in the Athens Olympics 2004, has been a regular on the American circuit running for the University of Arkansas.
The seemingly unbeatable Bekele made an uncharacteristic error and with 400 meters remaining and with a good lead, the Olympic 10,000-meter champion moved out to the middle lane and sprinted for the line as if he had only one lap (200 meters) left, crossing the line first, with Cragg behind him. Cragg immediately passed Bekele, who never recovered. Cragg won in 7:39.89 with Bekele fininshing in 7:41.42. Markos Geneti was third in 7:42.97.
“I didn’t want to sit back and get out-kicked,” said Cragg. “I kept on the pace. The plan was to go with 500m to go no matter what, but when Bekele made the mistake that was it. The race was mine. I would never wish these circumstances on anyone but I am just glad I was there to take the opportunity. I tried to hit him straight after he made the mistake. But 99 times out of 100 he probably would have beaten me. You could see his heart wasn’t in it.”, said Cragg referring to the tragic death of Bekeles’ fiancee (Alem Techale) a month earlier. Techale who won the 2003 World Youth Championship in the 1500m, collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack during a training run with Bekele on January 4. She was 18. As a mark of respect, there was a moment of silence in Techale’s honour before the race.
“I miscalculated, and that was my undoing,” Bekele said, speaking through a translator. “It has never happened before.”
Next target for Cragg is the 3,000 metres at the European Indoor Championships in Madrid (March), where he has a real chance of a medal. He had been due to race this weekend (5/2/2005) in the European Inter Club Cross Country as a member of the Clonliffe Harriers Senior team alongside Nigel Brunton, Mark Kenelly, Cian McLoughlin, Gary O’Hanlon, Paolo Doglio and Killian Lonergan in Mantoval, Italy.