By Steven Mills, @trackside2018
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND (03-Mar) — Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba joined the pantheon of all-time greats across the sport, becoming just the fourth athlete in history to win five individual titles in the history of the IAAF World Indoor Championships.

Dibaba is still two behind the “Maputo Express,” Maria Mutola from Mozambique, who won an unprecedented seven world indoor 800m titles between 1993 and 2006. But at the age of 27, the Ethiopian has time on her side after winning the 1500m title here today in 4:05.27.

Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan was languishing mid-pack when Dibaba made her break in the 3000m final on Thursday, but after a cumbersome start with the first 400m covered in sluggish 76.48, the reigning champion was alert to the danger this time when Dibaba put the hammer down with just over five laps remaining.

“There was good tactics and I gave everything in it,” said Hassan. “But I was just tired.”

The three medalists from the 3000m –Dibaba, Hassan and Great Britain’s Laura Muir– separated themselves from the field with two laps remaining as Dibaba wound-up the pace unrelentingly. Dibaba covered the 400m segment between 400m and 800m in 64.33 and then the next 400m in a crisp 59.77.

With a closing 300m timed at 44.69, Dibaba covered the final 700 meters in well under sub-two minute pace to reclaim the title she won six years ago in Istanbul. There was a change to the finishing order from the 3000m though, as Muir overhauled Hassan in the last 300 meters for silver, 4:06.23 to 4:07.26.

“I knew I had to try and get Hassan before the bend and I felt good so I went for it,” said Muir, who has firmly discarded the nearly-woman tag with a brace of medals at the championships.

“I’ve finished fourth, sixth and seventh in world finals before so to win two medals this time around is amazing; it is about time!”

After finishing fifth in the 3000m, Shelby Houlihan ran another well-judged race to come through for fourth in 4:11.93, taking the notable scalps of Kenyans Winny Chebet in fifth (4:12.08) and Beatrice Chepkoech in seventh (4:13.59). Colleen Quigley was ninth in 4:15.97.

KSZCZOT LANDS ELUSIVE GLOBAL TITLE

It has also been a case of so close but so far for Adam Kszczot in major events, but in his eleventh appearance in a global championships since 2009, the bearded Pole claimed his first global title after a string of silver and bronze medals both indoors and outdoors.

Kszczot was never out of position and when he made his move, it was decisive. The 28-year-old led by a stride at the bell before opening up clear daylight on the pursuers with a 25.08 last lap, crossing the finish-line arms aloft in 1:47.47.

“It may look easy from the outside but it was a very difficult race, especially mentally,” said Kszczot. “I knew that the Spaniards would watch me but I was ready for this. I knew how to deal with it.”

The championships have been fraught by disqualifications and this race was no exception.

American Drew Windle was initially disqualified for obstruction after he and Britain’s Elliott Giles made contact, and also after he caught the back bib of Kszczot.  However, USA Track & Field appealed and the decision was overturned.

“I think what it was is that my natural arm swing caught on the back of his [Kszczot’s] bib and took the sticker off his shirt which maybe is why it looked like a pull,” said Windle, who was reinstated with his silver medal in 1:47.99.

The second-ranked Spaniard Saul Ordonez was just pipped on the line by Windle to get bronze in 1:48.01.

AMERICANS QUALIFY FOR SUNDAY’S FINALS

Four Americans were in middle distance action in this morning’s heats and all of them progressed through to their respective finals, tomorrow.

With just the heat winners qualifying automatically, world outdoor bronze medalist Ajee’ Wilson came through a potentially difficult draw in the first heat of the 800m. Wilson won in 2:01.90 ahead of world-leader Habitam Alemu from Ethiopia (2:02.18) and European outdoor 1500m champion Angelika Cichocka from Poland (2:02.25), the latter missing out on a non-automatic qualifying spot by just 0.07.

Second at the USA Championships behind Wilson, multiple NCAA champion Raevyn Rogers finished third in her heat in 2:02.17 to reach the final on time behind Great Britain’s Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (2:01.76) and two-time European indoor champion Selina Büchel from Switzerland (2:01.84).

Reigning world indoor champion Francine Niyonsaba from Burundi opened her indoor account by winning the third heat in 2:00.99 but Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui was another to feel the wrath of the officials.  She was disqualified after finishing second to Niyonsaba in the third heat and would have qualified on time.

In the 1500m heats, Ben Blankenship missed out on an automatic qualifying spot by just 0.03 but he was the fastest of the non-automatic qualifiers with 3:40.23 from the first heat which was won by the very experienced Abdelaati Iguider from Morocco in 3:40.13.

Craig Engels’ task in the third heat was made decidedly easier by the late withdrawals of former world indoor champion Ayanleh Souleiman from Djibouti (visa problems) and world outdoor finalist Sadik Mikhou from (travel problems).

With a late run, Engels sealed the second automatic qualifying spot in 3:47.55 ahead of Morocco’s Brahim Kaazouzi (3:47.65) in a race won by Great Britain’s Jake Wightman in 3:47.23.

“I came here with the goal of getting to the final, so that is a huge one. It is a big relief,” said Engels, who is by no means here to make up the numbers in tomorrow’s final.  “The field is extremely talented but I didn’t come here to sit in last and I am going to go for it in the final.”

PHOTO: Genzebe Dibaba after winning the 1500m title at the 2018 IAAF World Indoor Championships (photo by Getty Images for IAAF)

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