With 500 meters remaining in the women’s 10,000 meters on Friday night in London, Tirunesh Dibaba reminded everyone of how she got her nickname.
Running serenely on the shoulder of Sally Kipyego, the “Baby-Faced Destroyer” finally decided it was time to take charge, and the race was as good as over the moment the thought entered her head. Storming past Kipyego, the Ethiopian blew away the field by 50 meters to win in 30:20.75, thus becoming the first woman to repeat as the 10,000-meter Olympic Champion.
Winning silver was Kipyego, of Kenya, in 30:26.37, with bronze going to Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya in 30:30.44.
“I have never been happier like today,” said Dibaba, 27, who did not race on the track from August 2010 until February 2012 while she fought severe shin splints. “It’s very special. I have worked hard for this. “
Cheruiyot, the 2011 IAAF World Champion at both 5000 meters and 10,000 meters, and Kipyego, the 2011 world silver medalist, both recorded personal bests.
So did the U.S. trio of Amy Hastings, who finished 11th in 31:10.69; Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, 12th in 31:12.68; and Lisa Uhl, 13th in 31:12.80.
It was another Ethiopian, Werknesh Kidane, who helped pave the way to Dibaba’s victory. After taking the lead about halfway through the race, Kidane—the most-decorated female World Cross Country athlete in history—broke the race open with a 68.91-second lap on the 18th lap of the 25-lap race, reducing the medal contenders to four. Kipyego bravely took the lead a few laps later, and a few laps after that Dibaba positioned herself right on Kipyego’s shoulder, preparing to pounce.
“It was a painful race, so I’m very happy to get the medal,” said Kipyego, who trains with the OTC Elite in Eugene, OR.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg