Tirunesh Dibaba defends Olympic 10,000m title
Aug 3, 2012 LONDON (Reuters) – Ethiopian’s Tirunesh Dibaba produced a devastating final lap to win the women’s 10,000 metres gold on Friday as athletics, accompanied by 80,000 screaming fans and an amazing atmosphere, belatedly joined the Olympic party.
Dibaba has barely run since winning the 5,000 and 10,000 double in Beijing but was roared home by the remarkable crowd, who, despite seeing home hope Jo Pavey down the field, recognised a special performance when they saw it.
Earlier, Poland’s Tomasz Majewski claimed the first athletics medal of the Games when he became the first man to win back to back shot put golds since 1956 and Britain’s Jessica Ennis led the heptathlon after the first four events.
While athletics and Olympic officials were rightly delighted with the remarkable sold-out crowd who created a wonderful atmosphere in the morning and evening sessions, more doping withdrawals nibbled away at the feel-good factor.
Belarusian Ivan Tsikhan, three-times world champion, was withdrawn from the hammer qualifying competition following reports of a positive “retest” on a sample he gave at the 2004 Olympics, when he won the silver medal.
Another absentee was Moroccan Amine Laalou, who was due to run in the 1,500m on Friday but was suspended following a positive drugs test three weeks ago. Compatriot Mariem Alaoui Selsouli, favourite for the women’s 1,500m, was also banned after failing a drugs test last month.
The fans were unaware of those events, however, and focused their noisy attention on the action unfolding in a stadium which, for all the debate over its legacy, is a wonderful showcase for athletics.
They were treated to an extraordinary display of distance running by Dibaba, whose showdown with Kenyan world champion Vivian Cheruiyot had been billed as one of the must-see races.
With two laps to go the pair were shoulder to shoulder, with a compatriot each to keep them company, but at the bell Dibaba tore clear and opened a 30-metre lead before she was halfway down the back straight.
She maintained that gap with a 62-second final lap and Sally Kipyego got up for silver ahead of deflated compatriot Cheruiyot.
Dibaba is now likely to race in the 5,000m next Friday in a bid to claim a remarkable double-double.
At the other end of the scale, there were some scorching sprint times on what is already looking like a super-fast Mondo track, raising hopes that Usain Bolt’s 9.58 100 metres world record could be under threat in Sunday’s final.
The women got their 100m campaign underway and American world champion Carmelita Jeter, desperate for success after failing to qualify for the Beijing Games, cruised home in 10.83seconds, super-fast for a heat and the quickest time ever run by a woman in the United Kingdom.
Defending champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica qualified comfortably in 11.00 seconds, as did her compatriot Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.94) and Americans Tianna Madison (10.97) and Allyson Felix (11.01).
Majewski led Germany’s world champion David Storl by one centimetre before stamping his authority on the competition with a season’s best final throw of 21.89. Storl took silver with 21.86 and Reese Hoffa of the United States got the bronze with 21.23.
There could be gold for the host nation on Sunday from Ennis, who kicked off the day’s action by running the fastest heptathlon 100 metres hurdles of all time to justify her place as the poster girl of the Games.
Her time of 12.54 seconds matched that of Dawn Harper to win 100 metres hurdles gold at the Beijing Olympics, and set off a remarkable wave of noise described by many observers as unprecedented for heat sessions.
“It was wonderful to see a totally packed stadium for the first session of athletics,” said Lamine Diack, president of the International Association of Athletics Associations (IAAF).
“I do not remember the last time this happened and it shows the great affection Britain has for our sport… the athletes will definitely be inspired by crowds like this.”
Angelo Taylor certainly was as he progressed smoothly his bid to win a third 400m hurdles title
“It’s crazy. I’ve been to three Olympics and I never seen anything like that,” the American said.
Ennis, one of the home nation’s strongest hope for an athletics gold, ended the day in first place on 4,158 points after the hurdles, high jump, shot and 200 metres.
Carried home by a deafening roar, Ennis clocked a personal best 22.83 seconds for the 200 and, assuming she does not have a disaster her weakest event the javelin, she should be on course for gold on Sunday.
“It was an absolutely amazing day to perform like that with two personal bests,” said Ennis. “It was a brilliant start.”
Lithuania’s Austra Skujyte, silver medallist at the 2004 Olympics and who boasts a degree in kinesiology, was lying second, a hefty 184 points behind, on the back of a monster 17.21 shot – also an all-time heptathlon record. Canada’s Jessica Zelinka was third on 3,903.
The competition concludes on Saturday with the long jump, javelin and 800 metres.
Saturday also provides the first glimpse of Bolt and his all-star supporting cast as they run the first round of qualifying for the 100 metres ahead of Sunday night’s eagerly-awaited final.
|2||2336||KIPYEGO Sally Jepkosgei||30:26.37||PB|
|3||2327||CHERUIYOT Vivian Jepkemoi||30:30.44||PB|