World leader Almaz Ayana set to upgrade 2013 Bronze, Challenge Genzebe Dibaba, by Sabrina Yohanes

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Ayana-Dibaba1b-Paris15.JPGAlmaz Ayana and Genzebe Dibaba, July 4, 2015, Meeting AREVA, photo by PhotoRun.net

The 5000 meters for women will be on Sunday night. I believe that it could be a bit of a grudge match between Ayana and Dibaba. After their Paris race, they have not been exactly exchanging pleasantries.

But this is about two Alpha athletes competing.

Enjoy the story by Sabrina Yohanes, and then, watch the race!

World Leader Almaz Ayana Set To Upgrade 2013 Bronze, Challenge Genzebe Dibaba

By Sabrina Yohannes

The fastest woman over 5000m this year, Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, easily won her Beijing world championships qualifying heat in 15:09.40, five seconds ahead of her compatriot Senbere Teferi. In the final, Ayana will tackle her other teammate, the event's heavy favorite Genzebe Dibaba, the new world champion and world record-holder over 1500m.

But Ayana does have a few things in her favor concerning their match-up, in addition to the fact that she has run faster over 5000m this season.

In Paris, Dibaba ran 14:15.41 in a race set up as a world record attempt -- with no less than the world leader and 2013 world medalist Ayana essentially serving as a pacemaker for part of the race.

In Shanghai, Ayana ran 14:14.32 - by accident.

"I didn't know I was so close to the world record," she said at the time, after taking the lead before halfway in the May 17 race and clocking the third fastest time ever. "I started with a pace for 14:20. During the race, I went faster and faster. I was surprised that my body could do that."

In fact, it is the second time Ayana has run a stellar 5000m personal best unintentionally. When in 2013, before medaling at the Moscow world championships, she ran 14:25.84, the second-fastest time of the year behind Tirunesh Dibaba's 14:23.68 world lead, she hadn't targeted that kind of time.

"I had no such goal," Ayana said in an interview later that year. "I just entered the race, and when the others took off, I just followed them. It just so happened that the fast time came about."

At this year's Paris Diamond League meet, Genzebe Dibaba won the head-to-head match with Ayana, but the two women were not running with the same goal in mind.

Ayana was focused on a world record assault with what she understood to be shared pacemaking duties between the two women after the designated rabbits dropped out. At a certain point in the race, Dibaba believed the record to be out of reach and raced to win, sweeping past Ayana at the bell.

"I'm disappointed because the agreement was not kept," Ayana, who did not appear to chase Dibaba in the final lap and finished in 14:21.97, said at the time. "I led more laps than my rival. Especially after 2k, she did only one and a half laps. It was too slow so I pushed."

"I could not follow that fast pace," said Dibaba. "Then it was clear there would be no world record, so I concentrated on my win."

The outcome of that Paris race may not be a reflection of what would happen in a clear-cut contest where both women are chasing the same prize - gold - in Beijing with no pacemakers assigned.

Ayana has had the experience of defeating Dibaba in a championship 5000m, at the 2014 African championships in Marrakesh last August.

Ayana also enters the Sunday July 30 final fresher, having only run one race, the 5000m qualifier, this week, while Dibaba has raced four times, thrice over 1500m.

DIBABA'S SPEED AND EASE OF VICTORY

However, working against Ayana is the speed Dibaba possesses and displayed in her July 17 Monaco 3:50.07 world record for 1500m, and her fast 800m at the end of the Beijing 1500m final and in training.

Dibaba dominated her Beijing races with ease, whether she was running away from her opponents with two laps to go or kicking past them on the final home straight.

"I was very confident in the last 400m," said Dibaba after the Beijing 1500m final.

Ayana's best chance to fight for gold may be maintaining a high pace throughout, but she risks a Paris deja-vu.

She also kept up the pace in Moscow 2013 and took bronze behind champion Meseret Defar and silver medalist Mercy Cherono, although Ayana was pleased with her podium finish in her first championships outing.

THE RACE IS ETHIOPIA'S TO LOSE

Dibaba's and Ayana's resumes coming into the 2015 final set up a high-powered clash, with Ethiopia the beneficiary in either outcome -- as long as the women avoid a repeat of Berlin 2009, and hold off all other challengers as well.

At the 2009 world championships, Ethiopians Meselech Melkamu and Meseret Defar had run the fastest 10,000m times of the year, and in the Berlin final, they battled one another over the final lap and down the homestretch - at which point Kenyan Linet Masai shot past to take gold virtually unnoticed.

Masai's compatriot Cherono is in the world championships 5000m final in Beijing.

However, both Ethiopians in the Berlin 10,000 were relative novices to the event at the time, particularly Defar. In Beijing 2015, both Dibaba and Ayana have more experience in the 5000m.

"My main goal is to get two gold medals," Dibaba said. "Mercy Cherono and Almaz Ayana are strong challengers. We've been running together many times. Winning the 1500m gold medal gave me confidence, but you never know what is going to happen in the final."

The gun goes off 7:15pm Beijing time Sunday night in the 5000m, and by race end, one of Defar's compatriots is likely to keep her title in Ethiopian hands.

Dibaba's 1500m title is the only Ethiopian gold at these championships so far, and she is poised to complete the golden double she came to China to pursue. Should she slip up or should the fatigue of her prolific schedule get to her, Ayana will be looking to make her appearance on the gold medalists' roster.

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