Dibaba storms to Olympic double
Associated Press | August 22, 2008
Meseret Defar, left, and Tirunseh Dibaba, right, challenge for the win during Women's 5k at the IAAF World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, southern Germany, Saturday, Sept 9, 2006. Dibaba won after photo finish. (AP Photo/Daniel Maurer) AP - Sep 09 7:55 AM
BEIJING - Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia has won the 5,000 meters to complete an unprecedented women's Olympic distance double.
Dibaba, the world record-holder, won the 5,000-meter race in 15 minutes, 41.40 seconds on Friday night. It's her second gold of the Beijing Games after her triumph in the 10,000.
The 23-year-old Dibaba also won the 5,000-10,000 combination at the 2005 world championships but only chose to defend the 10,000 in Osaka last year.
Elvan Abeylegesse won the silver. She also finished second in the 10,000.
Ethiopian world champion Meseret Defar took bronze in the 5,000 in 15:44.12.
Defar vs Dibaba: a 5000-meter clash of the titans By Elshadai Negash, IAAF (Aug 20, 2008)
A day after the women's 5000 meter semi-finals, Ethiopia's defending Olympic and world champion Meseret Defar and the country's world record-holder Tirunesh Dibaba both say they are still very tired. Dibaba has run two races in the space of four days--the first, the second-fastest 10,000 meter race in history as she won her first Olympic gold--and the second, a pretty fast 5000 to win her first round in that event and remain on course for a historic 5000/10,000 double. "The 10,000 took a lot of energy out of me," she said.
Defar, on the other hand, arrived in Beijing just three days ago and says she is exhausted. She reckons her body is finding it difficult to cope with jet lag and the time difference (5 hours between Addis Ababa and Beijing). But when the pair toe the start line for the final on Friday evening Beijing time, they will need little reminding of the importance of their meeting once again.
There is, after all, that little bit of history that dates back to 2006. During that season, the pair met seven times as Dibaba edged out Defar with four victories (Defar leads the overall head-to-head 12 to 10). But in the all-important meeting at the end of the Golden League jackpot chase, Defar beat Dibaba to thwart her in Berlin. Dibaba lost around USD 125,000 that afternoon and although she beat Defar a week later, it was never the same.
It was an incredible time for Ethiopian athletics. Their rivalry had reignited huge public interest in the sport reserved only during the time of the world championships or the Olympics. Every Friday night, diners and restaurants would be filled with people glued to their television sets to watch the battle of the Ethiopians.
For many Ethiopian fans, it is an awkward place to be. Before those epic seven races in 2006, Ethiopians would root for their compatriots in a race no matter where they ran--in big-money European meets or major championships. It mattered little who came first as long as it was a green-vested Ethiopian.
But in the Golden League races, it was either Dibaba or Defar. Everyone knew that no one was capable of beating the two Ethiopians. They were each other's biggest rivals. Perhaps for the first time in Ethiopian athletics, there was a Dibaba fan against a Defar fan.
The demographics of the fan group fit perfectly with the contrasting attitudes of the athletes. The hippies rooted for Defar, the Addis Ababa city-born who is perhaps the first one in her generation to prove that city girls can take up running as a serious profession. The purists and nature lovers idolized Dibaba, an athlete who is perhaps the most naturally talented athlete in the world. Unlike Defar, who is more open and a relative public figure, Dibaba shuns the media and is also carefree and withdrawn in her demeanor.
For many strange reasons, the pair has not met since those epic races in 2006. The following year, Dibaba pulled out of the 5000 due to abdominal pains aggravated during the women's 10,000 final. That year, Defar went on to dominate the scene with another world record, a world championship 5000m title, an All-African Games title, and the coveted IAAF World Athlete of the Year crown.
This year has been all about Dibaba. Not that Defar is having a particularly bad year, but Dibaba has just been better. She sliced four-and-half seconds off Defar's 5000 meter world record in Oslo this year extending her unbeaten streak to one year in all events. Meanwhile, Defar went down to Meselech Melkamu, the third Ethiopian in the women's 5000 final at the African Championships on home soil in May.
But Defar is fighting back. She was just one second off Dibaba's record (14:12.86) in Stockholm in July and says she is now in the best form of her life.
It will be the most important meeting for the duo, and a slice of history is on the line. Defar seeks an Olympic title defense to give her the first back-to-back 5000 meter gold medals in Olympic history, while Dibaba is hoping for a historic 5000/10,000 title in Beijing, the first such achievement since Miruts Yifter did it 28 years ago in Moscow. A mouth-watering clash awaits!