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Mare Dibaba Wins World Championship Marathon

MARE DIBABA WINS HISTORIC MARATHON GOLD FOR ETHIOPIA
By David Monti, @d9monti

(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)

BEIJING
(30-Aug) — On the final day of the 15th IAAF World Championships in
Athletics at National Stadium here, the longest race on the women’s
program, the marathon, was decided by just one second.

Ethiopia’s
Mare Dibaba –no relation to multiple gold medalist Tirunesh Dibaba or
her younger sister Genzebe– won the first-ever marathon gold medal by
an Ethiopian woman at these championships. Not even five feet tall, the
tiny Dibaba stormed into the stadium with her taller Kenyan rival Helah
Kiprop, outkicking her for gold, 2:27:35 to 2:27:36 in the closest
finish ever in the history of these championships. Bronze went to
Eunice Kirwa, a Kenyan-born athlete who switched her allegiance to
Bahrain back in 2010.

“I had a very strong strategy to (out)
kick everybody,” Dibaba told the media after the race, adding that she
used the four Kenyans in the race to set the pace for her. “My plan was
to follow them, head-by-head.”

Dibaba, whose coach Haji Adillo
told Race Results Weekly two days ago that she was in the best shape of
her life, took a patient approach to today’s contest. Running with her
Ethiopian teammates, Tigist Tufa and Tirfi Tsegaye, she was content to
cruise along at the gentle early pace, set mostly by the Japanese team
of Mai Ito, Risa Shigetomo and Sairi Maeda. The entire Kenyan team, led
by defending champion Edna Kiplagat and last year’s TCS New York City
Marathon runner-up Jemima Sumgong, was also in the lead pack which
which cruised through half-way in a modest 1:15:16. The soaking
humidity made running any faster difficult.

“The pace was good,” commented the bronze medalist Kirwa.

Slightly
behind the 16-strong lead pack, America’s Serena Burla was working her
way up with China’s Ding Changqin and Wang Xueqin. Burla, a cancer
survivor, said she was just trying to be competitive and put herself in
position to contend.

“I just really wanted to put on the USA uniform, execute, and put myself in it,” Burla said after the race.

By
30-K (1:46:50), the Japanese team was struggling to keep up. Like they
had done in the 5000m and 10,000m track races at these championships,
they set the pace early, but then faded when the faster running
started. The five kilometers between 30 and 40-K were the fastest so
far in the race (17:15), putting the Japanese (and American Burla who
would finish tenth) out of contention. That segment was fast enough to
dwindle the pack to just six: Dibaba, Sumgong, Kirwa, Kiprop, Kiplagat
and Tufa.

Just three minutes later, Tufa was dropped (she would
finish sixth). Kiplagat, who is typically comfortable running at the
back of the pack, was staying in contact, but soon she too started to
fade.

“I was not expecting it,” Kiplagat said of falling off
the pace and eventually finishing fifth. “I tried to run my own race. I
tried to put in my tactics, but it didn’t work. My legs were too tight,
and my body did not react as I expected.”

The 5-K segment
through the 40-K mark was covered in a swift 16:34, easily the fastest
of the race. The four women left –Dibaba, Kiprop Kirwa, and Sumgong–
were all still in contention as National Stadium came into view.

“When
we were at 40 kilometers it was a bit tricky,” observed Kiprop, who was
competing in her first World Championships. “Everybody was there.
Everybody was strong.”

All four women entered the tunnel to the
stadium at about the same time, but Sumgong was lagging. Into the
arena, Dibaba and Kiprop emerged from behind the electronic sign at the
top of the homestretch together. Like the men last weekend, they only
had 110 meters to run in the stadium: a straight drag race for the tape.

“When
I saw the Ethiopian athlete pushing, then I tried to push,” Kiprop told
reporters. “I didn’t expect, but I tried my best.”

Down the
homestretch, Dibaba showed remarkable speed for a marathoner, her short
legs turning over furiously as she headed for the tape. She said she
was ready for any kind of finish.

“When we were coming, the two
of us on the track, I wanted to use all my energy to the final line,”
Dibaba told Race Results Weekly with Coach Adillo translating. “I know
I’m very fast kick in the last. I don’t worry about anything.”

Dibaba’s
medal lifted the Ethiopian team to the sixth position on the medal
table with two golds and a total of five medals. Genzebe Dibaba has a
chance to win another gold tonight when she races in the 5000m.
Ethiopia won 10 medals at the last IAAF World Championships and was the
sixth-ranked team.

Also, with her victory here today, Dibaba is
now on top of the Abbott World Marathon Majors leaderboard for Series
IX with 41 points. Kiprop is second with 32 points. The series
concludes at the Tokyo Marathon next February when the top male and
female point-earners will be awarded a $500,000 grand prize. Today’s
victory was worth $60,000 in prize money, but certainly nearly as much
from her corporate sponsor, Nike.

In all, 52 women finished today’s race and another 13 dropped out.

PHOTO:
Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia winning the 2015 IAAF World Championships
Marathon in Beijing in 2:27:35

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