Thus far in the 2014 indoor season, Genzebe Dibaba has looked a million dollars – what with her three global marks in 14 days last month.
“I think we’re looking at a phenomenon,” Paula Radcliffe ventured, after watching the 23-year-old Ethiopian demolish Meseret Defar’s old two-mile world indoor best with a 9:00.48 clocking at the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham on 15 February.
Now, as the younger of the phenomenal Dibaba sisters prepares for the climax to her trailblazing indoor campaign, the 3000m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships here on the Baltic coast in Sopot, it is gold that she has in her sights, rather than records and the dollar signs that come with them.
At the eve-of-championships press conference, Dibaba was asked whether she now regretted inflicting so much damage on the 3000m mark in Stockholm on 6 February, reducing it from 8:23.72 to a stunning 8:16.60 (five days after her 3:55.17 record in Karlsruhe), given the $50,000 bonus being offered by the IAAF for world record performances in Sopot.
“I am not disappointed that I took off nearly seven seconds from the world record,” Dibaba insisted. “What I really wanted to know in Stockholm was how fast I could run and what my limit was.”
“I am not looking for records here, but just to win,” she added. “It’s only after running in the heats [on Friday morning] that I’ll be thinking about the final [on Sunday afternoon].”
Dibaba, of course, already has a World Indoor Championships gold medal in her locker. In Istanbul two years ago she was a clear winner of the 1500m. So why the switch to the 3000m in Sopot?
“This year, from the beginning of the season, my preparation has been for the 3000m,” the former world junior 5000m champion said. “Two years ago I did win the 1500m and I had hoped to double up, but because the heats of both events are on the same day I had to choose just one. I decided on the 3000m, with the potential to do something great for my country.”
Dibaba has been doing great things for her country ever since she won the junior women’s race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships at Holyrood Park in Edinburgh back in March 2008. That was half of a famous double not just for Ethiopia but for the Dibaba family.
The senior women’s race in the Scottish capital was won by Tirunesh, one of Gebzebe’s elder sisters, whose running CV happens to include three Olympic gold medals and five World Championships gold medals on the track, not to mention the 5000m world record.
“Right from the beginning, from my childhood on, my aim was to emulate Tirunesh,” Genzebe said. ”Even if I haven’t quite reached her level, I am starting to succeed now.”
She certainly is. Whatever happens in the rough and tumble of the indoor action in the ERGO Arena, the younger Dibaba can reflect on an indoor season in which she has made her mark – three times over in the record books.
“This year, I was extremely well prepared for the indoor season,” she reflected. “I didn’t expect that I would break the 1500m world record. I only expected to run a fast time.
“After that, I was pretty certain that I would be able to break all three. This year I am very pleased with how things have gone so far. I hope it will continue.”
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF