domingo, 5 de febrero de 2012

My 10.000m Favourite Race (Women)

Derartu Tulu wins gold medal at the 10.000m in Sidney Olympics, eight years after her first victory in Barcelona
Photo: George Herringshaw
http://www.sporting-heroes.net/athletics-heroes/displayhero.asp?HeroID=10501
              The female 10.000 metres final, held at the penultimate day of the 2000 Sidney Olympic Games, promised to be a thrilling one. On paper, there was not a clear favourite to win the gold medal. Instead there was a bunch of well-known long distance stars who had so much to prove after some lacklustre seasons or shocking defeats in previous competitions. Fernanda  Ribeiro was the defending champion. She had become the third Portuguese Olympic gold medallist in Atlanta, after marathoners Carlos Lopes and Rosa Mota, overcoming unbelievably world record holder Wang Junxia in the homestretch. Thus she added the Olympic victory to the European and World championship ones, to complete a hat trick of titles. However she had not done much lately. After withdrawing at 1999 World Champs in Seville and also in her debut at the marathon distance in London, she experienced the worst moments of her athletic career. Portuguese fans thought Fernanda was too old and not motivated anymore after having won everything. She had the same feeling than in her first couple of senior seasons, when she was unable to fulfil the expectations that teen prodigy had created. She felt like retiring. Nevertheless, frustration helped Ribeiro to go back hard in training. Yet, it was not like in Atlanta: she needed a lot of effort to be in shape again. However in the end of the process his coach Joao Campos stated she was ready to defend. She did not believe it. Fans and specialised press did not trust much either. (1) 
                Derartu Tulu, the woman who had preceded Fernanda Ribeiro on the top of the Olympic podium, was also in the way of recovery. Eight years before she had produced a huge upset winning in Barcelona at 20 years of age, becoming the first black African woman Olympic champion in any sport. Her lap of honour after a riveting duel with silver medallist Elana Meyer, in the come back of her country South Africa to the Games, symbolised the reconciliation between all the  people living in the continent, black and whites. Derartu’s victory became also the inspiration for Ethiopian and African women in general, who started to embrace sport massively, thus struggling to change their traditional role in society. (2) The winner in Barcelona-92 had only had three rivals in Arsi region in her way to the Games. The most difficult thing for her was to convince her family athletics could be an acceptable profession for a woman. Nowadays, only in Bekoji, Tulu’s hometown, hundreds of outstanding female runners are up for a challenge. Notwithstanding, Derartu did not realise at the time about the importance of her achievement, nor about the relevance of the Olympics which she considered a competition like any other. (3)

Gete Wami and Paula Radcliffe, long time rivals in Cross Country
http://members.fortunecity.com

          The Ethiopian girl kept winning international titles in successive years, notably two at the World cross country championships, but ended up a disappointing fourth in Atlanta. Both Derartu and her dolphin Gete Wami were unable to respond to Wang Junxia’s last charge. In those Games, the best Ethiopian woman would be Fatuma Roba, who won the marathon. Thereafter Derartu, almost disappeared from competition for several seasons, because of a bad leg and the birth of her first child. Most though she was unlikely to challenge the best anymore but Tulu made a successful comeback, claiming again the world cross title in Vilamoura in the beginning of the Olympic year, then improving largely on her PBs at the half-marathon, 10.000m and clocking 2:26 in London in her debut at the 42.195km distance. In the final stages of the preparation for Sidney Derartu was so motivated she reportedly would wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning for a previous training, before joining the rest of the team in the scheduled workout. (3) Ethiopia led the seasonal lists with Berhane Adere, Tulu and Gete Wami. The latter had obtained a sensational victory at the 10.000m at the World championship the precedent year to ad to her feats in Cross Country, but in Sidney had struck only bronze at the 5000m, far away from Gaby Szabo and Sonia O’Sullivan. She was up for revenge. So was Kenyan Tegla Loroupe, another of the female African pioneers in sport. Tegla had been the first woman in the continent in winning New York marathon, back in 1994, and was also the event record holder with 2:20:43 from Berlin in 1999. She had grabbed two bronze medals at the 10.000m at world level and was unopposed at the half-marathon, piling up three successive global titles. However, she had not tasted Olympic glory yet. Tegla was the favourite for the marathon final in Sidney but suffering from poisoned food, she just finished a dismal 13th in a race won by Japanese Naoko Takahashi. Could she make amends for her failure at the 10.000m race? Her compatriot Sally Barsosio was also looking for rehabilitation. She had won gold at the 10.000m at the 1997 World Championships being a teen, but thereafter had not caused much impact as a senior.                 


               There were still more contenders for the Olympic 10.000m title. Sonia O’Sullivan owned several world and European gold medals but she also lacked in her curriculum the one every athlete craves for. She had been narrowly beaten at the 5000m event by Romanian Szabo and at 31 it was arguably her last chance for hearing the Irish anthem at the Olympic Games in her honour. Still older, Elana Meyer wanted to close her career as an athlete with a performance of merit. Asian women had also been fearsome rivals in the past decade. Japan had three finalists, among them Harumi Hiroyama and Chiemi Takahashi, 4th and 5th respectively at last World championships in Seville. There was finally a last challenger to the title, a woman who had never won an international gold medal but had been tantalisingly close in so many occasions: Paula Radcliffe. The Briton could not resign to the label of world class athlete without a kick, to the role of bridesmaid she was used to. Radcliffe had won sensationally the 1992 World junior cross country title. Everyone hoped for a future athletic career full of accomplishments for her but she was still waiting for her second triumph. Paula had finished out of the medals at Atlanta Olympics and Athens Worlds the following year. Then she had been beaten by Tulu, then by O’Sullivan, finally by Wami at the World Cross in successive years and by Wami again at the 10.000m in Seville. The Olympic final in Sidney had to be her day at last.


1
Derartu
Tulu
21-Mar-72
ETH
30:17.49
OR
2
Gete
Wami
11-Dec-74
ETH
30:22.48
PB
3
Fernanda
Ribeiro
23-Jun-69
POR
30:22.88
NR
4
Paula
Radcliffe
17-Dec-73
GBR
30:26.97
NR
5
Tegla
Loroupe
9-May-73
KEN
30:37.26
SB
6
Sonia
O'Sullivan
28-Nov-69
IRL
30:53.37
NR
7
Li
Ji
19-Sep-79
CHN
31:06.94
PB
8
Elana
Meyer
10-Oct-66
RSA
31:14.70
SB
9
Lidiya
Grigoryeva
25-Jan-74
RUS
31:21.27
PB
10
Yuko
Kawakami
1-Aug-75
JPN
31:27.44
11
Olivera
Jevtic
24-Jul-77
YUG
31:29.65
NR
12
Berhane
Adere
21-Jul-73
ETH
31:40.52
13
Lyudmila
Biktasheva
25-Jul-74
RUS
31:47.10
14
Alice
Timbilil
1-Feb-83
KEN
31.50.22
PB
15
Chiemi
Takahashi
16-May-76
JPN
31:52.59
SB
16
Libbie
Hickman
17-Feb-65
USA
31:56.94
SB
17
Sally
Barsosio
21-Mar-78
KEN
31:57.41
SB
18
Asmae
Leghzaoui
30-Aug-76
MAR
31:59.21
NR
19
Jelena
Prokopkuca
21-Sep-76
LAT
32:17.72
20
Harumi
Hiroyama
2-Sep-68
JPN
32:24.17



               As expected, Paula Radcliffe took the lead from the gun, setting a pace harder than ever. Her first lap was 71sec, the second one 72; the first kilometre was passed in 3:01.66 and by the third (9:01) she had dropped much of the cream of the race: Elana Meyer, Berhane Adere, the three Japanese, Sally Barsosio and soon after Sonia O’Sullivan. Only Tulu, Wami, Loroupe and, surprisingly for some, Fernanda Ribeiro could cope with the highly demanding rhythm. Half race was done in 15:05.70, with Radcliffe always pushing and four girls, all of them at least once world or Olympic champions, at her wake. With two kilometres to go the Ethiopians decided to take over, then Ribeiro, but Paula surged again with renewed intensity. Eventually, Tegla Loroupe started struggling and became the last casualty, but there still were four women to fight for the medals. At the sound of the bell, Derartu Tulu in lane 4 increased dramatically the pace, followed closely by Wami.  Ribeiro and Radcliffe were unable to respond to that acceleration so they soon lost 20m, then 40m. Tulu’s kick was eventually too much for Wami, who had to be content with the silver medal, and Ribeiro was all smiles with the bronze in a new Portuguese record. Tulu ran the last 400m in an incredible split of 60.25, to complete one of the most stunning come backs in the history of track and field. The brave Paula Radcliffe finished unfairly out of the medals, also in a national best. Thanks to her generous and determined pacing, six women broke Fernanda Ribeiro’s Olympic record, with the winner no less than 44 seconds below. A total of 16 girls ran under 32min in the fastest, most competitive female distance race until the Beijing Olympics 10.000m. (4) The unrewarded heroine finished in tears: “what do I have to do to beat these girls?”   

Fernanda Ribeiro at 1996 Atlanta Games, where ahe won gold
Photo: George Herringshaw
http://historiatletismo.blogspot.com
   The answer for Radcliffe was working even harder to come back stronger. (5) The Briton would stay for so long in Africa for altitude training she would almost become a Kenyan citizen. After her disappointment in Sidney, Paula closed the year with her first world title, at the half marathon championships. Then she started the 2011 season beating at last her black beast Gete Wami at the World cross country in Ostende. However at the 10.000m in Edmonton, not daring this time to keep the same front-running tactics than in Sidney, Paula was beat the same by the Ethiopians, who achieved an unprecedented 1-2-3 with Tulu, Adere and Wami. The East Africans would keep their dominance in the distance with another victory in St Dennis with Berhane Adere, thought surprisingly teen Chinese Huina Xing got the better of them in Athens Olympics, getting the title Wang Junxia could not. In that race, Derartu Tulu struck a marvellous bronze medal, climbing for the third time to an Olympic podium.
Meanwhile, Radcliffe found her real strength on the roads. In only her second marathon, in 2002 in Chicago, she already improved the world record and in her third in London she lowered it again to 2:15:25, a clocking no one has been able to get close to the date. Her determined and fearless front-running approach brought the female marathon to another dimension and her absence for several years caused a leadership crisis in the event. Paula won brilliantly at the 2005 World championships in Helsinki but was again unable to medal at the Olympics: in Athens she succumbed to the heat and in Beijing carried an injury. Hopefully she will still have a last chance this year at her home country. Tulu and Wami resumed their battle with Radcliffe on the roads. Derartu is still trying to qualify for London, in another amazing comeback after maternity, with an excellent victory in New York City marathon in 2009. (6) Thousands of Ethiopian women have followed in her steps, as the impressive Tirunesh Dibaba, who dipped under 30min at Beijing Olympic Games (29:54.66), after trailing the hot pace of first Lornah Kiplagat, then Elvan Abeylegesse, who sustained a surge with 2 consecutive km under 3min. Tulu’s most worthy heir is able of running the last lap in 58-59sec. Many outstanding champions have risen in the country but Ethiopian fans still keep an special interest in Derartu’s current performances, miss her when she is not around and expect her to accomplish new victories. (6)  








>

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario en la entrada