On the eve of what has been billed as an assault on the women’s 5000m World record here in the Norwegian capital at the second ÅF Golden League meeting of 2008, Tirunesh Dibaba exuded a calm, quiet confidence. But ultimately, she made no predictions.
“I want to run very fast,” was all the 22-year-old two-time World 10,000m champion offered. “But I can’t predict a time.”
The record she’s gunning for is the sensational 14:16.63 run produced at the ExxonMobil Bislett Games one year ago by her compatriot, Meseret Defar. In that scintillating performance last year, Defar, the Olympic champion, had unanticipated company in the guise of Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot who pushed her through 4000 metres. She ultimately knocked an astounding eight seconds from the previous mark, putting it, in the estimation of many observers, well out of reach.
Dibaba isn’t expected to have the same kind of company after pacesetter Anna Alminova concludes her chores: six, or perhaps seven 68-second laps, to put Dibaba on target for an ambitious 8:32 to 8:34 split at 3000m. Dibaba might also be counting on some family support as well.
Her sister Ejegayehu, the Olympic 10,000m silver medallist with 14:32.74 credentials, may help, but Tirunesh insisted that her older sister is not here to pace. Her younger sister Genzebe, the World Junior Cross Country champion, will also be in the race.
Dibaba, the Olympic bronze medallist in the event, has opened her summer season with fast 5000m runs in recent years: a 14:35.67 in New York last year, and a 14:30.40 the year before here in Oslo, still her career best, which ranks her at No. 9 all-time. She certainly doesn’t lack in speed, as she’s covered the distance faster indoors, with her 14:27.42 World record from 2007. Additionally, workouts since taking the African 10,000m title at home in Addis Ababa early last month have left her confident not only for her outing here, but as the Olympics approach as well.
“Training compared with past years has been better,” she said, suggesting that she might choose to double in Beijing later this summer. “I haven’t decided yet. After my next two races I’ll decide.”
Oslo will be her key Olympic qualifier for the 5000m before she contests the 10,000m at Ostrava’s Golden Spike next Thursday, where she’ll also be chasing a performance to meet the criteria of Ethiopian selectors. “If I get a good time then I’ll decide after that.”
As with selection to the Olympic team, she’ll also be chasing Defar this weekend, but insists there is no bad blood between the two.
“During races we are rivals of course, but after the race we are friends.” How important would it be to take the record from Defar? She offered no comment but did say that if the record was still within reach at the bell, it could be fall.
“I can’t say exactly how fast my last lap could be,” she said, “but I think I can run a very fast 400.”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF