Athletics Athletics

Genzebe steps out of Tirunesh shadow


GENZEBE-DIBABASOPOT, March 6 – Genzebe Dibaba is in electrifying form this season, the diminutive Ethiopian breaking three world indoor records as she looks to add the 3000m crown in Sopot to her growing list of accolades.

In the space of a two-week period in early February, the 23-year-old scorched to 3min 55.17sec in the 1500m, 8:16.60 in the 3000m and then 9:00.48 over two miles.

By anyone’s reckoning, Dibaba is one of the hottest favourites for gold at the March 7-9 World Indoor Athletics Championships in the Polish coastal town of Sopot.

Certainly her showing last month has also helped her take a further step away from the ever-present shadow of her elder sister Tirunesh, 28, who has notably accumulated three Olympic golds and five world golds over 5000 and 10,000m.

“From the beginning, from my childhood on, my aim has been to emulate her,” Genzebe Dibaba admitted Thursday.

“Even though I haven’t quite reached Tirunesh’s level, I am succeeding now and I hope to work harder and in the future be known as one of the fastest athletes.”

Genzebe Dibaba’s current form flies in the face of her wavering performances over the last couple of seasons.

She could only manage eighth in the 1500m at last year’s world outdoors in Moscow, a year after exiting in the heats of the London 2012 Olympic Games through injury.

Although she arrives in Sopot as the defending world indoor 1500m champion after taking gold in Istanbul two years ago, she will in fact compete only in the 3000m.

Intense scheduling would have given the Ethiopian too much time on the track, with heats for both the 1500m and 3000m slated for Friday, the final of the shorter event on Saturday and the longer distance on Sunday.

“This year has been about preparing for the 3000m. Two years ago I won the 1500m and I had hoped to double up here… but I’m just focused on the 3000m and I hope to do my best,” she said.

“I’ve been extremely well prepared for this year.

“I didn’t expect to break the 1500m world record, I only expected to run a very fast time. But I did and then went on to set more world records.

“This season’s gone very well and I’ll continue to work very hard.”

Dibaba, however, said a new world record in the 3000m was unlikely, especially after she managed to knock a massive seven seconds off in her record-setting run last month.

“I’m not looking for records here, but just to win, it’s only after I’ve competed in the heats that I’ll be running in the final,” she said.

“It will be very tough to break the world record. I’m not disappointed that I took seven seconds off the world record, I really wanted to know how fast I could run!”

Dibaba will come up against Kenya’s reigning indoor 3000m champion, Hellen Obiri.

The latter’s best of 8:29.99 is 13sec-plus off Dibaba but remains the closest anyone’s got to the Ethiopian this year, and she will be supported by Kenyan teammate Irene Jelagat.

Dibaba will look to either Almaz Ayana or Hiwot Ayalew as the second Ethiopian runner, with both capable of getting among the medals.

Bahrain’s Ethiopian-born two-time world 1500m champion Maryam Jamal warmed up for Sopot by winning the Asian indoor title last month.