Genzebe Dibaba ahead of the 2014 World Athletics Gala in Monaco (© Giancarlo Colombo / IAAF)
Genzebe Dibaba is aiming for 5000m honours in 2015, the 23-year-old Ethiopian revealed ahead of the 2014 World Athletics Gala in Monaco where she is one of three athletes short-listed for the women’s Athlete of the Year award, which will be announced on Friday (21).
Dibaba set the world alight during the 2014 indoor season when she smashed the 1500m and 3000m world indoor records and set a world best at two miles, all within 15 days, before going on to claim the world indoor 3000m title in the Polish city of Sopot.
She added a victory over 3000m at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech in September and is now preparing for 2015 when she aims to break the world indoor 5000m record at the XL Galan in Stockholm and take the gold at the same distance at next summer’s IAAF World Championships Beijing.
“This year was the best year for me,” said Dibaba, who is short-listed for the award along with shot putter Valerie Adams and sprinter Dafne Schippers.
“The indoor season was the best of my career so far when I broke three world records.
“Now I have two goals for the 2015 indoor season. I am preparing myself to break the 5000m world indoor record in Stockholm and then run the mile in Birmingham.
“But my main goal this year is not more records, but only to win the gold medal at the World Championships where I will run 5000m.”
Genzebe is the latest member of the Dibaba family dynasty to reach the pinnacle of world athletics, following her older sisters Ejegayehu and Tirunesh, while the next in line could be Anna, her 18-year-old younger sister who has just started training.
In Monaco, however, Anna’s role is to be Genzebe’s supportive companion and impromptu interpreter, a task she performed for a handful of the world’s track and field media with shy competence and considerable charm.
So what did it mean for Genzebe to be shortlisted for an award that Tirunesh – a three-time Olympic and five-time world champion - has won three times in the past?
“It is an honour,” said Genzebe, her words relayed via Anna’s quiet voice. “Tirunesh has already won three times so it is great for me to be here. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We will see, but I hope to win.
“It is difficult to compare myself with Tirunesh. She’s so strong and has won so many championships.”
After her incredible indoor season many expected Dibaba to carry on breaking records on the outdoor circuit, but she explained that she suffered a minor back injury after the World Indoor Championships which hampered her training.
“I felt my back when I was training so that was a problem and why my season was not as good outdoors as it was indoors,” she said.
“Usually, it is not difficult to change from indoors to outdoors. I find outdoors easier than indoors but I am more interested in indoor athletics. I prefer it because it is hotter indoors and I like the shorter laps.”
This season, for the first time, Dibaba trained in Europe as well as at home in Ethiopia, spending two months in Spain, 20 minutes outside Barcelona, and one in Solentuna in Sweden.
Like Tirunesh before her, Genzebe’s achievements – and glamorous looks – mean she is now a celebrity in her home country where she has appeared on TV chat shows.
The new fame, she admitted, is something she is growing to like.
“Yes, it’s good,” she said. “We don’t walk outside much at home, we go to training by car so we don’t see people too often; but sometimes, when we go out, people ask us to sign things and for photographs. It’s a good feeling.”
Home for Genzebe is very much a family place. She lives in Addis Ababa with Tirunesh, who’s expecting her first child with husband Sileshi Sihine.
Anna is also a member of the household, the youngster now taking her first steps towards a possible track career after leaving school.
“I just started training last year,” explained Anna. “I started later than my sisters because I didn’t do athletics at school. I haven’t competed yet.
“Tirunesh is my hero, she’s the best, and she will be even better in the future. Genzebe is so strong because of Tirunesh too. Living with them is so good for me. Genzebe is not only my sister but also my best friend.”
With a fifth Dibaba sister, 16-year-old Melat, still to come, and their brother, 24-year-old Dereje, a marathon runner, there must be quite some secret to the family gift?
“Our family are farmers,” explained Genzebe. “And our mother was a runner. She was very strong because of her work but she never tried to have a career. When we started running our mother always encouraged us to do well.”
As for the future, how about a running school in the family name?, asked one enterprising journalist.
“Well, not yet,” said Genzebe. “But maybe in the future we will have a Dibaba running club. It’s a good idea.”
Until then, the glamorous Genzebe has more world records to break, and gold medals to win.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF