Saturday, March 27, 2010

Masai seeks to silence Dibaba and keep title

By CHRIS MUSUMBA in Bydgoszcz, Poland

On the three previous occasions that World 10,000m champion Linet Masai has raced against Ethiopia’s Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba, the Kenyan has only scored one victory.

On Sunday, Masai attempts to shot down two birds with one stone: win the race and get even with Dibaba in their fourth meeting on the one hand and become the third Kenya eight-kilometre world champions after holder Florence Kiplagat and Helen Chepng’eno, the 1994 winner.

In her first attempt to dethrone Dibaba in Edinburgh two years back, Masai was only fit enough to claim a bronze medal.

Four months later at the Beijing Olympics, she was fourth in the 10,000m race. Both events were won by Dibaba.

However, last year in New York, Masai got her first shot on target when she beat the Ethiopian over the 5,000m race on the track. But that according to the two athletes, the past will be of no value today as they line up each carrying her country’s hope for a medal.

Test the course

“I believe everyone here is prepared. I have done my part and they too are equally ready for the challenge. I will not speak of my colleagues in the team but I want to do well here,” said Masai.

Dibaba, who was not lucky to test the course until Saturday morning, has vowed to pick up from she left when she got injured.

With five individual medals to her name in cross country, Dibaba is the championship’s biggest star with highest number of medals at 19.

“The course is good. I have raced in worse conditions than this here. So it will not be hard for me to compete here. I missed the Berlin World Championships and world cross country in Amman because of injury and now I am ready to take it from where I left,” she said.

Masai has been in imposing cross-country form this season across Europe and will have her back covered by team mate Lineth Chepkurui, fourth in Amman where Kenya won the team title easily.

Add the zeal of Margaret Wangare, Emily Muge, Ann Wanjiru and Gladys Chemweno and you have the Kenya line up.

Alongside Dibaba, Ethiopia will also have Werknesh Kidane, the 2003 champion. Kidane makes her return after two year’s maternity leave.

It is hard to assess her form, she finished some way behind Meselech Melkamu and Mamitu Daska in the Ethiopian trials, but as a former winner she must be respected.

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