The rise and rise of Genzebe Dibaba

Having set three world records in 15 days this month, AW takes a look at the career of Genzebe Dibaba who is proving even faster than her illustrious sisters

Posted on February 26, 2014 by
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Genzebe Dibaba Birmingham 2014 (Mark Shearman)

A world indoor 1500m record on February 1 followed by more of the same over 3000m on February 6 and a two mile world indoor best nine days later. Genzebe Dibaba has had a remarkable indoor season so far and having just been confirmed for the 3000m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, next month, fans wait with bated breath to see what else the 23-year-old is capable of.

Dibaba first made her mark on the international scene in Edinburgh in 2008. There, in the city’s Holyrood Park, the Ethiopian won the world junior cross-country title in a race that saw Charlotte Purdue finish 53 seconds behind the winner as leading Briton in 16th place.

It was a successful day for Ethiopia, with Genzebe’s older sister, Tirunesh, winning the senior women’s race, while the senior men’s title went to Kenenisa Bekele and the junior men’s victory to Ibrahim Jeilan. Given this, the “Dibaba double” was one of the big stories of the championships and it looked likely that a Dibaba dynasty of distance-running dominance was set to continue.

Certainly, the Dibaba family is amazingly talented. Tirunesh has won three Olympic and five world gold medals on the track, plus five individual world cross country titles – and she is set to make her much-anticipated marathon debut in London in April.

In addition, the eldest sister in the family, Ejegayehu, won Olympic 10,000m silver in Athens in 2004, while their brother Dejene is a promising 800m athlete. If that wasn’t enough, cousin Derartu Tulu is a two-time Olympic 10,000m champion.

Judging by the way the races have unfolded … there looks like there is more to come

Now, Genzebe is proving every bit as prodigious as her world junior cross-country title back in 2008 suggested. This month she has obliterated the world indoor 1500m and 3000m records with phenomenal displays of speed and stamina and followed that up with a 9:00.48 clocking for two miles in Birmingham.

Judging by the way the races have unfolded, together with her extraordinary finishing flourish in the final stages of each effort, there looks like there is more to come, too.

But it has not all been plain-sailing for Dibaba since her world cross junior win in 2008. She retained her world cross junior crown in Jordan in 2009 and went on to win the world junior 5000m title in Canada in 2010, but she has served a tough apprenticeship at senior championships with eighth place in recent world championship outdoor finals at 5000m (2009/2011) and 1500m (2013), while her London Olympic ambitions were ruined by a hamstring injury as she finished only 10th in her heat.

This month’s performances indoors have taken her to a new level, though. First came her 1500m run in Karlsruhe on February 1. There, she broke free from pacemaker Sonja Roman halfway through the race and romped away to a time of 3:55.17 to smash Russian Yelena Soboleva’s eight year-old world indoor record of 3:58.28 by more than three seconds.

The first lap had been reached in 62.39 before the pace slowed as they passed 800m in 2:08.96. After this Dibaba was on her own and picked up the pace considerably, passing 1200m in 3:10.47, before continuing to pile it on during the last 300m. “I felt I was ready for a world record,” Dibaba said in the post-meeting press conference, “but I didn’t think I would run 3:55.”

Indeed, it was the fastest 1500m in the world – indoors or outdoors – since 1997. But she wasn’t finished because on February 6 she took to the track in Stockholm for an attempt on the world indoor 3000m record. She did not disappoint, with a time of 8:16.60 smashing Meseret Defar’s record of 8:23.72 by almost seven seconds. Incredibly, Dibaba covered the final 2000m in 5:27.95 – over two seconds quicker than the world indoor record for that distance. Earlier, she had passed 1000m in 2:48.7 and 2000m in 5:34.25 en route to putting together back- to-back 1500m splits of 4:11.9 and 4:04.7.

In addition, Dibaba’s 3000m record is also an outright African record, beating the 8:23.23 set outdoors by Edith Masai in 2002. It is also the fastest performance indoors or outdoors since 1993, with only three women – Chinese trio Wang Junxia, Qu Yunxia and Zhang Linli – having run quicker.

Then, in Birmingham, with the two mile world indoor best of 9:06.26 in her sights and even the world outdoor best of 8:58.58 looking possible, Dibaba clocked 9:00.48.

At one point, with just 400m to go, Dibaba was 10 seconds up on world record schedule, with mile splits of 4:31.7 and 4:28.8.

Now sights are set on Sopot next month where Dibaba will run the 3000m rather than looking to retain her 1500m title. Another fast time would give further indication that 2014 could be the year that Dibaba junior, for so long in the shadow of her sisters, comes of age.

2 Responses to “The rise and rise of Genzebe Dibaba”

  1. dellu says:

    The Dibaba sisters: they are unbelievable

  2. Phil says:

    in addition to being world class athletes, both Genzebe & Tirunesh are world-class beauties!

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