Where Your Dreams Become Reality
IN ROUGH & TUMBLE 10-K, DIBABA COMES OUT ON TOP
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OSAKA (25-Aug) -- In a bruising contest which saw two athletes hit the track, another stop to put on a shoe, and nearly every competitor take or give a good shove, Tirunesh Dibaba rose above the mayhem to defend her world title in the 10,000m as the first day of the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics drew to a close.
For Dibaba, the prohibitive favorite for the gold medal, the race proved to be unexpectedly challenging. The very slow early pace, just 3:27.75 through the first 1000 meters, would seem to play to the tiny Ethiopian's strength as a kicker. But the pace was so achingly slow, it left the 21 athletes closely bunched and that can spell trouble.
"It was terrible," said American Deena Kastor who finished sixth. "It was just the exact race that I didn't want. It was tacticly a nightmare for me."
And almost for Dibaba. In the fifth kilometer she began to rub her midsection, later revealing that she had a stitch, a problem which she said she encounters all too often. She was in such distress that she slowed to a jog as she took some water in the sixth kilometer and found herself in last place. When she tried to get back on pace, she ran into the immediate aftermath of a collision between teammate Mestawet Tufa and Australian Benita Johnson. For a moment she thought about dropping out.
"If it wasn't a matter of representing my country I would have dropped out," she said through a translator.
Amazingly, Dibaba ran around the pack to nestle in to the front of the race behind her chief rival, Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey. The Turk then became the aggressor, hoping that Dibaba had exhausted herself catching up to the field. Lap times started to drop to the 72 second range as Abeylegesse led Dibaba through 9000m in 29:08.23. Dibaba continued to draft her taller rival right to the bell, when "Tiru" shot ahead to make her bid for victory. A 60 second final lap by the Ethiopian settled the outcome in a hurry, as she broke the tape in 31:55.41, four seconds ahead of Abeylegesse.
When asked how difficult the race was for her, Dibaba said: "Yes, I can say it was the toughest (race of my career)."
Behind Dibaba and Abeylegesse, the battle for the bronze medal was still playing out. American Kara Goucher was battling New Zealander Kim Smith and Briton Jo Pavey. Goucher, who like her husband Adam is coached by marathon legend Alberto Salazer, assessed the situation. She looked at the giant video display and could see herself with the other two women. She had a moment of clarity.
"With a lap to go I realized that one of us was going to get a medal," she recounted. "It would be the biggest regret of my running career if I didn't go for it."
The running she did back in the USA wearing a "sauna suit" which coach Salazer prescribed to help her deal better with the heat and humidity here, was paying off. Digging deep, she mustered the extra ounce of strength needed to sprint home to a medal in 32:02.05, the first ever earned by a woman for the United States in the 10,000m at these championships. Pavey finished fourth nearly two seconds behind while Smith was fifth, yet another three seconds back.
"I can't believe it," she nearly shouted with glee as she stood dripping with sweat while wrapped in the American flag. "I wasn't going to bring my awards stand suit but Adam packed it," she revealed. Then she looked up and said, "I had a mission. I just dreamed big."
1. Tirunesh Dibaba, ETH 31:55.41 Gold
2. Elvan Abeylegesse, TUR 31:59.40 Silver
3. Kara Goucher, USA 32:02.05 Bronze
4. Joanne Pavey, GBR 32:03.81
5. Kim Smith, NZL 32:06.89
6. Deena Kastor, USA 32:24.58
7. Ejegayehu Dibaba, ETH 32:30.44
8. Philes Ongori, KEN 32:30.74
9. Emily Chebet, KEN 32:31.21
10. Kayoko Fukushi, JPN 32:32.85
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