Former World record holder and 2004 Olympic champion Meseret Defar bounced back from her disappointing bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin to defend her World Athletics Final 5000m title here in Thessaloniki.
The 25-year-old Ethiopian who is also the defending 3000m champion will again contest the shorter middle distance race tomorrow to try and become the first woman to win the distance six consecutive years.
Defar concluded what had been a conservative race with a final lap of unofficially just over 58 seconds to outsprint compatriot and World record holder Tirunesh Dibaba who was contesting only her third race of the summer after an injury plagued season prevented her from defending her World Championships titles in Berlin.
Dibaba led Defar and the Kenyan pair of Sylvia Jebiwott Kibet and Vivian Cheruiyot, respectively silver and gold medallists in Berlin, at the bell but had to concede to her compatriot’s better kick and most probably better form given that Dibaba hadn’t run a race since her win in London on 24 July.
Defar clocked 15:25.31 for what was her eighth World Athletics Final title with Dibaba holding on to second in 15:25.92. Cheruiyot won the race for third in 15:26.21 leaving Kibet just under 3 tenths of a second behind in fourth.
“I am very happy with my win after the big disappointment in Berlin,” said Defar. “I was in great shape there but I god a cold and lost weight. That is why I didn’t manage to win.”
Ethiopia’s Sentayaheu Ejigu took a compact pack through the first kilometre in 3:09.14 with Dibaba and Defar remaining at the back of the pack. As the second and third kilometres also averaged 3:10 the Ethiopian pair was nowhere to be seen near the front of the pack until Dibaba made a move with three laps to go. She was followed like a shadow by Defar with Kibet on the inside and Cheruiyot on the outside also in close contact.
As Dibaba maintained the lead at the bell it was the Ethiopians superior speed that made the difference tonight while the Kenyans had to settle for the minor placings.
“I was born in 1983 but I was reborn here in Greece in 2004 at the Olympic Games,” said Defar.
Greece may prove to be third time lucky for Defar tomorrow.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF