American Shalane Flanagan was eighth.
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MOSCOW — During the women’s 10,000m at the 14th IAAF World Championships on Saturday night, thick storm clouds gathered over Luzhniki Stadium, and the temperature dipped. A storm was coming, and before the rain would fall on the men’s 100m final a few minutes later, Tirunesh Dibaba unleashed her own burst of lightning, sprinting away from the field and winning her third world 10,000m title and her first since 2007.
Her time of 30:43.37 was solid, but it was the sheer speed of her final two laps which impressed most. Running second in a single line of five women led by Japan’s Hitomi Niiya, Dibaba did not take the lead until there were 500 meters remaining in the race. When she pulled ahead, Niiya immediately fell back, leaving her Ethiopian teammate Belaynesh Oljira and Kenya’s Gladys Cherono to give chase.
“That is what I planned,” Dibaba told reporters later through a translator.
Dibaba, who also has two world 5000m titles, left nothing to chance. She went full throttle at the bell, circling the blue Mondo track in a blistering 59.98 seconds. None of the women in the field could match that kind of speed.
“For this race I had trained very well, because the last two championships we had missed out on the gold,” Dibaba declared. “Because of that, both as a team and individually, we trained very hard for this.”
Behind Dibaba, Cherono ran nearly as well, taking the silver medal in 30:45.17.
“I’m happy for what I achieved today,” said Cherono, who wears her hair in intricate braids which were pulled together into a thick ponytail. “I was not expecting to be in the bracket of a medal.”
Oljira, this year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships bronze medalist who had run in the lead group for the entire race, nearly lost the bronze to a hard-charging Emily Chebet, the reigning and two-time world cross country champion. She was just able to hold off the Kenyan in the final meters, locking in the bronze in 30:46.98 to Chebet’s 30:47.02. Niiya, who led the race from 3600 to 9500 meters, was rewarded with a personal best of 30:56.70 in fifth place.
Many fans had hoped that Dibaba would race against Meseret Defar in the 5000m here, but she had only entered the 10,000m. A reporter pressed her on why this was, and she responded that it had nothing to do with fearing her longtime rival, but was rather a decision by the Ethiopian federation to allow younger athletes to have a chance at competing in a world championships.
“The federation didn’t force me,” she began. “The federation asked us to just run one race each, and that’s why I left that race. Both of us have run many times, and they told us that they wanted upcoming athletes to have a chance, and we agreed with that.”
American Shalane Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000m, led the race from the gun until Niiya took over the lead, setting up a fast pace. Although she finished a creditable 8th in 31:34.83, she was clearly disappointed.
“I’ll be honest, after Nationals I just haven’t felt like clicking like I was, prior,” Flanagan explained. “I think I just had kind of a long year with my training. It wasn’t how I wanted it to go; I wanted to be in the mix.”
The men’s 800m semifinals went according to form, but with a twist. The medal favorites –America’s Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds, Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman, and Djibuti’s Ayanleh Souleiman– all advanced, but the third American Brandon Johnson did not, despite running 1:44.89. That time would have made final in every previous edition of these championships.
“I’m upset, I’m hurt,” said a distraught Johnson. He continued: “I feel that all year I ran so good. It’s kind of heartbreaking.”
Solomon, the USA champion, controlled the first heat from gun to tape, clocking the fastest time of the evening: 1:43.87. He was completely composed speaking with the media, like a teacher answering questions posted by his students.
“It felt really good,” said Solomon. “I felt a little better than yesterday. I just have to get my legs moving again, and today everything was loose.” He added: “We raced the plan that my coach gave me.”
Aman won the second heat in 1:44.71, and France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse came a close second in 1:44.75. Souleiman won the third heat in 1:44.99, with Symmonds right on his heels (1:45.00).
“I’m just so ecstatic the way it’s shaping up,” said Symmonds of the upcoming final. “You know, today I felt really smooth going through the gears there. There were times, especially in the first lap, where I said, ‘let’s get going. C’mon, we’re wasting this opportunity.’ I feel like I’m ready to run 1:43, maybe dip under 1:43 if need be. That’s what we’re going to find out on Tuesday.”