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Elvan Abeylegesse now faster than Paavo Nurmi

Sensational start of the TDK Golden League in Bergen produces 5,000 m world record

2004-06-12

Two years after the surprising triumph of Süreyya Ayhan at the 1,500 m finals of the European Championships Turkey has another athletics hero: Elvan Abeylegesse. The 21 year-old runner originally comes from Ethiopia. In the first meeting of the TDK Golden League she broke the 5,000 m world record in Bergen on Friday night. After setting the pace herself for more than half of the race she ran 14:24,68 minutes in front of an ecstatic crowd of 15,000 in the packed Frana Stadium.

Elvan Abeylegesse broke the former world record by the Chinese Jian Bo (14:28,09 minutes in 1997) by nearly 3.5 seconds. She became the first Turkish world record holder in athletics and a national hero. “It is a superb feeling to be the first world record holder of my country. Two weeks ago I clocked 3:58,28 minutes at 1,500 metres – after that I was confident of breaking the world record in Bergen. While the pacemaker did tire quite early spectators acted as a sort of pacemaker to me. They have pushed me on to break the record”, Elvan Abeylegesse explained. She is world number one at 1,500 metres as well at present for this season.

Breaking the 5,000 metre world record Elvan Abeylegesse has achieved a historic performance in running, because she is now faster than a running legend. It was lamost exactly 80 years ago when famous Paavo Nurmi had run 14:28,2 minutes for a world record. Elvan Abeylegesse now is the first woman to have run faster than the Fin.

This 5,000 m world record alreday was the third long distance track best within two weeks. Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele had run world records in Hengelo and Ostrava at 5,000 and 10,000 m. But Bekele and Abeylegesse have more in common. Both are born in the same year (1982), both started at the World Cross Country World Championships back in 1999 as juniors. And both then finished in Ireland in ninth place. But after that their ways separated.

“I was invited for a meeting in Istanbul. I liked it there very much. So I decided to move to Turkey. The support was much better in Istanbul. I thought it would be easier to reach my goals in Turkey. I had always wanted to run a world record one day and become Olympic Champion.”, Elvan Abeylegesse said. She is coached by Ertan Hatipoglu, a former triple jumper from Bulgaria.

To get Turkish citizenship Elvan Abeylegesse married at the age of 18. Meanwhile she speaks Turkish fluently but is divorced again. She has a friendly relationship with the other Ethiopian runners, but there is a problem with her former federation. “The officials don’t allow me to to train in Ethiopia any longer”, Elvan Abeylegesse said. She has seven brothers and sisters back in Addis Ababa.

After having been fifth at 5,000 metres in the World Championships in 2003 she now wants to reach the second part of her big goal: the Olympic Gold. So she will not go for the TDK Golden League Jackpot. Elvan Abeylegesse would then have to run at all six meetings of the series. If she would win all these races she would get a share of the one million dollar jackpot. “I can win the Golden League next year, but there are no Olympics in 2005.” Still Elvan Abeylegesse intends to start at the next TDK Golden League Meeting on 2nd July. Then she will probably run the 3,000 metres.


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