Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia in action in the women's 10,000m final (© Getty Images)
Osaka, JapanSpectators were treated to what must be one of the more Herculean performances of all time Saturday night (25) in Osaka as Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba successfully defended her World Championship 10,000m title.
Midway through the race at Nagai Stadium it appeared she would drop out at any moment as she repeatedly clutched her stomach, another victim, perhaps, of the oppressive heat and humidity. At one point she veered out to snatch a bottle of water from one of the refreshment tables lined up along the back straight. That left her almost thirty metres adrift of the field.
“If it had been another competition I would have stopped,” she admitted to a media scrum shortly after her victory. “I only continued because it was a race for my country, and I only finished because it was a race for my country. I had stomach pains.”
“Yes, I thought about dropping out of the race especially when I saw myself up on the screen. I only continued because it was for my country I would have dropped out of another competition. The distance was quite significant I just attempted to go and catch them and it worked. I caught them.”
Quiet and very humble in the manner of her people Dibaba has achieved much in her young career. It is hard to contemplate that she won’t turn 22 until October 1st. Those who know her best say she is starting to come out of her shell making the occasional public appearance in Addis. Many times she is involved in charitable work. After beating the World Indoor 5000m record last winter, for instance, she donated her world record bonus of some US$6000 US to an organisation working with children suffering from HIV.
Nevertheless, she is closest to her older sister Ejegayehu with whom she shares a room at the Ethiopian Hotel during training camps. The hotel serves as the base for the Ethiopian national distance runners under the watchful eyes of Dr Woldemeskel Kostre and Tolossa Kotu the national coaches who have also guided Haile Gebrselassie to his greatest successes. Endurance training is done on the trails in nearby mountain forests. To hone their speed there is a 400 metre track that is also very close.
Being so young and so tough there is much room for improvement. Chinese journalists covering the World Championships in Osaka asked Dibaba if she has plans to attack the World 10,000m record and if she will race at the Olympics in Beijing next year. Through an interpreter the answer is short and exact.
“I haven’t thought about breaking the World record up until now but now I am going to start thinking about it,” she replies all the while looking up at all the media in attendance.
“With the help of God I am going to train and prepare for Beijing and hopefully win the race.”
For now Tirunesh Dibaba planned to savour her victory, nothing to lavish, just a meal with her sister and fellow teammates who showed their support Saturday night.
“I will go to my team hotel and on the way I will give praise to God for what I have achieved because this was a very, very hard race,” she declares.
“It was probably the hardest race for me and it was the biggest accomplishment of my career, having suffered stomach pains and coming back and winning. That is a big accomplishment for me and I am very happy.”
Paul Gains for the IAAF