04 AUG 2012 General News London, UK

Dibaba is back writing Olympic history again

Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia  won the gold medal in the Women's 10,000m Final on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 3, 2012 (Getty Images)Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia won the gold medal in the Women's 10,000m Final on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 3, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Just in time Tirunesh Dibaba is back at her best. Four years after she wrote Olympic history in Beijing by becoming the first woman to take both long distance titles at the Games she defended her 10,000m gold medal. And by doing so she has again achieved something unique: Still only 26 years old the Ethiopian is the only woman in history who has won the 25 lap race at two Olympic Games in a row. And she may do even better next week in London, if Ethiopian officials decide to pick her for the 5000 metres as well.

"I have never been happier than today – this is even better than in Beijing," said Dibaba, after she had secured the gold medal with a great sprint in the final 500 metres. Improving her own world lead of 30:24.39 minutes to 30:20.75 she was well ahead of Kenyans Sally Kipyego (30:26.37) and Vivian Cheruiyot (30:30.44). Her hard working fellow Ethiopian Werknesh Kidane, who had increased the pace a couple of times, finished fourth with 30:39.38 minutes.

"We had a team tactic. Our coaches had told us before the race to make it faster during the final couple of laps," explained Tirunesh Dibaba, when questioned about the work Kidane put in. "I had planned to go ahead either 600 or 500 metres from the finish,. Since it was a fast race I decided to wait until 500m to go."

So far only nominated as a reserve runner for the 5000 m in London, Dibaba is ready to attempt the double again. With a season’s best of 14:50.80 minutes in the 5,000m Dibaba is only number four in Ethiopia so far. That is why she is the reserve. But after Friday’s performance, how could Ethiopia not let her run now? "I am ready for the 5,000 metres and will prepare for the heats," Dibaba said.

At the beginning of the year she would not have thought that such a comeback at the London Olympics would be possible. "After a series of injuries I did not thought that I would be ready for the Games. I have surprised myself by making it," said Dibaba.

Dibaba, who had only run two 10,000m races since her gold medal in Beijing: In 2010 she won the African Championships and this year she was first in Eugene with her world lead. In between she had been out for more than a year due to a stress fracture in her shin. Coming back with a win in the 10k race in Madrid at New Year’s Eve 2011 she continued doing well. She took the 2 miles at the Boston Indoors in February (9:21.60) and then won the 'Carlsbad 5000’ on the road with 15:01. After that race she had already declared: "I am ready for the Olympics."

Now the wife of two-time Olympic silver medallist at 10,000m, Sileshi Sihine (2004 and 2008), recalled: "The training in Addis Ababa went very well. But at the same time there was some pressure building up. I was worried about that, because I was not in my best form," said Dibaba, who had already won a 5000 m gold medal at the World Championships 2003 at the age of 17, when she became the youngest individual gold medal winner in the history of the event. Two years later she became the first runner to take both gold medals (5000m and 10,000m) at the World Championships.

While Dibaba had been absent last year Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot won the two long distance track gold medals at the World Championships in Daegu. "But before today’s race I was not afraid of the Kenyans," said Dibaba, who has started training professionally at the age of 14 and collected a total of 21 medals at the World Cross Country Championships so far.

As well as her sisters Ejegayehu and Genzebe the most successful runner of the family, Tirunesh, had once been inspired to start running by her cousin: Derartu Tulu. Since Friday evening these two have something special in common. Tulu is the only other woman to have won two Olympic 10,000m golds. But Tulu had not achieved this feat in consecutive Games. She won in 1992 and 2000.

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF