Berlin Diary 09, Day 1, Women's 10,000m final-Kenya Dig it? Kenya Gets first 10k gold medal, by Larry Eder

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The women's 10,000 meters has a history of fast finishes. Normally, a few Ethiopians, a few Kenyans are swooping over the last 200 meters as Tirunesh Dibaba or Meseret Defar fly by to victory. This year, Tirunesh Dibaba, Meseret Defar and Meselech Melkamu all had amazing times. The race outcome looked pretty well figured out, except no one told Linet Masai.

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The final stretch, women's 10,000 meters, August 15, 2009, photo by PhotoRun.net.

First Tirunesh Dibaba withdrew on Thursday night, with an injury that she sustained. After that, all hell broke loose!

The pace for the 10,000 meters went out fairly pedestrain-hitting the 1,600 meters just a bit under 4:56. Mariya Konovalova and Kseniya Aganofova of Russia took the lead, and kept the lead through 3, 200 meters (10:02) and three miles, or 2,800
meters, in 15:07.85.

Following Konovalova and Aganofova were Yurika Nakamura of Japan, Kim Smith of New Zealand, Amy Yoder Begley and Shalane Flanagan of the US, and the Ethiopian trio of Meseret Defar, Meselech Melkamu and Wude Ayalew. Shadowing the Ethiopians were Linet Masai and Grace Momanyi. In that pack was Turkey's Elvan Abeylegesse, always a threat for a medal.

The 5,000 meters was hit in 15:45, and then, the pace began to pick up. Running the last 5,000 meters in 15:05, race really got going at 21:24, when Linet Masai went to the fore. Just after that, Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey walked off the track.

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Masai leads, the race really begins...photo by PhotoRun.net.

Linet Masai is a joy to watch run. Tall, statuesque, with a huge, grounding eating stride, Masia looks effortless running fast. After her, Defar, Melkamu, Ayalew and Momanyi were the first pack. Twenty meters back were Kim Smith, Amy Yoder Begley, Shalane Flanagan, Konavalova and Nakamura, and Portugals Ines Monteiro.

The lead pack hit the 8,000 meter mark at 25:00.4. The next four laps took just over 4:44-about 71 seconds per lap. Masai, Defar, Melkamu, Ayalew and Momanyi looked tough. With two laps to go, Ayalew and Melkamu were on Defars shoulder as Defar looked imperiously over at Masai. Momanyi was just a foot step behind.

The last lap was run in just over 62 seconds, but that does not tell the story. Defar began to wind up with 300 meters to go, with Masai behind her, then Melkamu, Ayalew and Momanyi.

Meseret Defar looked like the winner with 200 meters to go. I remember thinking, there still is not much room, normally, there is ten meters quick when Defar kicks. And that was her undoing.

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The final stretch: Masai, Defar, Melkamu, Momanyi, final stretch photo by PhotoRun.net.

Coming back from the dead, Linet Masai came off the last turn like a women possessed, with Kenya's Grace Momanyi just kicking one step behind her. Masai was charging hard, and her long stride, and arms just ate up the track, cutting the distance between Defar, Melkamu and Ayelew.

Meselech Melkamu had been kicking off the final turn and was just behind Defar, with about forty meters to go, the race changed completely. As Melkamu challenged Defar, Defar's legs buckled, and she went from first to fifth! Melkamu thought she had the race won, and did not notice Linet Masai charging down the track, and taking first! And this was after a near collission between Masai and Momanyi, which stopped Momanyi from a free run to the finish!

In the end, Linet Chepkwemoi Masai of Kenya won the first gold medal for Kenya in the women's 10,000 meters since 1997 (remember Sally "Elbows" Barsosio?), with a time of 30:51.24, her seasonal best. Meselech Melkamu of Ethiopia took the silver in 30:51.34 and Wude Ayelew of Ethiopia took the bronze in 30:51.94. Grace Momanyi of Kenya took fourth in a personal best of 30:52.94 and Meseret Defar took fifth in 30:52.37.

In sixth, continuing to improve and running a gutty race, Amy Yoder Begley ran a fine 31:13.78-her personal best. In seventh, in a personal best was Yurika Nakamura in 31:14.39. Kim Smith, in eighth, ran 31;21.42, her seasonal best. In ninth, Kayoko Fukishi, of Japan ran 31:23.49, her seasonal best and Ines Monteiro of Portugal took tenth in a personal best of 31:25.67. Shalane Flanagan of the U.S. was 14th in 31:32.19 and Katie McGregor was 32:18.49 in seventeenth.

In the end, the race lived up to more than it's hype. It was not a record fast race, but it was a record-exciting race! The competition won out, and Linet Masai showed her amazing drive, and grace with a come from behind, final push over the last fifty meters. Kenya now has its' first gold medal for women over 10,000 meters since 1997 at a world champs. (Note that Kenya's women have not won an Olympic 10k title)!

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Linet Masai, gold medalist, women's 10,000 meters, August 15, 2009, photo by PhotoRun.net.

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12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics
Berlin (GER) - Saturday, Aug 15, 2009
10,000 Metres - W Final

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15 August 2009 - 19:25
Position Bib Athlete Country Mark .
1 599 Linet Chepkwemoi Masai KEN 30:51.24 (SB)
2 335 Meselech Melkamu ETH 30:51.34 .
3 323 Wude Ayalew ETH 30:51.95 .
4 600 Grace Kwamboka Momanyi KEN 30:52.25 (PB)
5 327 Meseret Defar ETH 30:52.37 .
6 1042 Amy Yoder Begley USA 31:13.78 (PB)
7 571 Yurika Nakamura JPN 31:14.39 (PB)
8 697 Kimberley Smith NZL 31:21.42 (SB)
9 554 Kayoko Fukushi JPN 31:23.49 (SB)
10 739 Inês Monteiro POR 31:25.67 (PB)
11 805 Mariya Konovalova RUS 31:26.94 .
12 594 Florence Jebet Kiplagat KEN 31:30.85 .
13 736 Ana Dulce Félix POR 31:30.90 (PB)
14 987 Shalane Flanagan USA 31:32.19 .
15 775 Kseniya Agafonova RUS 31:43.14 .
16 734 Ana Dias POR 31:49.91 .
17 1010 Katie McGregor USA 32:18.49 .
18 232 Yingying Zhang CHN 32:33.63 (SB)
19 826 Liliya Shobukhova RUS 32:42.36 .
20 574 Yukari Sahaku JPN 33:41.17 .
. 921 Elvan Abeylegesse TUR DNF .
. 862 Olivera Jevtic SRB DNS .

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