OSAKA — It’s better to have a strong finish than a strong start, a wise man once said. This was true Saturday night in the final of the women’s 5,000-meter race at the 2007 IAAF World Athletics Championships.
Meseret Defar’s time over the final 1,000 meters — 2 minutes, 44.86 seconds — was quicker than any of the leaders’ times after each of the previous 4 km.
The Ethiopian won the race in 14:57.91. She set the world record of 14:16.63 in Oslo on June 15.
Defer beamed with pride after the race at Nagai Stadium.
“I ran for my country and I wanted the gold medal,” Defar said, “and today, I was 100 percent sure I would win.”
I had only one goal today at my third world championships. I achieved the world record this year and I wanted the gold medal. Finally, I’m the world champion.”
Defar did it with, well, an incredibly fast finish. Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot couldn’t keep up with Defar over the final lap and took second in 14:58.50, and compatriot Priscah Jepleting Cherono was third in 14:59.21.
“I am so excited about my silver medal,” Cheruiyot said. “These are my first world championships in track and I have the silver medal. I was expecting to be second because Meseret is so strong, especially on the last lap.
“The race started very slow, but with only five laps to go, I started to push. On the last 400 meters, I was trying my best to catch up with Meseret but I did not succeed.
Said Cherono: “With 100 meters to go, I was blocked, so I had to push really hard to make my way to the bronze. We didn’t hope for such a good result for Kenya. This medal gives me good confidence for the future.”
A third Kenyan, Sylvia Jebiwott Kibet, was fourth with a personal-best time of 14:49.26. Former world record-holder Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey rounded out the top five in 15:00.88.
Kayoko Fukushi, the early leader, faded to 14th in the waning moments of the race. Fukushi’s time was 15:19.40. She ran her quickest 5,000 on July 8, 2005, in Rome (14:53.22) and a season-best time of 15:05.73 in the same Italian city on July 13. She was 10th in the 10,000 last Saturday.
With sweat dripping down her face, Fukushi received enthusiastic applause from the crowd after the race. She acknowledged the fans with a smile and waved graciously.
Fukushi, 25, completed the first 1,000 meters in 2:59.22 and was in front after 2,000 meters in 6:04.69, including 3:05.47 for the second km.
Cheruiyot led after 3,000 and was clocked in 9:11.99, with a 3:07.30 pace for the third km. She quickened the pace to 3:01.06 for the next 1,000 meters.
Then Defar took control, churning out the final 2 1/2 laps in a quicker gear than the others.
“My tactics (were) to wait until the last two laps and then start my finish,” Defar told reporters. “In the last lap, I controlled the situation in the first 200 meters and then started to kick.
“Today the weather was excellent and I felt a lot better than in the heats.”
Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, who won the 10,000 on Aug. 25, decided not to compete in the 5,000 due to stomach cramps. This ended her chance to become the first woman to attempt to repeat a 5,000-10,000 double. She accomplished the feat in Helsinki at the 2005 World Championships.
“Tirunesh Dibaba is a very strong athlete and a very good competitor for me. I am sorry she is sick and she is not here,” Defar said. “But she is the 10,000-meter champion and I am the 5,000-meter champion, so that is good.”
A super finish made this possible.
Pressure off Lagat
OSAKA (AP) Life has become a whole lot less stressful for Bernard Lagat since winning the 1,500-meter title.
The American distance runner slept late Friday, had a big lunch, played with his 19-month old son, Miika, and arrived at his scheduled press conference 30 minutes late.
A big burden was lifted when Lagat, 32, got the first world crown of his career.
“It elevated my spirits, my mood, everything,” said Lagat, who also became the first U.S. runner to win the title at the distance. “This is really fun.”
Now, he’s trying to double the fun as he goes for a gold in the 5,000 meters. The finals are on Sunday.