Mekonnen and Defar sets golden tones for Ethiopia in Doha

Submitted by Yomi Omogbeja on 13 March 2010 - 8:25pm

Ethiopian Meseret Defar and Deresse Mekonnen blew away the opposition to win gold medals in their respective events at the Aspire Dome in Doha tonight.

Mekonnen became the fourth athlete to defend his 1,500m World Indoor title and the second Ethiopian champion of the day following Defar's win in the women's 3000m much to the delight of the massive Ethiopian support in the stands.

Ethiopian fans had occupied maximum space in the Aspire Dome stands and from the time Defar stepped on the track, her every move was followed with a deafening roar.

And Defar did not disappoint; as she stormed to her fourth successive women's indoor 3000m title in fantastic fashion in 8:51.17.

Kenyan world 5000m champion, Vivian Cheruiyot pipped Defar's team-mate Sentayehu Ejigu in the sprint to the line on the last lap to claim silver. Sylvia Jebiwott Kibet of Kenya ran 8:52.16 in fourth, and Alemitu Bekele of Turkey was fifth in 8:53: 78.

"I'm very happy. This is a very important fourth gold medal for me. It was an easy victory for me because the pace was slow, said Defar.

"I changed my tactics. I was thinking about a fast race but then I saw it would be better to wait with the final kick. That worked well."

Early pace

South Africa 's Rena Kalmer had set the early pace in the race leading the first kilometres in 3:11.83 before Portuguese runners Jessica Augusto and Sara Moreira took over. Defar, Ejigu, Cheruiyot and Kibet moved to the front with two laps to go.

With Defar switching herself into top gear at the final curve, the crowd erupted with joy and that was enough motivation for the former to power her way to gold.

"I'm happy I pleased the crowd. My target now is to look for the world records in the 5000 and 10,000m," added Defar.

Cheruiyot revealed that it was rough race. "In the last 1500m, there was a lot of pushing. But I am very happy for this medal and I am satisfied with silver."

Ejigu was pleased that she had performed under pressure after their poor show in Berlin last season."

There was a lot of tension at the beginning because there were a lot of expectations for us to get over Berlin.

We had a plan with Meseret to counter the Kenyans and I am so happy that Meseret won the race. I am just so happy Ethiopia got the gold."

African sweep

Mekonnen held on to become the first man since Hicham El Guerrouj to defend the World Indoor 1500m title in 3:41.36 with a mere tenth of a second to spare over a disappointed Iguider who was aiming at emulating the legendary World record holder.

As Laalou faded badly with fatigue, Keitany came into the final straight back to grab bronze in 3:42.32.

Gebremedhin was given fourth ahead of Laalou both at 3:42.42 as van Deventer completed the African sweep at the top.

“That was challenging from the Moroccans, very tough last two laps,” said Mekonnen. “But I managed to defend my title and that was my goal. I got great support from the crowd, thanks for that.”

However, Iguider wasn't very happy: “It was a bit difficult. I feel I deserved the first place, but the Kenyan and Ethiopians managed to control the race the way they wanted.

"It's been a long time that Morocco didn't win a medal, I hope that the Moroccan people will be happy even though it's only the silver. I promise them I'll do my best to get the gold in Daegu in 2011.”