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Dibaba’s dabble at the double nets another gold
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BEIJING (AP)—Having ensured a family legacy will continue by winning the 10,000-meters title, Tirunesh Dibaba felt confident having a dabble at an unprecedented Olympic double.
It meant renewing a duel with Ethiopian teammate Meseret Defar, the defending Olympic champion and world champion over 5,000 meters.
And, after a slow, tactical start in the 91,000-seat Bird’s Nest stadium, Friday night’s 5,000 meters final shaped as another last-lap sprint between the two great rivals.
Not this time.
Dibaba picked up the pace three laps out—just when Defar was bumped amid a tight pack and hurt her leg—and then, in the last 400, kicked away from Turkey’s Elvan Ebeylegess to win in 15 minutes, 41.40 seconds.
Defar had to settle for bronze, the medal which so disappointed Dibaba at Athens.
“It’s a big achievement for me,” Dibaba said. “When I came from my country I didn’t think I’d win both.
“I just thought I’d be a good competitor in both events. Now that I have it, I’m quite satisfied … the major objective was to win.”
So the Defar-Dibaba domination of the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons now reads more like Dibaba-Dibaba. She now has the world record and the Olympic gold medal, two things Defar had over her as recently as June.
Dibaba’s resume is now complete.
She emerged on the international scene as the youngest winner of a world championship gold medal when she won the 5,000 at Paris in 2003.
In 2005 at Helsinki, she won the 5,000-10,000 double. And she successfully defended the longer race at the 2007 worlds in Osaka, Japan, last August—when Defar won the 5,000 in her absence.
After winning the 10,000 at Beijing, Dibaba said she was relieved. After all, she’d been striving for that gold medal since listening to the radio broadcast of her cousin Derartu Tulu’s win at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, a landmark victory for African women.
Dibaba wanted to concentrate on the 10,000 because the “footsteps of Tulu has to be repeated.”
Avoiding an unnecessary race over 5,000 with Defar in recent months was part of the fine-tuning process for the 10,000. That “burden” lifted, she said, she could dictate the race against Defar.
“The pace was quite slow from the beginning. I had the feeling that if I went from the beginning, I would lose,” Defar later conceded. “I tried to win the race, but with those three laps left, I got hit in the leg.
“I got bumped. I started to have pains in the lower side of my right leg. I tried to make the best of my race—it influenced my speed and I was limping a little bit, so sometimes things just happened. I’m not happy with the bronze.”
After winning the 10,000 in an Olympic record time of 29:54.66, lowering the mark Tulu set at Sydney 2000, Dibaba said no other achievements would compare with her first Olympic gold.
Now she’s got twice what she came for.
“I had a gold medal in world championships, but that was nothing for me,” she said. “But I was expecting something from this Olympics, and I got it.”