Carlsbad, Calif. -- March 30, 2012 -- Reigning Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 meter gold medalist Tirunesh Dibaba will return to the Carlsbad 5000 for the first time since 2005 when she equaled the world record at the 'World's Fastest 5k'. On Sunday, Dibaba will take another step in her bid to repeat as a double Olympic champion, leading a strong international women's field at the 27th running of the Carlsbad 5000.
The 26-year-old Dibaba took home a bronze medal at the Olympics in the 5,000m in 2004, has won world championship gold in the 5,000m in 2003 and 2005, and also captured world championship gold in the 10,000m in 2005 and 2007. Off the track, she's won five IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
This will be Dibaba's fourth Carlsbad race, and like in most of her other competitions; she has had good success here. She made her Carlsbad debut in 2002 as a 16-year-old and finished an impressive second to Deena Kastor's then world record of 14:54. A year later, she placed third when Berhane Adere equaled Kastor's world mark. In 2005, Dibaba finally won at Carlsbad, breaking the tape in 14:51 and matching Paula Radcliffe's then world road record.
Dibaba's mark was the 15th world record broken or tied at Carlsbad since its inception in 1985. The total now is 16, including Ethiopian Meseret Defar's current world record of 14:46 here in 2006, along with eight U.S. records, and numerous national and age-group marks, hence why Carlsbad is known as the "World's Fastest 5K." Defar established the current world mark of 14:46 in 2006 and Kastor set the U.S. mark of 14:54 in 2002.
Despite the presence of defending champion Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia (who also won in 2009 and was the runner-up in 2010) and a contingent of other strong international competitors, Dibaba is an overwhelming favorite in Sunday's race.
"This is a very important year for me as I prepare to defend my Olympic titles," she said. "I'm very excited to be returning to Carlsbad this year as I build up to London 2012. I have great memories of racing here. It was one of my first races outside of Ethiopia back in 2002. Carlsbad has had many great champions and I'm proud of my win here. I'm so happy to return as an Olympic champion and world record-holder and I will try my best to win another title. After a tough 2011 with injuries and setbacks, it's been great to get back to racing. I'm happy to be back on track again. Carlsbad is perfect for my next step back."
In addition to Kiros, the women's field includes Kenya's Pauline Korikwiang, who finished second at Carlsbad last year; Ethiopia's Gotytom Gebreslase, the World Youth Champion over 3000 meters who recently finished second to Defar at the New Balance Boston Indoor Games 3000m in February; and Ethiopia's Werknesh Kidane, who was third at Carlsbad in 2002 and has five bronze medals from the World Cross Country Championships.
"There are four or five women who can challenge Dibaba, but if she's at the top of her game, she'll be tough to beat. She's always tough to beat," said Matt Turnbull, elite athlete coordinator for the Carlsbad 5000. "The pinnacle of the sport is to get the Olympic champion to come to your race and she's the undisputed No. 1. It's a great feather in our cap to get her to come to our race. She's a true global champion."
The elite field of world-class athletes will be joined by the best masters runners in the U.S. for the 27th running of one of the marquee events on the international road race circuit. Race day begins at 7:05am with the Masters Men 40 and over, the first of nine races that will take place throughout the morning. The elite women's race starts at 12:17 pm.