Born into athletics royalty in Ethiopia, middle distance runner Genzebe Dibaba is poised to win more glory for her illustrious family at the world championships in Beijing after years of indoor supremacy.
The younger sister of three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba and Ejegayehu Dibaba, who won the 10,000m silver at the 2004 Athens Games, Genzebe stormed to a 1,500 metres world record at Monaco last month, eclipsing a 22-year-old mark that many thought might stand forever.
The dazzling run added to her four indoor world records, having set new marks in the 1,500m, 3,000m and two-mile events in an astonishing 15-day tour of Europe last year before adding the 5,000m in February.
Already boasting two world indoor titles, the Laureus sportswoman of the year would seem a certainty to finally clinch a long-awaited outdoor title, having long failed to meet expectations without a roof above her head.
Dibaba won her first world indoor title in 2012, with victory in the 1,500 at Istanbul, but has had more humble results outdoors and finished eighth in the final at the 2013 world championships.
“I wanted to train more for the outdoor season than the indoor season, so I changed my training totally,” Dibaba, 24, said prior to her record-setting win at Monaco.
“I already have natural speed which I don’t need to work on, so in training I’ve been working more on my endurance. Now I think I can run faster outdoors than I previously thought I was capable of.”
Like her champion sisters, Dibaba was born in Bekoji, a small town in the Ethiopian highlands which has produced more Olympic medal-winning performances than many countries combined.
She has taken to training with her male compatriots, given there are few women on the planet that can keep up with her.
She needed to draft in American 800m indoor world champion Chanelle Price to be a pacemaker for the first half of her record-breaking run at Monaco.
“I have been dreaming of an outdoor world record for ever,” Dibaba said after the race. “Now I want them all: the 1500, the 5000, even the 800.”
Claiming the 5,000 record would mean improving upon sister Tirunesh’s mark of 14 minutes 11.15 seconds, which was set at Oslo in 2008.
Genzebe ran a personal best of 14:15.41 in Paris last month but a cat-and-mouse race with compatriot Almaz Ayana, who owns the year’s best time of 14:14.32, put paid to a record attempt.
Dibaba has entered in both the 1,500 and 5,000 at Beijing but may pick one or the other.
Either way, she will not be satisfied with anything less than gold.
“Everybody expects me to win the gold medal,” she said.
“I have to do it, especially after what my sister has achieved. I have to do the same, if not better.”
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