Rudisha, Dibaba share spotlight

Athletics World Championships: Determined Kenyan wins 800M gold; Ethiopian grabs women's 1500M title
Last Updated 25 August 2015, 19:07 IST

Joy and relief splashed over their faces, Genzebe Dibaba and David Rudisha lapped up the attention at the Bird’s Nest on Tuesday. They both had points to prove and prove they did in convincing manner on the fourth night of the 15th World Championships in athletics.

Genzebe had been the irresistible force in indoor competitions but a subdued performer outdoors, where she was eyeing her first gold medal. Rudisha, the Olympic champion and world record holder in the 800M, had been set back by injuries, casting doubts on his ability to dominate again.

The fears and worries were blown to bits as the duo struck with power and poise on Tuesday, running tactically sound finals to emerge champions. The timings weren’t great – Dibaba claiming the 1500M gold in 4:08.09, the slowest ever winning time at the Worlds, and Rudisha in 1:45.84, a far cry from his world mark. But that didn’t diminish their feats one bit.

For long, Dibaba has been a synonym for endurance and speed on the world stage, with Ethiopian Tirunesh dominating the long distance races. Genzebe, her sister, has had a tough time but her breakthrough moment came in Monaco this year when she smashed the world record to smithereens with a fantastic 3:50.07.

That there was no chance of such a mark on this night was obvious quite early after the runners went through a painfully slow opening lap. Genzebe stayed at the back and began to slowly work her way up with 800 metres left. Effortlessly, she gained control over the pack, leaving American Jenny Simpson and Sweden’s defending champion Abeba Aregawi behind.

As she progressed smoothly into the final lap, Kenyan Faith Kipyegon attempted to stay close, followed by Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands. The lengthening strides of Dibaba carried too much speed for Kipyegon, who was then forced to battle it out with Hassan for the silver. Dibaba cruised home, celebrating from 15 metres out itself. This win, certainly, was sweet.

“My sister won the 2008 Olympic gold here (in 10000M) and I wanted to share that family experience,” said Genzebe. “I told myself, you are the world record holder, you have to win this one. I had trained so hard for this. I knew everyone in the race and was confident of my last 400.”

Rudisha’s main rival, Nijel Amos, had crashed out in the semifinals but he had to be wary of the season’s leader Amel Tuka of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Hitting the front as is his wont, Rudisha controlled the pace superbly, reaching the 400M in 54.15. Tuka was back in eighth place while Rudisha’s fellow Kenyan Ferguson Rotich was at the senior runner’s shoulder. When the crunch came, the Olympic champion smoothly shifted gears and raced to a commanding win. Poland’s Adam Kszczot took silver ahead of Tuka.

“This win means a lot to me after the disappointments of this year,” said Rudisha. “I worked hard to regain my speed and once I found it, I knew whatever the pace today, I would win.”

Another Kenyan provided the element of surprise in the 400M hurdles. Nicholas Bett’s late charge dumbfounded his rivals as he claimed his country’s first ever gold medal in this event, timing a personal best of 47.79 seconds.

Briton Greg Rutherford was a big winner in men’s long jump. The Olympic champion, who had stirred a controversy over the Team GB vest that didn’t have the Union Jack emblem, had two valid jumps and either of them would have been good enough for the gold – an 8.29 in the second round and an 8.41 in the fourth. He then celebrated with a vest with the Union Jack design, taking a dig at his critics.

Meanwhile, Usain Bolt returned to the arena to cruise through to the semifinals of the 200M, along with his American rival Justin Gatlin. Bolt, who jogged the final 50M of his heat to time 20.28, said he was feeling tired. “I just wanted to spend as little energy as possible,” he said. Gatlin recorded 20.19 to progress.

Results: Men: 800M: David Rudisha (Kenya) 1:45.84, 1; Adam Kszczot (Poland) 1:46.08, 2; Amel Tuka (Bosnia & Herzegovina) 1:46.30, 3.

400M hurdles: Nicholas Bett (Kenya) 47.79 seconds, 1; Denis Kudryatsev (Russia) 48.05, 2; Jeffrey Gibson (Bahamas) 48.17, 3.

Long jump: Greg Rutherford (Great Britain) 8.41 metres, 1; Fabrice Lapierre (Australia) 8.24, 2; Wang Jianan (China) 8.18, 3.

Women: 1500M: Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia) 4:08.09, 1; Faith Kipyegon (Kenya) 4:08.96, 2; Sifan Hassan (Netherlands) 4:09.34.

Discus throw: Denia Caballero (Cuba) 69.28 metres, 1; Sandra Perkovic (Croatia) 67.39, 2; Nadine Muller (Germany) 65.53, 3.

(Published 25 August 2015, 19:07 IST)

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