Masai upsets Ethiopia’s Dibaba in New York race


Published on 01/06/2009

By Mutwiri Mutuota and IAAF

World Cross silver medallist and prodigious talent, Linet Masai, served notice she could be a serious contender at multiple distances after upsetting world record holder, Tirunesh Dibaba, at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York.

Masai, the world junior record holder over 10,000m breezed 14:35.39 to scorch the Ethiopian double Olympics champion in the women’s 5,000m race.

Dibaba clocked 14:40.93 with both women fighting swirling winds at the same track where another Ethiopian, Meseret Defar set a then world record of 14:24.3 three years ago. At the Beijing Olympics, Masai finished fourth in the 10,000m race won by Dibaba who later added the 5,000m title. The Ethiopian clearly intended to chase a fast early-season mark, demanding a pace the designated pacemaker could only maintain for about 1,800m.

After that it was Dibaba, Masai, Dibaba’s younger sister Gezenbe, and Kim Smith of New Zealand. Smith was the first off the back, beginning to fall back after 2,000m, and with six laps remaining Dibaba waved Masai to the front to share the pacesetting labour.

Masai delivered more than was expected of her, not only maintaining the pressure, but after three laps building a small gap on Dibaba. With two laps remaining it was clear that Masai was going to be hard even for Dibaba to catch, and indeed her lead continued to grow until the finish line.

“I’m so excited,” Masai told IAAF afterward. “I was not expecting that fast a time, 14:45 maybe. I was expecting (Dibaba) to pass me in the last lap, even when I saw the lead I had. I was surprised when she never showed up.”

Another victory for Kenya at the same meeting was delivered by world 10k record holder Micah Kogo, who humbled double world champion, Bernard Lagat, in the men’s 5,000m race.

Lagat, whose hopes of a sub-13:00 race were undermined by the gusty conditions, found himself kicking with Kogo in the final lap and the world record holder got the nod, winning in 13:02.90 to Lagat’s 13:03.06.

“I thought I would get beaten out in the sprint,” Kogo told IAAF adding. “I know he’s a 1,500m man and he can run faster than me. But I saw in the last 200m that he could not go.

“It was difficult because of the wind on the back side. I was hoping to tuck in, but I wasn’t able to.”

In the men’s 800m, Olympic semi-finalist and US-based student, Boaz Lalang, ran 1:46.48 for third where American Khadevis Robinson clocked 1:46.00 for victory.

In the women’s 1,500m event, world championships silver medallist, Vivian Cheruiyot, was relegated to fifth (4:08.54) a place behind compatriot Sally Kipyego who breasted the tape in 4:07.92.

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