Meseret Defar Keeps Taking on the Dibabas, by Sabrina Yohannes

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Defar_MeseretFansFL-Carlsbad16.jpgMeseret Defar, photo by PhotoRun.net

One of the finest women distance runners in history, is looking to make some more history herself. While she has two gold medals in the 5000 meters in Olympic Games, she has not won a medal over 10,000 meters.

As part of that journey to Rio, Meseret Defar is going all out on May 13, to run a fast 10,000 meters at the Adi Dassler Stadium at Herzogenaurach, Germany, the headquarters of her sponsor, adidas. Here is a piece, done prior to that race, by Sabrina Yohanes, a long time correspondent for RunBlogRun, who has close ties with the Ethiopian running community. Enjoy the story and watch Meseret race this weekend! Details will be coming on RunBlogRun!

Defar Keeps Taking On The Dibabas

By Sabrina Yohannes

The reigning 5000m champion Meseret Defar's first Olympic gold came in 2004, when she defeated Kenyan Isabella Ochichi and her own Ethiopian teammate Tirunesh Dibaba.

In 2005, Defar took world championships silver behind Dibaba, and ahead of Dibaba's older sister Ejegayehu.

Eleven years later, upon her return from a two-year extended maternity leave, Defar earned 3000m silver at the Portland world indoor championships in March behind the defending champion - the Dibabas' younger sister Genzebe, who had risen to world record-holder status in the interim.

"This is the seventh [indoor] world championships I've participated in, and I've earned four golds, two silvers and one bronze; so it's very good for me that I've been able to remain at this level of competition for many years," Defar told RunBlogRun after her race in Portland, before adding with a smile, "And I've been competing with Tirunesh's family all this time! I'm very proud of myself."

Defar won four consecutive indoor 3000m titles from 2004 to 2010. She was third in 2003 and suffered an upset defeat by Kenyan Hellen Obiri in 2012 before giving birth in 2014.

Portland was the first time Defar faced a Dibaba at the world indoors; but outdoors, Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba have traded Olympic and world titles and the 5000m world record. The pair also dueled fiercely over the IAAF Golden League summer series that preceded the current Diamond League.

"We've had some amazing experiences, especially with Tirunesh," Defar said. "At this time, Genzebe is performing at a very high level. She's in amazing shape. She deserves this result."

Genzebe Dibaba ran world indoor records over 1500m, the mile, 3000m (in 8:16.60) and 5000m in the last three seasons. Having earned indoor titles over 1500m in 2012 and 3000m in 2014, she made her move with over 1800m remaining in the Portland 3000m final, winning in 8:47.43 ahead of Defar's 8:54.26.

"It was all of a sudden that Genzebe shot out and took off," Defar said. "After that, she continued speeding up. I made a lot of effort to catch her and I wasn't able to."

Under the circumstances, Defar was satisfied.

"This is my first world championships since 2013," she said. "My first [track] race was 3000m in Boston where I qualified for this competition. I'm very pleased with my results at this competition. I'm happy to have done this in my first major competition after a long time. Going forward, I can do better."

Her husband and trainer Teodros Hailu agreed.

"The result is good, especially given that it's after two-plus years' absence and it's her second race, and it's tough," he told RunBlogRun that evening. "You have to race repeatedly to get into the rhythm."

Defar won the Boston indoor 3000m in 8:30.83 in February after also winning a Dutch 15K road race in December in 50:04.

"I began competing in 1999, when I ran at the world youth championships," Defar said. "Now after giving birth, to be back to my former shape and to keep making the podium for many years makes me very happy."

The 1999 world youth 3000m silver medalist's focus for the rest of 2016 is the Rio Olympics, where she is considering contesting the 10,000m.

"It's after I've raced over 10,000m that I'll make a decision," said Defar, who ran 29:59.20 in 2009 and 30:08.06 in 2013, and explained the appeal of the longer event in Rio by saying, "I have no Olympic medals in the 10,000m. I'd like to get one medal."

She is due to race over 10,000m in Germany this weekend.

She contested the 10,000 at the 2009 and 2011 worlds, but both times the former world 5000m champion was attempting to medal in both track long distances, and earned just one 5000m medal.

Should Defar run the Rio 10,000m, she will likely face her arch-rival Tirunesh Dibaba, who is herself returning from maternity leave and aiming to defend her London 2012 title in the event. Dibaba previously took 10,000m Olympic gold in Beijing 2008, where she won the 5000m as well.

She defeated Defar over 5000m there, but Defar returned that favor four years later in London. At their last global championships, the 2013 worlds, the two did not face each other and Dibaba won the 10,000m and Defar the 5000.

The 2015 world 1500m champion and 5000m bronze medalist Genzebe Dibaba has also expressed interest in possibly running the Rio 10,000m. She spoke of a possible double with the 5000m, but it remains one of a number of options available to her in the middle and long distances.

If she does contest the longest track event, it could place two Dibabas and a Defar on the start line of a global championships again. Either way, Rio offers the possibility of another installment in a Defar-Dibaba track rivalry in one distance or another.

For now, the three women's outdoor track seasons are about to get underway. Genzebe Dibaba has yet to debut over 10,000m, having been announced in and then scratched from a race in Dubai on April 23. Tirunesh Dibaba is scheduled to compete in the Great Manchester Run 10K road race on May 22.

Defar has already raced outdoors in 2016, winning the Carlsbad 5000 road race in 15:00 in April. "I didn't run a very fast time, but the race was good for me," she said. "It will help me for the Olympics." She won the Californian race in a world best 14:46 in 2006 and in 15:01 ahead of her 2007 track world championships gold.

Her 2016 summer track season is slated to kick off at the May 13-14 inaugural adidas Boost Athletics Meeting's 10,000m in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Meseret's race is scheduled for May 13!

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