World Cross Country Junior champion Meselech Melkamu ensured that Ethiopia won the third out of five possible titles at 5000m in this event with a spectacular win tonight in Grosseto.
Melkamu, who burst into the lead after just four laps, crossed the line in 15:21.52, a new Championship record, more than 60 metres clear of Catherine Chikwakwa of Malawi who set a new national Junior record of 15:36.22. The bronze medal was won by Japan’s Chiaki Iwamoto in 15:39.59.
The race was fast from the gun, with the field already split into two after a lap and a half. Shortly after, the leading group had been whittled down to just three, with Melkamu shadowing Chikwakwa and Kenya’s Viola Kiplagat, as they went through 1000 metres in 2:52.97.
Edith Chelimo of Kenya and Rehima Kedir of Ethiopia were detached from the leading group by about 30 metres, with the rest of the field, led by Iwamoto and China’s Weiwei Sun, content with a more conservative pace.
With about 1600 metres completed, Melkamu accelerated dramatically, and within 400 metres, had built up a lead of about 15-20 metres, and was well inside championship record pace.
With 7 laps left, the medal positions seemed to be set, with big gaps between the Ethiopian, Chikwakwa and Kiplagat. But the Kenyan was beginning to tire and Chikwakwa was beginning to close the gap to her relentlessly.
With 5 laps to go, the Japanese athlete surged past the Kenyan, and with Melkamu now going through 3000m 9m 9:04.63, another athlete, the American Caitlin Chock, made a bold break past the fading Kiplagat into fourth place.
With just over 3 laps to go, there was no change to the first two positions as Melkamu continued to forge ahead with Chikwakwa neither gaining, nor losing ground either.
Hitting the bell at 14:11.43, Melkamu strode imperiously to the finish, happy to run a 70 second last 400m to secure her gold. Further down the field, Chock lost out in the final straight when Sun sprinted past to secure fourth place with a personal best of 15:50.67.
But the 18 year old Chock held on to fifth despite the late charge of Ethiopia’s Rehima Kedir, with both athletes also setting personal bests with 15:52.88 and 15:54.34 respectively.