Unheralded teenager (left) brings in the new year with an upset victory over Teklemariam Medhin in Madrid
Madrid, Spain - Ethiopian teenager Hagos Gebrehiwot and Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba were the winners at the 47th ‘San Silvestre Vallecana’ 10km – an IAAF Silver label Road Race – on Saturday (31).
Gebrehiwot, barely 17, was a last-minute entrant and outclashed the hot pre-race favourite Eritrea’s Teklemariam Medhin in a tight sprint finish, both athletes being credited with 27:57.
On the women’s section Dibaba, the reigning double (5000 & 10,000m) Olympic champion, competed for the first time in 16 months and managed a fine 31:30 win over her fellow Ethiopian Gelete Burka, who was also given the same time.
Medhin in charge of pacing
The slightly downhill contest didn’t open particularly fast and by the first quarter of the race (2.5km) there still was a large eight-man leading pack headed by Medhin and Ethiopia’s Bati Mohamed Burka. Meanwhile, Dibaba and Burka travelled head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the female line-up.
The halfway point was reached in 13:44 with a triumvirate ruling the race in the guise of Medhin, Burka and the eventual victor Gebrehiwot while Spain’s European Cross Country silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem, Chema Martínez and Jesús España ran in cocodrile file behind the leaders but still close to them.
As for the women - it was a joint men and women event - Dibaba and Burka passed the 5km point in a comfortable for them 15:38 time with a nine-second margin over Britain’s Susan Partridge.
Medhin’s relentless pace made Burka lose ground gradually and 6.5km the race became a two-horse battle between Medhin and the still unheralded Gebrehiwot. With two kilometres remaining, the leading duo had built a five-second advantage on Lamdassem, who had overtaken a faltering Burka, while Martínez and España ran together looking for the first Spanish-born athlete spot.
With the traditional shaving cream covering them partially, Medhin and Gebrehiwot faced the toughest section of the race, the up-hill closing two kilometres while Lamdassem ran lonesome in third. As none of the leaders relinquished, a thrilling sprint finish inside the football stadium seemed unavoidable with Gebrehiwot prevailing over Medhin by the narrowest of the margins.
While Lamdassem secured the minor place on the podium, the 40-year-old European Marathon silver medallist Martínez beat the European 5000m second placed España (28:34 vs 28:41) in the fight for the fourth place.
The victor is represented – like Dibaba - by Mark Wetmore. Once Dibaba signed up for the race, Wetmore suggested to the organisers that Gebrehiwot be added to the field but no one forecasted he would beat the 2010 World Cross Country silver medallist Medhin.
Gebrehiwot – whose best performance on the track is a 7:45.11 3000m clocking – only flew the afternoon before (30 December) from Addis Ababa; as a curious note, the young and inexperienced Ethiopian confessed it was his first time undergoing an anti-doping test.
Dibaba out-kicks Burka
Much like in the men’s contest, a fierce sprint decided the women’s race. Although 1500m star Burka entered the stadium a few metres ahead of Dibaba, the latter found an extra gear in the closing stages to out-sprint her theoretically faster countrywoman, 31:30 their times (31st and 33rd places overall) for Partridge’s distant 32:44 in third, while Spain’s reigning European 3000m Steeplechase silver medallist Marta Domínguez had to settle for fourth five seconds behind the Briton.
“It’s my first time celebrating the New Year far from home but I like the experience,” Dibaba said. “Today’s was my first competition for so long, so I have to be satisfied. I’m now fully recovered from injuries, my trainings are going well and I look forward to defending my two (5000 & 10,000) Olympic golds in London next summer.”
Asked on a future change of event to move up to the Marathon and her chances of assaulting the World record, a cautious Dibaba declared: “Yes, I would like to tackle the Marathon in the years to come but Paula Radcliffe’s World record (2:15:25) is really tough to break.”
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Leading Results (10km):
1. Hagos Gebrehiwot (Ethiopia) 27:57
2. Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) 27:57
3. Ayad Lamdassem (Spain) 28:10
4. Chema Martínez (Spain) 28:34
5. Jesús España (Spain) 28:41
6. Bati Mohamed Burka (Ethiopia) 28:41
7. Rui Silva (Portugal) 29:12
8. Youness Ait (Morocco) 29:34
9. Ricardo Serrano (Spain) 29:49
10. Roberto Alaiz (Spain) 29:52
1. Tirusnesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) 31:30
2. Gelete Burka (Ethiopia) 31:30
3. Susan Partridge (Great Britain) 32:44
4. Marta Domínguez (Spain) 32:49
5. Elena Espeso (Spain) 33:08
6. Alessandra Aguilar (Spain) 33:10
7. Diana Martín (Spain) 33:16
8. Marta Silvestre (Spain) 33:45
9. Vanessa Veiga (Spain) 33:56
10. Rehima Jewar (Ethiopia) 35:10