If Kenenisa Bekele is the poster boy of distance running inEthiopia, then his fellow countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba can rightly be considered the poster girl. Like her male counterpart, Dibaba blew the opposition away inBeijingfour years ago, doubling up to take gold in both the 5000m and 10,000m.
In doing so she became the first woman to land both events at the same games, repeating her World Championships victories of three years earlier. She also became only the second woman ever to dip below 30 minutes in the 10,000m, posting a staggering time and Games record into the bargain of 29:54.66.
Now she is set to light up London as she bids to double up and retain both crowns on the night of 3rd August-the 10,000m at beginning of the evening, and later on the 5000m. It is a gruelling task, but she’s done it before so will know what to do as regards pacing herself.
The two events have not been part of the Olympic Games schedule for women for that long-the 10,000m was introduced in 1988, while the 5000m was added eight years later, but since then Ethiopia have quite simply cleaned up in both divisions, with a combined total of five gold, two silver and five bronze medals.
Dibaba will start favourite for both races, if as expected she lines up in the finals, and if she does take both and therefore bring her medal tally to four, that will be one more than Derartu Tulu, the first Ethiopian woman to win a medal at the Games when taking the 10,000m gold at Barcelona in 1992. She doubled up in that event eight years later inSydney, running the final lap in an amazing 60.3 seconds, and completed her medal haul with bronze inAthensin 2004.
Dibaba is still young enough at the age of 26 to re-write the record books, and although the Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyat will be a formidable rival, you would not bet too much against that clutch of medals nestling in her suitcase on the flight back toAfrica.