Tirunesh Dibaba wins the 10,000m in Eugene (Kirby Lee - Image of Sport) © Copyright
After a year-long absence from competition, Dibaba, the double Olympic champion from Beijing, finds herself back in a familiar setting on the eve of the London Games, sitting atop the world list in the 10,000m courtesy of a 30:24.39 victory at the Prefontaine Classic in early June. It was her first 10,000 race since July 2010, and only the second since her sensational 29:54.66 from her classic contest in Beijing where she was chased to a sub-30 performance by Elvan Abeylegasse. And Dibaba's kick is back, too.
That’s something that Cheruiyot, who duplicated Dibaba’s double victory at last year’s World Championships, will be keen to focus on in London 2012’s first final on the track, a race in which both will be chasing historic firsts. Cheruiyot, in her third Olympic appearance, is hoping to become the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic 10,000m title. Dibaba meanwhile is aiming to become the first to win back-to-back titles over the distance.
Cheruiyot has raced well this season, winning each of her five outings on the track from 3000m to 10,000m, and leads the world in the 5000m with 14:35.62 from Rome. Her only race over 10,000 was at her national trials, a tactical 32:24.52 at altitude in Nairobi to secure her spot.
Dibaba will also arrive in the British capital undefeated on the track, but in just two races. Eight days after her fast 10,000m win in Eugene, she collected a 14:50.80 win in New York's Samsung Diamond League stop, handily beating compatriots Meseret Defar, Gelete Burka and Worknesh Kidane. As early season tests of form go, she passed hers admirably.
Unlike Dibaba, who was initially named as an alternate in the 5000m, Cheruiyot is also hoping to replicate the Ethiopian’s double Beijing triumph in London and will, as in Daegu last year, be looking for a little help from her friends.
Last year, Cheruiyot led a podium sweep for Kenya in the event; Sally Kipyego, the silver medallist there, will be joining her in London. Kipyego’s career best of 30:38.35 is ten seconds faster than Cheruiyot’s, a factor that firmly keeps her in the running for gold as well. Kenyan No. 3 is Joyce Chepkirui, better known as a half marathoner with 1:07:03 credentials.
Dibaba will be backed up by 22-year-old Belaynesh Oljira who produced an impressive 30:26.70 for third in Eugene, and the veteran Kidane who earned her third Olympic trip after a 30:50.16 in the Eugene race. Kidane, now 30, finished fourth in the Athens 10,000m eight years ago.
Others to watch include Russian Yelizaveta Grechishnikova (31:07.88, PB, 2012), Portugal’s Sara Moreira who improved to 31:23.51 this year, and Jo Pavey of Great Britain who qualified in the 10,000 after missing out in the Marathon.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF