Friday, April 20, 2012

Ejegayehu Dibaba steps up to marathon for second time

By John Mehaffey

LONDON (Reuters) – Ejegayehu Dibaba, the oldest of three Ethiopian sisters who have all made their mark on the track, steps up to the marathon for only the second time in London this Sunday.

Dibaba, 30, has been overshadowed by Tirunesh, a double Olympic champion in Beijing, while a second sister Genzebe emerged this year to win the world indoor 1,500 title in Istanbul.

Last year Ejegayehu clocked two hours 22 minutes nine seconds while finishing second in the Chicago marathon, the third fastest debut ever. It was also her first race beyond 10 kms.

On Wednesday Dibaba, whose best track performance was a silver medal in the 2004 Olympic 10,000 metres final, said the sisters were friendly rivals. The trio are cousins of twice Olympic 10,000 metres gold medallist and 2001 London marathon champion Derartu Tulu

“I hope one day we will all be in a marathon,” Dibaba said.

Sunday’s race will also serve as a trial for the Kenyan Olympic team, with five women competing for three places including defending champion Mary Keitany.

“I will have to work extra hard on Sunday because I know it will be my last chance to impress the selectors,” she said.

Germany’s twice champion Irina Mikitenko said the London race often contained stronger fields than the world or European championships which made it an ideal test for this year’s London Olympics.

“Just as in a championship, you have to be self-reliant,” she said. “Something completely unexpected can happen and you have to radically change your plans during the race. But I like that kind of challenge.”