World Championships (Day 1): Tirunesh Dibaba Storms to Gold

By Jörg Wenig

Tirunesh Dibaba has won the first gold medal in the running events at the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki. The 19 year-old Ethiopian stormed away from the field in breathtaking fashion to take the 10,000-meter gold. With an unbelievable kick she won with 30:24.04 minutes while two other Ethiopians followed. Defending champion Berhane Adere clocked 30:25.41 while Tirunesh’s elder sister Ejegayehu took the bronze medal (30:26.00).

It was the end of the dream of winning two medals for Paula Radcliffe. In contrast Tirunesh Dibaba is well on the way to a double triumph. She will also compete at the 5,000m. Paula Radcliffe had to be content with ninth place in 30:42.75 minutes. She had been in the lead for much of the race, but at the end she did not pick up the high speed of her rivals. Even if she had tried she probably would have had no chance once again. So often in the past she has lost such track finals against the Ethiopians and Kenyans.

But her focus is clearly on the marathon, which will be started next Sunday. Here the 31-year-old is regarded as the favorite besides defending champion Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) and the Japanese. Asked if she still thinks it was right to run the 10,000m as well Paula answered: “Yes!” Then she explained: “I have always thought about the marathon. Everything is fine. It was a good final speed training for the marathon.” When she had decided to run the 10,000m as well she probably had thought she would have a chance to take a medal. Otherwise one hardly enters such a race for training purposes only. Nine runners were still in the leading group after nine kilometers. But at the bell the Ethiopians began to take it seriously. Kicking strongly they took the lead while Paula Radcliffe ran at the end of the group sticking to her pace. 200 meters before the finish Tirunesh Dibaba again increased the pace decisively. She covered the last lap in 58.8 seconds – that is a pace which would be good enough to beat the 5,000m world record by 20 seconds. But we are talking about the men’s world record! “In the last lap I ran really hard. It was a nice race. I wanted to win and I did it,” Tirunesh Dibaba said. In the 5,000m she will have excellent chances to defend her title. Two years ago Tirunesh Dibaba had become the youngest ever individual World Champion, when winning the 5,000m at the age of 17. “I have a simple plan for the 5,000m: I will run as fast as I can,” the Ethiopian said. She had been third in the Olympic 5,000m final. But this year she has already achieved another double. In the World Cross Country Championships she won the short and the long course.

There had been one major upset in the first round races during the day. Kenya’s Daniel Komen missed qualifying for the next round in the 1,500m. He had been one of the favorites for the gold medal. Having won the Kenyan trials he had also run the second fastest time of the year so far (3:30.01 minutes).