LONDON, Kenya, August 5 – The news Kenya’s women 5000m runners have been dreading was confirmed when Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia stated her intent to compete in the distance when the first round of the event gets underway on Tuesday.
Tirunesh who scorched double world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot and Sally Kipyego in the women 10000m final to retain her title in Beijing will be attempting to hold on her 12 and a half-lap crown and make further history in London.
“I’m very happy, this is my third gold,” Tirunesh told Tadias.com on Friday night after winning the 10,000 in 30:20.75 seconds ahead of Kenyans Sally Kipyego and Vivian Cheruiyot. “I’m ready to run the 5000; the decision is the federation’s.”
The Ethiopian athletic federation needed little persuasion. “She will run, 100 percent,” said the organisation’s technical director, Dube Jilo.
Tirunesh returned to competition on New Year’s Eve after having suffered from injuries that kept her out of both the 2009 and 2011 world championships.
In the interim, she successfully defended her 2008 African 10,000m title in July 2010 in Nairobi defeating, among others, the hometown favourite Linet Masai, who had won the 2009 world championships race in the absence of Tirunesh, then the defending world champion. The Ethiopian had also won both distance races at the 2005 world championships.
The 2009 world 5000 title went to Cheruiyot, who completed the double in Daegu in 2011, and coming into the London 10,000, the Kenyan was a favourite along the champion.
“I wasn’t thinking about any individual athlete, I was thinking only about winning,” said Tirunesh after her second straight Olympic 10,000m victory.
Prior to London, the Athens 5000m bronze medallist Dibaba had elaborated on her thoughts about Cheruiyot in an interview.
“Vivian has become much stronger than in the past,” she said. The two women did not race during the Kenyan’s red-hot 2011 season due to Dibaba’s injury layoff, but the Ethiopian pointed out that she had previously run against a rising Vivian Cheruiyot — and won.
“We raced in London,” said Tirunesh, who won the 5000m in 14 minutes, 36.41 seconds to Cheruiyot’s 14:38.17 at the Crystal Palace on August 13, 2010, in addition to finishing ahead of the Kenyan at the world athletic final in Thessaloniki, Greece in September 2009. “She had just won the world championships 5000 when we raced. She was strong then too and she’s strong now.”
“We’ve run indoors as well as outdoors,” added Tirunesh, who won the Edinburgh cross country and Birmingham indoor two-mile races in early 2010, over eight seconds ahead of Cheruiyot both times.
“I know Dibaba is a tough lady,” said Cheruiyot Friday night. “We are coming here to try our best because there is a time for everybody.”
“I’ve watched her race so many times and she can run really well, and she can close really well, and I respected that,” Kipyego, who took the lead at times in the race, said of the champion. “I tried to push the pace to try to make it painful for everybody. Unfortunately, it didn’t work on her.”
The three women will meet again in the 5000m in London, as both Cheruiyot and Kipyego are also doubling. That race will also include Tirunesh’s teammate and rival Meseret Defar, the 2004 Olympic champion, whom Dibaba defeated over the distance in New York in June.
– Report by Sabrina Yohannes