With older sisters Tirunesh, three times senior long-course champion, once short-course champion and a former junior champion, and Ejegayehu, second to Benita Johnson in the 2004 long-course race, not here, Genzebe Dibaba made sure the family name stayed on the victory dais by coming out on top after a race long battle with Kenya’s Mercy Cherono.
Not only was her win a personal triumph, but it cemented a team win as both Ethiopia and Kenya tied on 18 points. Had Cherono won, Kenya would have regained the title it lost in Edinburgh last year. As it was, it was the higher place for fourth finisher Emebet Anteneh, seventh one ahead of Kenya’s Hilda Chepkemboi Tanui, which clinched the outcome.
Dibaba thought back to Edinburgh two ways, both for her first win and the absence of her sister, who won the senior race.
“I am extremely happy I won, even though Tirunesh was not here,’’ she said after the race, “I’m happier even than last year, because this year’s race was extremely difficult.”
Dibaba described the hilly Bisharat Golf Club circuit as almost too difficult to handle. Cherono was no easier to combat. After Kenya’s Jackline Chebii injected the first surge early in the second lap, Cherono took over and it was Dibaba v Cherono for the individual title.
Dibaba first made her intent plain when she barged her way out of the pack, clashing arms with both friend and foe, to track Cherono’s initial move. Then she took over up the steep hill midway through the second lap and broke away for a significant lead.
Now it was Cherono’s turn to dig deep. Down the long hill starting each lap and along the one flat section of the loop she narrowed the gap, then took the lead herself on the uphill section.
Now it would be decided on the final climb, a brutal 300 metres in which the course rises almost from its lowest point some 40 metres to its highest. Surely Cherono’s strength would prevail now. But it was Dibaba who first edged back up, then away from the Kenyan runner. At the line, she was 20 metres to the good.
Cherono was followed in by her teammate Jackline Chepngeno, with Frehiwat Goshu (Eth) fourth, Nelly Chebet of Kenya fifth, Sule Utura (Eth) sixth, Anteneh sevent and Chepkemi Tanui eighth. It came down to that fourth place, a true test of team depth.
Japan packed extremely well with Nanaka Izawa (17), Erika Ikeda (18), Asami Kato (20) and Aki Otagiri (21) to take the bronze medal. Great Britain was fourth, the USA fifth, Eritrea sixth, Australia seventh, with Russia rounding out the top eight.
Australia’s Emily Bricachek was the first non-African finisher in 11th place, with Britons Lauren Howarth and Charlotte Purdue 13th and 14th respectively.
Len Johnson for the IAAF