Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Millennial Opportunities: Ethiopian women empowering themselves in the Sports field

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3. Ethiopia's 'Duelling Ds' chase double honours

August 22 2007
Osaka - When Olympic laureate Meseret Defar and double title-holder and team-mate Tirunesh Dibaba run over 5 000 metres at the world championships, they will duel for more than just another piece of gold.

"I expect big things in Osaka," 23-year-old Defar, one of Ethiopia's "Dueling Ds", said at the start of the season.

She has since smashed the 3 000m indoor record in Stuttgart, set the two-mile world best in Carson, California, and lowered her own 5 000m outdoor mark in Oslo in the run-up to the world championships opening here this week.

"I think today was a very, very good day for me. But I'll still try to go even faster," Defar said when she set the new 5 000m record of 14min 16.63sec at the June 15 Bislett Games in Oslo, the opener of the IAAF Golden League series.

'I'll still try to go even faster'
The time was nearly eight seconds faster than the old mark she set in New York a year earlier.

But her dimunitive arch-rival Dibaba, 22, who won both the 5 000 and 10 000m world titles two years ago in Helsinki, has also targeted Defar's record. Dibaba also won the 5 000m gold in 2003.

Known for her powerful sprint finish, she said ahead of this year's New York Grand Prix in June that her eagerness to break Defar's mark had "motivated me in a way".

"This year I'm going to see if I can do it," she added.

Dibaba, who set the world indoor record of 14min 27.42sec over 5 000m in Boston in January, also said it was her "ultimate goal of the season" to retain the world crowns.

'This year I'm going to see if I can do it'
Defar, an Addis Ababa native who burst on to the athletics scene in 2002 with a 3 000-5 000m double at the world junior championships, also holds the world best time for the five-kilometre road race.

The intense rivals have not raced against each other since last September after Dibaba edged Defar 4-3 in their head-to-head clashes in 2006.

In their career head-to-head record, Defar has won 13 races against nine for Dibaba, who made her full international debut at the 2001 world championships where she finished fifth in the 5 000m at the age of 15.

Upholding Ethiopia's tradition of great distance running in fierce competition with Kenya, the two have set alight the world of track and field with their neck-and-neck duels.

At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Defar beat Isabella Ochichi of Kenya and Dibaba into second and third spots. Dibaba, then 19, was still the youngest ever Olympic medalist for Ethiopia.

In 2005, Dibaba beat Defar in the 5 000m and became the first ever woman to win both the 5 000m and 10 000m in the same world championships.

At the next-to-last Golden League series in Berlin last year, Dibaba lost to Defar in the 5 000m.

But at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart last September, the two rivals split the honours with Dibaba beating Defar in the 3 000m a day before they swapped the top two spots over 5 000m

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