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Dibaba to Run 3000m, Defar 2 Mile at Reebok Boston Games This Weekend
By David Monti
(c) 2008 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
January 22, 2008

The gold medalists of the women's 5000m and 10,000m at last summer's IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba, will both compete at Saturday's Reebok Boston Indoor Games (RBIG), organizers have confirmed.  Although the two athletes will run similar distances, the two Ethiopian stars will not be running head-to-head; Defar will run two miles and Dibaba 3000m.

"Defar and Dibaba did not want to race each other in the first meet of the year, and a 5000 didn't fit into the training of either one right now," explained Mark Wetmore of Global Athletics & Marketing, the Boston-based athlete management firm which manages the meet and represents the two athletes.  "This was a way to get them both into the event, and that was our priority."

Both athletes have enjoyed record-breaking performances --and disappointments-- at the RBIG which is held at the Reggie Lewis Track Facility at Roxbury Community College.

Defar made her first appearance in 2002, running the two-mile and finishing second to American Regina Jacobs who set a still-standing world best of 9:23.38 (Jacobs was later convicted of a doping offense and has since left the sport).  Defar came back in 2003 to win a tactical 3000m, beating compatriots Sentayehu Ejigu and Tirunesh Dibaba, in 8:57.22.  She also defeated Dibaba the following year in the 5000m, 14:53.14 to 14:53.99 (Derartu Tulu was third).  In 2005 Defar made a valiant attempt at the world indoor 3000m record, but had to run an extra stride or two to pass a lapped runner, and fell 9/10ths of a second short, clocking what was then the #2 time ever (8:30.05).  In 2006, she again tried for the world record at the same distance, but her 8:30.94 didn't quite get it done.  At last year's meet, in another record attempt, she won the 3000m again in 8:30.31 (she then went on to break Liliya Shobukhova's world record at a different meet in Stuttgart in a mind-blowing 8:23.72).  In all, Defar has been victorious five times at the RBIG, but has yet to set a world record at the meet.

Dibaba's first appearance in Boston came at the 2003 edition of the meet, finishing third in the 3000m to Defar and Ejigu.  She was only 17 at the time.  In 2004 she finished a close second to Defar in the 5000m, then came back in 2005 to smash the 5000m indoor world record by over six seconds, stopping the clock at 14:32.93.  She won the 5000m in 2006 in another record attempt, recording what was then the #2 indoor mark of all-time (14:35.46).  At last year's RBIG, Dibaba sliced another five and one-half seconds off of her own world standard, running 14:27.42.  She has achieved three victories and two world records in her racing at the RBIG.

If history is any guide, both athletes will again be gunning for the world records, or bests, in their respective events (the two-mile is not an IAAF record distance).  The meet's spokesperson, Barbara Huebner, said that world record bonuses were available to the athletes, but were "unspecified."  Defar would be gunning for Jacobs's two-mile mark of 9:23.38, while Dibaba would have to beat Defar's 3000m standard of 8:23.72.

Although both face extremely difficult challenges, a statistician would argue that Defar's is the easier task.  Her 3000m world record is roughly equivalent to a 9:03 two mile, and it is possible that she could become the first woman ever to string together two 4:30 miles back-to-back.

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The Reebok Boston Indoor Games begins at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.  Complete meet information, including how to buy tickets, is posted at http://www.bostonindoorgames.com.  The Reggie Lewis Track Facility is small, with the front row seats just a few meters from the edge of the track.  This is one of the best opportunities to see some of the athletes who will make the podium in Beijing up close.

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