Dibaba Fever Hits Oslo: World Record for 5,000m

By Jörg Wenig

Tirunesh Dibaba in Oslo. © www.photorun.net

Tirunesh Dibaba provided the crowning moment of the AF Golden League Meeting in Oslo with a world record over 5,000m. On a warm summer night in Norway the 23-year-old stormed to the fantastic time of 14:11.15 in front of around 15,000 ecstatic spectators at the legendary Exxon Mobil Bislett Games. Dibaba’s new mark took more than 5 seconds off the time set in Oslo last year by her compatriot Meseret Defar.

In breaking the record, Dibaba carried on an Oslo tradition of world standards in the middle and long distances. The Bislett Stadium has legendary status because of the many running icons who have set marks there, including Ron Clarke (Australia), John Walker (New Zealand), Henry Rono (Kenya), Ingrid Kristiansen (Norway), the British pair Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe and Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia).

Dibaba’s name was already on the Oslo record list before Friday evening. In 2003 the then 18-year-old set a world junior record, which was the start of her career’s rapid rise. In the same year at the World Championships in Paris she became the youngest female world champion with her surprise title at the age of 18 years and 90 days. At the 2004 Olympics, she was third in the 5,000m, which made her at the time her country’s youngest Olympic medalist. Dibaba’s success story continued at the 2005 World Championships, where she became the first woman to win titles at 5,000m and 10,000m. Last year she retained the 10,000m title despite falling, but then withdrew from the 5,000m and had to bring her season to a close. This year Dibaba marked her return to competition with gold medals: first at the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh at the end of March, and then in the 10,000m in the African Championships at the beginning of May.

A new chapter of her career began in Oslo: apart from the world junior best, this was the first time Dibaba set an outdoor world record on the track. “It’s a wonderful day for me. I’ve been thinking about running this world record for a long time—now I’ve been able to bring it off. I’ve been concentrating entirely on preparation for this race since the African Championships,” Dibaba said.

On Friday evening she was even able to rely on family help in her hunt for the world record. Once Anna Alimova (Russia) had put them on course, dropping out just after halfway, Dibaba’s 25-year-old sister Ejegayehu took over the role of pacemaker. “I owe her a lot for the help she gave me. We had planned this beforehand,” explained Tirunesh. But Ejegayehu, runner-up in the Olympic 10,000 m in Athens, wasn’t able to maintain the tempo for long enough. At 3,000m Dibaba’s world record plan was around 6 seconds behind schedule. That’s when she went to the front and got back on schedule with a massive injection of pace. “Two laps from the finish I knew I would do it,” said Dibaba, who ran the final kilometer in 2:43 and had to overtake several lapped runners on the outside because they didn’t move over to let her pass.

Behind the Kenyan Lucy Wangui (14:33.49), Ejegayehu Dibaba was third in 14:36.78 in the world record race. But that wasn’t all the Dibaba family had to offer in Oslo. In seventh place, Tirunesh’s younger sister Genzebe finished in a personal best of 15:02.41. The 17-year-old had first made a name for herself by winning the junior women’s race at the World Cross Country Championships in March. “It’s the first time that all three of us have been on the start line for the same race,” said Tirunesh Dibaba in Oslo. She predicts a great career for her younger sister.

Defar and Bekele Miss World Records in Eugene

Two days after the meet in Oslo, Meseret Defar wanted to regain the world record over 5,000m at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon. But the Ethiopian failed clearly. Although she plainly won the race in 14:38.73, Defar still was almost 30 seconds slower than Dibaba on Friday evening. “I am very disappointed. My legs were not relaxed sufficiently,” Defar said. Also disappointed was Kenenisa Bekele, who missed the world record he was striving for. The Ethiopian runner holds the course record over 10,000m with 26:17.53 and wanted to improve on his own record. In Eugene he finished well ahead of his rivals in 26:25.97, still the fourth-fastest time ever. “I really gave my best,” said Bekele.

Hilda Kibet Wins 10K in New York

Hilda Kibet won the New York Road Runners women-only 10K in Central Park on Saturday. The Dutch runner covered the undulating course in 32:43 and crossed the line 6 seconds ahead of Madai Perez (Mexico). Third was Deena Kastor (U.S.), who is preparing for the Olympic Marathon in Beijing. The third place finisher in the Athens Olympics ran 33:14. Over 4,000 women finished in the 37th edition of the race.

At the start Kastor went to the front. The American reached 5K in 16:12 with Kibet and Perez. Two seconds behind was Everlyne Lagat (Kenya), who eventually finished fifth behind Magdalena Lewy Boulet (U.S.). Around 3.5 kilometers from the finish, Kastor dropped back. Kibet then went clear of Perez in the final kilometer. “That was a tough race,” said the 27-year-old Kibet. Kenyan-born, she has recently gained Dutch citizenship and runs for the Netherlands. She is the cousin and training partner of Lornah Kiplagat, who has been running for the Netherlands rather than her native Kenya for some time. Both should run the 10,000m at the Olympics. Kastor said, “I’m happy with my race.” Her number one objective is to win the Olympic marathon. But that may require a considerable improvement in the remaining weeks.