NAIROBI — Double Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba restored Ethiopia’s track pride when she won the women’s 10,000m at the African athletics championships here on Saturday.
The 24-year-old proved she has overcome the injuries that decimated her entire 2009 season when she lead compatriot Meselech Melkamu to gold and silver – the two precious medals that have eluded Ethiopia in this competition.
Dibaba won in a relatively slow time of 31min 51.39sec while Melkamu, the world silver-medallist, clocked 31:55.50.
Kenya’s world champion Linet Masai, who did all the front running only to be overtaken by the two Ethiopians on the bell, took the bronze medal in 31:59.36.
The Kenyan, however, took her defeat graciously.
“I think I have to go back and work on my finishing kick – that’s why I came third,” said Masai, who added that she lacked team tactics after her team-mates Doris Changeiywo and Pauline Korikwiang fell way behind after the trio made their move halfway through the race.
The Ethiopian success, coming days after their men lost the 10,000m race to the Kenyans, silenced the capacity home crowd rooting for a Masai victory to keep the pressure on defending champions South Africa in the medals hunt.
But the South Africans, bouyed by three field medals and a track bronze in the men’s 110 metres hurdles, took their total tally to 16 to top the standings, going into the final day of competition on Sunday.
South Africa cemented their domination in the women’s javelin with defending champion Sunette Viljoen taking gold ahead of compatriot Justine Robbeson.
Viljoen threw of 63.33 metres, while Robbeson achieved 60.24 and Egypt’s Ramada Hassan taking bronze with 55.14.
Nigeria’s Oke Tosin won the men’s triple jump to take his team’s gold medal tally to five for a total of 11 medals, to put them joint second with Kenya.