Rene Herrera takes crack at 5,000mBy Ted S. Melendres
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LONDON—He may be Southeast Asia’s undisputed king of the steeplechase but Rene Herrera knows he’s a nobody when ranged against the track superstars at these Olympics.
A beneficiary of the International Amateur Athletics Federation’s rule on universality, Herrera vies with the world’s finest in the first of two heats of the 5,000 meters on Wednesday night at Olympic Stadium here.
The 31-year-old veteran from San Jose, Guimaras province, sees action in an event which he runs only when there is no track competition back home. His specialty remains the steeplechase where he boasts a string of five gold-medal victories in the SEA Games.
“I know how tough the field here is, that’s why I will run my own race and see if I can beat my target time,” Herrera told the Inquirer in Filipino. “I don’t need to run at their pace as long as I know I’m well within my target.
“I can’t make a fast start because I might lose steam early. We all know about the big stars here, they get stronger as the race wears on. I’ll stay in the middle of the field and see what I can do in the last few laps.”
It is also enough that the 5-foot-3 Olympic first-timer gets to race with his idols in the 5,000m like Kenya’s Kenenisa Bekele, the double gold medalist in Bejing 2008, and Great Britain’s Somalia-born Mohamed Farah, who dethroned Bekele in the 10,000m last week with a superb finishing kick.
“They (Bekele and Farah) are my idols,” said Herrera. “It’s already an honor to be running with them. I hope I get into the same heat as they are.”
Herrera is targeting a time of 14 minutes and 10 seconds over 5,000m which would lower his personal best for the 12 1/2-lap run by 41 seconds. In his last competition in Hong Kong in May, he clocked 15:01.26 and settled for second place behind South Korea’s Mun Jeong-ki.
Bekele, who is favored to prevail against Farah this time, capped his Beijing victory double by turning in a remarkable time of 12.57.84.
Twelve men of six each from the two heats, plus four others with the best times outside the outright qualifiers, will advance to the finals. And the heavy odds of Herrera landing one of the berths is not lost on coach Joseph Sy.
“Rene should make the most out of this Olympic stint,” said Sy. “He may not become successful, but there are positive things he can get just by competing.”