Genzebe Dibaba’s two gold medals in Birmingham took her tally of titles at the WIC to 5 and elevated her into rarefied territory.
Only Maria Mutola now has more individual WIC gold medals than Dibaba, Mozambique’s 800 great winning 7 times over 4 laps of the track 1993–06.
With Mutola having her last 800 victory at the age of 33—although she went on to take the bronze at the ’08 WIC in Valencia—and Dibaba having only turned 27 in February, time would appear on the slender Ethiopian’s side in her quest to set a new gold standard at this meet.
Certainly, she can now claim to be the dominant indoor runner of her generation and, unlike her well-known older sisters Tirunesh and Ejegayehu who rarely ran indoors, she seems to relish the cut-and-thrust of racing under cover.
In Birmingham, she was helped by a sympathetic timetable.
With the championships expanded into a 4-day affair, like the Portland schedule from 2 years ago, the 3000 was the only track final on the opening night and that suited Dibaba just fine.
With just under 5 laps remaining, after Konstanze Klosterhalfen had passed through the 2000 in 6:07.62, Dibaba hit the front followed closely by the young German, Kenya’s World 5000 champ Hellen Obiri and home medal hope Laura Muir.
Dibaba then started to turn the screw over the next 600 and had a 4m lead with 2 laps to go over Holland’s Sifan Hassan, who had moved steadily through the field and up to 2nd halfway through the preceding lap, while Muir had moved past Obiri into 3rd.
Hassan and Muir closed on Dibaba at the start of the final lap, but she just gritted her teeth and found another gear, covering the last kilo in 2:37.43 and last lap in 30.44, and won in 8:45.05 for her third consecutive gold in the event.
“It was a tactical race, but I controlled all the competitors,” she said. “With 1000 left, they all pushed very hard and at that moment I had to go and win the race. I’m surprised because I wasn’t good in 2017 but 2018 is my time.”
Next up was the 1500 and Dibaba breezed through her heat on the second day of the meet in 4:06.25—which as it turned out would have been fast enough for 3rd in the final—before lining up on Saturday night against Hassan and Muir once more.
Once again, she chose 5-laps-to-go to attack and once again it proved to be decisive as she unleashed a scintillating last 1000, steadily winding up the pace lap-by-lap and finishing with a 29.53 final circuit before crossing the line in 4:05.27 to regain the title she had also won in ’12.
For the record, Dibaba covered the last 5 laps in an unofficial 2:31.1. By comparison, Mutola’s 1000 WR is 2:30.94!
Hassan and Muir challenged hard and were still on Dibaba’s shoulder until the last 150 but, and again in similar fashion to the longer race two nights earlier, could not match the Ethiopian when she went into overdrive.
Muir edged past the flagging Dutch runner halfway into the last lap to reverse the positions of the minor medals from the 3000 and take silver in 4:06.23.
The 1500 victory took Dibaba’s indoor win-streak over all distances to 23: she last lost an undercover race in ’12.
However, the plaudits for Dibaba and her WIC success story have to be tempered by acknowledging there is still a cloud hanging over her.
In the Olympic year Spanish police found EPO in a hotel room at a training camp run by her coach Jama Aden. Dibaba was among the athletes present at the camp.
Aden and Dibaba have both denied they committed any doping violations but there is an outstanding warrant for Aden in Ethiopia and he is banned from attending IAAF meets until the investigations are complete.
Her manager, Juan Pineda, confirmed to various media in Birmingham that she is still being coached by Aden—a statement the Ethiopian federation subsequently disputed—and it was noticeable that Dibaba was virtually shunned by Hassan and Muir at both the medal ceremonies.