by Bob Ramsak
Ethiopian superstars Tirunesh Dibaba, the 2008 Race Results Weekly Runner of the Year, and Meseret Defar will both race over 3000m on Saturday, Feb. 7, but their efforts will take place an ocean apart.
Dibaba, who last August became the first woman to win both the 5000 and 10,000m Olympic titles, will headline the event at the 14th Reebok Boston Indoor Games. Defar, whom Dibaba succeeded as Olympic champion in the 5000m, will compete over the same distance at the 23rd Sparkassen Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, earlier on the same evening.
The 23 year-old Dibaba returns to the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston's Roxbury section on the heels of a stellar season in which she also collected her fifth individual world cross country title, and set her first outdoor world record with a 14:11.15 run in the 5000m at the ExxonMobil Bislett Games in Oslo last June. Dibaba has twice set world indoor 5000m records in Boston, most recently in 2007, running 14:27.42. She ran the Boston 3000m at the meeting in 2008, winning in a personal best 8:33.37 over older sister Ejegayehu.
Last year Defar defended her world indoor 3000m title in Valencia in March, and took the bronze in a tactical Olympic 5000m final, nearly three seconds behind Dibaba. After losing the world 5000m record to her rival, she tried to wrestle it back six weeks later in Stockholm, but came up just short in a largely solo run, clocking 14:12.88, the second fastest performance in history.
Defar set the world indoor record in the 3000m on the same Stuttgart track in 2007, clocking 8:23.72, a performance superior to her outdoor best over the distance. An assault on that record in Stuttgart last year came up short, but her 8:27.93 run was nonetheless the fourth fastest in history.
Outside of major championships, meetings between the pair have become exceedingly rare. Their last indoor face-off came in Birmingham, England, on Feb. 20, 2004, where Defar took a narrow 3000m victory, 8:33.44 to 8:33.56. In one of the sport's fiercest rivalries, Defar holds a 17-11 edge in their track meetings, dating back to the 2002 IAAF World Junior Championships.
Also announced for the Stuttgart meet, annually Europe's finest single-day indoor competition, is an assault on Wilson Kipketer's 1000m world indoor mark of 2:14.96 by world indoor 800m champion Abubaker Kaki. Last winter at just 18, the Sudanese star clocked 2:15.77 to become the fourth fastest ever over the rarely-run distance.
In Boston, New Zealander Nick Willis, the Olympic 1500m bronze medallist, will headline the mile.
NOTE: Race Results Weekly will provide on-site coverage of both the Boston and Stuttgart meetings --Ed.