Olympic Running Events (VII): 10,000 m with Berhane Adere
Perhaps it is possible to ripen more than once in a sporting lifetime. After her triumph in the 2003 World Championships in Paris, Berhane Adere is the clear favourite for the Olympic title, since there is every indication that Britains Paula Radcliffe will prefer the marathon to the track in Athens.
It is difficult in that case to set other rivals on the same level as Adere, especially after recalling that magical 30 minutes or so in the Stade de France. Her compatriot Derartu Tulu won the Olympic title in Sydney, Werknesh Kidane was second in the World Championships and Sun Yingjie took the bronze medal in Saint-Denis. But Adere, who will celebrate her 31st birthday a month before the Olympic track and field competition begins, remains the number one.
BERHANE ADERE – UNFORGETTABLE IN PARIS
She was always a good runner, winning African titles on the track ten years ago, but with the victory in the 10,000m wrote herself a slice of history. She ran 30:04.18, the third fastest of all time, an African record and a personal best by 45 seconds. The pace was hard and strong as Sun Yingjie took them through 4,000m. Instantly recognisable by her running style, arms almost motionless, the Chinese proved a dangerous opponent. At the front were Sun, Adere and the former Kenyan Lorna Kiplagat, now running for the Netherlands. At 6,000m the defending champion Derartu Tulu dropped out, suffering from stomach cramps. Adere and the others (Sun, Kiplagat and Werknesh Kidane, the World Cross-Country champion over 8kms) were well clear in any case.
Following a first half split of 15:06.6, the trio of Adere, Sun and Kidane went into the final lap. Around 300m from the finish, Adere attacked and led a parade of brilliant performances behind her: finishing positions two to 16 were the fastest ever recorded in a womens 10,000m. The Chinese Xing Huina set a world junior record in finishing seventh in 30:31.55.
Can Berhane Adere do it again? Compared to World Championships, her career has brought little success at Olympics, so far: 18th in Atlanta in the 10,000m and 12th in Sydney 2000. But once she was into the new millennium, she found a new level of performance. Starting with a silver medal at the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton, there was also success on the roads: she won the World Half-Marathon title in 2002 and finished runner-up to Paula Radcliffe the following year. She found a new arena for success when turning to indoor competition, taking gold and silver at the World Championships in 2003 and this year. So far she has twice broken world indoor records.
The path to Olympia is never easy but Adere is in the lead. As she approached 30, she discovered new powers of endurance and finishing speed. The signs are that Berhane Adere will be taking an Olympic title back home with her.
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