Dibaba 1 race away from another double

Gold medalist Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba Kenene celebrates after winning the women's 10,000m final at the athletics event during the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 3, 2012 in London. AFP PHOTO/OLIVIER MORIN

LONDON: What does a woman do who has won everything there is to win in long-distance track racing?

Move up to the marathon and start preparing for the Rio Games four years from now.

Even though she is only 26, Tirunesh Dibaba can complete a second straight Olympic long-distance double if she win's next week's 5,000-meter title, a week after she became the first back-to-back 10,000 champion Friday.

The victory puts the Ethiopian in the exulted company of compatriots Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, by far Africa's greatest distance runners.

Dibaba is already looking toward the marathon, as Gebrselassie did after dominating track long-distance events.

"I'm planning to do it next year," she said.

After missing a year due to injury, Dibaba produced a devastating kick with 600 meters to go on Friday, leaving the daunting Kenyan rivals in her wake and giving Ethiopia an early edge at the London Games in the great African distance running rivalry.

"I have never been happier," Dibaba said.

That is saying something for a woman who had already won a half dozen world and Olympic gold medals.

Distance running is a family affair for Dibaba. Her cousin is Derartu Tulu, who won two Olympic 10,000 titles, and she is married to Silleshi Sihine, who won two Olympic 10,000 silvers in races won by Gebrselassie.

With her poise and powerful kick, Dibaba showed she is more than capable of repeating as double Olympic long-distance champion in the 5,000 meters.

"I have worked very hard for this. No one has ever done what I did today," Dibaba said.

Shin splints forced Dibaba to rest last year, and in her absence Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya won the 5,000 and 10,000 at the 2011 world championships.

Against that backdrop, the Olympic 10,000 Friday turned into a showdown between traditional African running rivals Ethiopia and Kenya.

With 4 kilometers to go, the top five racers were all from the two African nations. Ethiopian Werknesh Kidane did the pacing work to thin the pack to just four runners and Kenya's Sally Kipyego picked up the pace even further with 3 laps to go.

Dibaba stuck with Kipyego, sensing that it could be the race's decisive break.

Then, 600 meters from the finish line, Dibaba broke away, a risky early move given that double long-distance world champion Cheruiyot was still giving chase.

But it was Cheruiyot and the Kenyans who folded as Dibaba strode elegantly away to capture the gold in a season-best time of 30 minutes, 20.75 seconds. Kenyans won silver and bronze, with Kipyego finishing second in 30:26.37 and Cheruiyot third in 30:30.44.

The future for Dibaba is already mapped out: Next week comes the 5,000 and next year the marathon.

"That's my plan," she said.





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