Posts Tagged ‘Mo Farrah’

It was the nightmare scenario – a twice banned drugs cheat beats the most popular athlete in the World. But, thankfully and remarkably, after an indifferent season blighted by injury, Usain Bolt beat Justin Gatlin and saved his sport. Bolt had a terrible semi-final, stumbling as he came out of the blocks and with some 20m to go he was about 5m down on the leaders. Only a runner of his ability could have qualified, and he did by winning. But, his time was poor and Gatlin set the fastest time in winning his semi-final. It did not look good for Bolt going into the final.

Apart from being supremely talented, Bolt is an athlete who can not only handle the presure, but seems to run better the greater the expectation. He got a fantastic start and was neck and neck with Gatlin with 20m to go. This was the first time Gatlin had been put under pressure in the last two years, and he crumbled. He started dipping for the line with about 10m to go, and in doing so lost his form, stopped driving and lost the race. The world of athletics breathed a collective sign of relief; a twice banned drugs cheat thankfully had not won the most prestigious race in the sport.

With the recent scandal over the revelations that some one third of all medal winners in the last 10 years have been found to have anomalies in their blood samples, athletics is in danger of descending into the same kind of doping nightmare which engulfed professional cycling. Last week Sebastian Coe was made the new IAAF President, and I only hope that he will head up a major effort to clean up the sport. He can start by making sure that someone, like Gatlin, who is found guilty twice of doping, is not allowed to return to the sport after the second suspension – that second suspension should be a lifetime ban from the sport. As I have said before, Gatlin should not be allowed to compete, he should be banned from the sport; no ifs and no buts.

There were some other remarkable performances over the weekend, with Mo Farrah winning the 10,000m in style after a team effort from the Kenyans tried to break him by setting a fast pace from the start of the race; and Jessica Ennis-Hill winning the heptathlon, just a year or so after giving birth to her first child. But, it was Bolt’s remarkable victory over Gatlin which was the highlight of the weekend for me.

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This morning, the news from the Athletics (Track & Field) World Championships in Moscow is all about Usain Bolt regaining his 100m World Title (he was disqualified for a false start two years ago in Daegu after winning and setting a World record in Berlin in 2009). The British newspapers are also waxing lyrically of Mo Farrah’s impressive win in the 10,000m on Saturday evening, beating Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan, the man who beat him two years ago into second place.

There is, sadly, almost no mention of what to me was the most impressive performance of the weekend, that of Tirunesh Dibaba. She won the women’s 10,000m in majestic style. There is nothing about her victory in the Disnunited Kingdom’s The Times, The Telegraph or The Guardian (the three quality British newspapers), The New York Times mentions her in passing in its summary of the weekend’s action, and France’s Le Monde also fails to mention her completely. The BBC sports website has a very short mention of her; not quite nothing but little more than nothing.

Why is this?


Admittedly it is difficult to compete for headlines with the showman of athletics, Usain Bolt. And in winning his fourth World Championships gold medal (100m and 200m in Berlin in 2009, 200m in Daegu in 2011 and now the 100m in Moscow), he is cementing his place as one of the all-time great sprinters. He is a larger than life character, and the cameras follow his every move when his is competing. Last night, Bolt was competing in the 3rd of the three semi-finals, a couple of hours before the final. The camera was panning down the starting line-up for the 2nd semi-final, but just before the runners went into their blocks the TV coverage cut away to show Bolt sitting watching the semi-final before his! We nearly missed seeing the start of the second semi-final just so we could see Bolt watching it.

In contrast, in very stark contrast, Tirunesh Dibaba virtually goes below the radar. Why is this? Last night she won her fifth World Championships Gold medal, adding to an already impressive tally of gold medals which also includes 3 Olympic Gold medals and 5 World Cross Country Championship Golds. She has never been beaten in a 10,000m race. Yet I suspect most people have never heard of her.


One possibility is that the 10,000m is not as “sexy” an event as the 100m. But the coverage given to Mo Farrah suggests that people are interested in the 10,000m. So I can only assume it is because Dibaba is a shy, unassuming athlete. Also, she does not speak English, so doesn’t give any interviews to the English-language media. She doesn’t seek the spotlight, she just gets on with winning, and winning to such an extent that she is probably the greatest women track athlete of all time.


At least Dirbaba is a heroin in her native Ethiopia. She probably would prefer that were not the case; unlike Bolt who relishes the attention of the World’s media, one gets the impression that Dibaba would hate that level of attention. So let us give her the privacy she prefers, but revel in the privilege of seeing such a remarkable athlete run, or should I say flow (as she has one of the most beautiful running styles I’ve ever seen) on the running track.

Do you think Dirbaba is the greatest woman athlete ever?

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