The athletics season exploded into life this week, with Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba smashing the 1500m and 3000m indoor world records. Here’s a race through the career of Genze, the next great Dibaba.
1. The Dibaba dynasty
Genzebe, who turns 23 on Saturday, is the latest member of the Dibaba clan to arrive on the world stage. Big sister Tirunesh – one of the sport’s all-time legends – has won three Olympic and five world gold medals on the track, plus five individual world cross country titles.
Eldest sister Ejagayehu won Olympic 10,000m silver at Athens 2004, and her brother Dejene is a promising 800m athlete. If that wasn’t enough, cousin Derartu Tulu is a two-time Olympic 10,000m champion.
2. Happy in the mud
Like older sister Tirunesh (T-Dibby), Genzebe (G-Dibby) first emerged as a cross country athlete, finishing fifth in the junior race at the Mombassa 2007 World Cross Country Championships, at just 16 years old.
A year later she played her part in a Dibby-double in Edinburgh, when Tirunesh won the senior race and Genzebe won the junior event. Twelve months on, she successfully defended her world junior crown in Amman, Jordan.
3. Junior to senior (seamlessly)
Her track career began over 5000m at the world juniors in 2008. She finished second behind her compatriot Sult Utura, and two years later went one better in Moncton, Canada. By 2009 she’d stepped up to senior athletics, finishing eighth at the world champs in Berlin, aged 18.
4. Moving to middle distance
For the 2012 season, Dibaba stepped down to the 1500m. After breaking too early and earning a disqualification in her first indoor meet of the year in Dusseldorf, she justified her decision to change events by recording a blistering 4:00.13 in Karlsruhe, to climb to fifth on the all-time women’s indoor list. She then won world indoor gold in Istanbul (pictured above).
5. Still the little sis
She’s raced Tirunesh five times in her career, and has yet to beat her, although they’ve only raced once since 2009 (over 5000m in Zurich last year, where Tirunesh came home second and Genze did not finish). We can not wait for their next head-to-head…
6. World record smasher
For a bit of perspective, the stunning 3:55.13 she clocked in Karlsruhe at the weekend hacked over three seconds off the previous indoor 1500m WR mark. The time elevates her to 12th on the all-time 1500m list indoors and out, and is the best time recorded over the distance since 1997.
7. Great indoors
The striking Genzebe has won nine of her eleven indoor races. Her only two non-victories came in Dusseldorf (the disqualification) and Boston, where in 2010 she finished second over 3000m to fellow Ethiopian Kalkidan Gezahegne.
8. Bouncing back from heartbreak
After a successful indoor season, Dibaba emerged as a favourite for Olympic gold. Expectations were high after she opened her outdoor season with a sensational Ethiopian record of 3:57.77 in Shanghai. But a hamstring injury derailed her campaign and she left the London track in agony. It takes a special kind of athlete to come back from that so impressively.
9. Miss Versatile
In 2013, Genze comfortably won her two 1500m indoor races, and clocked a highly impressive 8:26.95 over 3000m to win in Stockholm: the fourth best time ever indoor 3000m. Her outdoor season began with a new 1500m PB in Doha followed by a victory against Olympic 5000m champion Meseret Defar over 12-and-a-half laps in Shanghai.
10. No free lunches
Until recently, Tiriunesh had been coy when talking about her younger sister, often smiling and giggling when the subject of Genzebe was raised. However, at the Eugene Diamond League meeting last year she said this:
“I have been running for a long time. I have four gold medals at the World Championships [she now has five!]. I’m not going to give her a free lunch; she has to compete with me, and she has to beat me.”
UPDATE – 6th February 2014
11. One’s never enough
One world record in a lifetime would be enough for most althetes. But on Thursday 6th February, at XL Galan in Stockholm, Genzebe Dibaba set her second world record in a week.
Her indoor 3000m in 8:16.60 slashed the world record by almost seven seconds. Incredibly, Dibaba covered the final 2000m in 5:27.95 – over two seconds quicker than the world indoor record for that distance, too!