In the last four Olympics, the men's 10,000 meter race has been dominated by Ethiopian and Kenyan runners, with 10 of the 12 medals awarded to athletes from those two nations. One country that will try to break up that near monopoly on winning is Canada. No Canadian runner has ever won an Olympic medal in the men's 10,000, but this year Canada could be sending its best team ever following the Olympic Trials in late June. Two of the top three are on U.S. university track teams, and the third is a former U.S. collegiate runner.
Until April 2012, Black Creek, British Columbia native Cameron Levins was a virtual unknown in the track and field scene. Levins, a 23 year old senior on the Southern Utah University track team, met the Olympic "A" qualifying standard for the 5000 meters as he won the event at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, California in mid April. Then on April 29th, Levins won the 10,000 meters at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in Palo Alto, California. He not only won the event, his time of 27 minutes 27.96 seconds was best in the world so far this year, and the second best time ever by a Canadian runner. To top it off, this was Levins' first competition ever in the event.
Needless to say, Levins met the "A" qualifying standard for the Olympic Trials June 27-30 in Calgary. That's about as good as it gets for one's first race. Levins will also try to qualify at the trials for the 5000 meters.
University of Wisconsin distance runner Mohammed Ahmed was also competing at the Payton Jordan Invitational, and while his time of 27 minutes 34.64 seconds was just a bit behind Levins' time, it broke the 36 year old Big Ten outdoor record of 27 minutes 59.43 seconds set by three time Olympian Craig Virgin of the University of Illinois. Ahmed's time was the sixth fastest in the world this year, and got him an "A" qualifying standard for the Olympics.
Ahmed, a junior at the university, was born in Somalia and moved with his family to St. Catharines, Ontario when he was 11 years old.
Bairu, of Regina, Saskatchewan, is the Canadian record holder in the 10,000 at 27 minutes, 23.63 seconds set in 2010. Bairu shifted his focus to the marathon, hoping to compete in London in that event. However, after failing to reach the "A" qualifying standard for the Olympic trials, Bairu returned to competition in the 10,000 meters. He competed at the Payton Jordan race in his first competition in the 10,000 this year, but failed to make the "A" qualifying standard in that race.
Like Ahmed, the 29 year old Bairu competed on the University of Wisconsin track team during his college days. Although he hasn't yet met the qualifications for the Olympic trials, the Canadian record holder shouldn't be counted out at this point.
A Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Mark Hudziak is a longtime fan of the Olympics.
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