Displaying her tactical talents, Meseret Defar successfully defended her 3000m title in 8:38.80, becoming just the second woman to win a second title in the event.
Initially, Liliya Shobukhova, the recently-minted World Indoor record* holder in the event, and compatriot Olesya Syreva took immediate control of the race from the front, a tactic that served Defar perfectly.
Syreva, who had an 8:29.00 clocking to her credit this year, the second fastest ever, pushed the pace for the first three-and-a-half minutes, before Shobukhova moved up to take over the pacing duties. But it was Defar, never more than a step or two behind the pair, who maintained firm command of the race. When Sentayehu Ejigu tried to up the tempo four minutes into the race, Defar signalled to her, asking her to remain patient. Ejigu did as she was told.
With six laps to go, the quartet, along with Lidia Chojecka of Poland and Mariem Alaoui Selsouli of Morocco created a significant gap on the rest of the field, but it was Defar, who also finished third in 2003, who was merely biding her time.
With five laps to go, Defar moved into second; with two to go, she took the lead for good. While the Russian pair tried desperately to hold on to Defar’s deadly sustained kick, Chojecka moved into third, ahead of Ejigu and Syreva.
“I trained hard for that,” said Defar, who pumped her fist high into the air as she crossed the line. “My performance was good. I like running indoors very much.”
Shobukova hung on for second, reaching the line in 8:42.18. Chojecka took the bronze in 8:42.59, a season’s best for the 29-year-old Pole.
“I am very glad to have a medal,” said Shobukhova, who lowered the global standard to 8:27.86 last month*. “Certainly I was worried, it is the World Championships.”
“It’s a big surprise for me,” said Chojecka, the European Indoor champion in the event who underwent surgery on her foot last June and missed four months of training. “I think I had good tactics. I must admit I was a little scared before the race as all the girls had very fast times.” Chojecka, a finalist at 1500 metres at the previous two Olympics, said she will stick with her event next summer.
Ejigu faded slightly but still clocked a personal best 8:43.38 for fourth, with Syreva (8:44.10) in fifth.
*World Indoor record pending ratification