Boston, Ma. – The 17th New Balance Indoor Grand Prix goes off tomorrow evening in Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center, showcasing some of track and field’s top talent before a sold-out, often frenzied audience. Six world records and 28 national marks have been set in this meet, and more will be in jeopardy tomorrow night.
Among the athletes returning to The Reggie is Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, aka “the Baby Face Destroyer”, who rose to world-class status at the tender age of 17, has eight world championship gold medals in her collection, and came into full flower with her double Olympic gold in Beijing 2008 in the 5000 & 10,000 meters. But since that career peak, it’s been a rough road for the 25 year-old Dibaba. After marrying Olympic 10,000-meter silver medalist Sileshi Sihine in October 2008, Tirunesh has been sidelined with a recurring bout of shin splints. In that time she’s missed two World Championships, Berlin `09 and Daegu `11, and now, as she enters the all-important Olympic year, she is taking her return to competition very slowly.
Tomorrow night in Boston, rather than butt heads with countrywoman and rival Meseret Defar, American 1500m World Champion Jenny Simpson, and 2009 World Championship 1500m bronze medalist Shannon Rowbury, herself returning from an injury-plagued 2011 campaign, Tirunesh will run the two-mile against a decidedly less glittering field.
“I have only had a few months training now,” said Tirunesh through translator Elias Kebede. “My goal is to run a very good time, and also be competitive.”
When I asked Shannon Rowbury why she decided to contest the tougher 3000m rather than the JV two-mile, since she, too, is coming back from a down year, she said, “the best way to know where you stand, especially early in the year, is to jump in against the best. That way you know exactly where you are and what you need to work on.”
While Tirunesh did get the better of fellow Ethiopian Gelete Burka at a 10K in Madrid January 4th in 31 minutes and 30 seconds, an athlete of her stature, freighted with the weight of expectations, lingers in a more defensive posture when revisiting the oval after a long absence. (more…)