Sunday, August 07, 2005

Dibaba Leads Ethiopian Sweep In The 10,000

Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba, the gold medalist, and her compatriots, Berhane Adere the silver medalist, left, and Ejegayehu Dibaba, the bronze medalist, right, during the presentation ceremony for the women's 10,000 meters at the world athletics championships in Helsinki, Finland, Sunday Aug. 7, 2005. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

RunnersWeb.com -- Vividly displaying their dominance in the event, Ethiopian women --led by Olympic 5000 meter champion Tirunesh Dibaba-- ran to their second podium sweep in the 10,000 meters to highlight the first day of the 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics on a cool night in the Finnish capital.

When the trio of Dibaba, defending champion Berhane Adere and Ejegayehu Dibaba broke from a 10-woman pack at the bell, the only question that remained was the finishing order. The younger Dibaba, a double winner at this year's world cross county championships, dismissed any doubts with her 58.6 last lap en route to a 30:24.02 win, easily beating back the challenge of Adere, who held on to finish second in 30:25.41, more than half a second ahead of Ejegayehu Dibaba's 30:26.00.

"We had a plan to take the top three positions, possibly even the top four," said Tirunesh Dibaba after the race. Despite her success, the still-bashful Dibaba succinctly described their simple strategy. "We decided to run the end very fast in order to take the top three positions."

As expected, Briton Paula Radcliffe led for more than half the race, bringing a substantial 11-woman lead pack through the half in 15:16.29, with Adere and Kenyan Edith Masai in tow. A lap later Radcliffe dropped back to fourth, while the next eight laps saw numerous lead switches. With seven laps remaining, the Ethiopian quartet briefly took the top-four spots, until Radcliffe fought back to resume the lead briefly with just over 2000 meters remaining, before dropping back for good a lap later. The Chinese duo of Xing Huina, the Olympic champion, and Sun Yingjie kept pace with the Ethiopian trio until their decisive break.

Tirunesh Dibaba returns to action on Wednesday in the first round of the 5000 where she’ll not only begin her title defense, but will aim to become the first woman to ever score a long distance double in a world championship or Olympic Games.

Further back behind the Ethiopian trio, Huina passed Yingjie to finish fourth in 30:27.18. Edith Masai, now 38-years-old, ran to a new Kenyan record 30:30.26, finishing fifth. Werknesh Kidane, who will also compete in the 5000, was sixth (30:32.47).

The opening round of the men’s 1500 did produce a few major surprises, instigated by U.S. national championships runner-up Chris Lukezic. In the second of three heats, the 21-year-old from Georgetown fought through heavy traffic down the homestretch to move from ninth to fifth, before elbowing his way between Kenyan Daniel Kipchirchir Komen and Kenyan-born Qatari Daham Bashir –the season’s two fastest men-- to finish third in 3:41.80. In the process, Komen finished sixth, and failed to advance. Bashir, who survived with his fifth place finish, was succinct in his post-race self-analysis: “In the next race, we will have to come up with different tactics.” Spaniard Arturo Casado won the heat in 3:41.64.

For several minutes after the conclusion of the first heat, it appeared that Alan Webb’s early-race aggressive strategy nearly backfired. At or near the front for more than two-thirds of the race, Webb faded down the homestretch to finish sixth, in a race won by defending sliver medallist Mehdi Baala of France in 3:36.56. Less than three-tenths of a second separated the top-six spots; only the top-five advanced automatically. With the other two races significantly slower, Webb got the green light into Monday’s semis.

Bahraini Rashid Ramzi, another pre-meet favorite, escaped the danger Komen and Bashir were enveloped in to comfortably win the third heat in 3:38.32, well ahead of Ivan Heshko (3:39.84) and Nick Willis (3:39.89). With Rob Myers also advancing on time, the evening marked the first time three U.S. men qualified for the semi-finals since the 1987 world championships in Rome.

The women’s 3000 meter steeplechase made its world championships debut with no major casualties resulting. Favorite Dorcus Inzikuru of Uganda was the fastest on the day with her 9:27.85 win in heat three over Jeruto Kiptum’s 9:29.21 Kenyan record. Yelena Zadorozhnaya of Russia, a world championships veteran, took heat one with ease in 9:32.96, while Pole Wioletta Janowska claimed heat two in 9:35.66. Americans Carrie Messner (9:39.68 – PB) and Elizabeth Jackson (9:45.24) advanced; Lisa Galaviz (9:47.45) did not.

No surprises emerged from the first round of the women’s 800. Russians Svetlana Cherkasova (2:00.62) and Larisa Chzhao (2:00.64) produced the day’s quickest performances, while defending champion Maria Mutola along with the American trio of Hazel Clark, Kameisha Bennett and Alice Schmidt all advancing comfortably.

Just two middle and long distance events are scheduled for the second day of competition: the first round of the men’s steeplechase and the semi-finals of the women’s 800.

Elsewhere, American Adam Nelson, a two-time Olympic and world championships silver medallist in the shot put, finally graduated from bridesmaid status in the event when he took the gold.

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