ADDIS ABABA - The two-time Olympic gold medalist Ethiopian Meseret Defar won the women's Synchrony Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon on Sunday with a consummate ease at a time of one hour, eight minutes and 26 seconds leaving behind Jane Kibii of Kenya, who clocked 1:12:00 to take the second place. Kaitlyn James of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, was third in 1:13:54.
In the men's event Titus Ekiru won the men's race in 1:01:02, 16 seconds ahead of Feyisa Lilesa who won the silver medal in the marathon at the Rio Olympics. Josphat Kipchirchir of Kenya was third in 1:02:21. It was expected that Feyisa would take this title with little difficulty but the Kenyan surprised the crowed with unexpected victory in his debut.
The elite runners in the half and full marathon were finished long before the race was halted for about 10 minutes and rerouted after a police officer accidentally shot himself in the leg while pursuing a hit-and-run suspect who pointed a weapon at police and was eventually arrested on the roof of a parking structure near the finish line in downtown.
The incident brought havoc for the contenders and the organizers but it was confirmed the race was completed without any disturbance.
Meseret got this big win after she was sidelined from international races due a sustained injury for the last two years.
She said that this is a good beginning after two years interval. "Hereafter I will shift my event to marathon. My era of track race is over with two Olympic gold medals and other big wins in the international arena. For me and my country the two Olympic medals were big achievements. I hope I will try to register equally shining result in the Olympic and the World Championship in Marathon," Meseret said after victory.
In her view when an athlete is out of contest for so long it is difficult to come back and register good results. "I had that fear when I was registered for this event. I knew that I had fully recovered from my leg injury but despite that no one knows what will happen in the middle of the race. In my case nothing happened. I began and finished with comfortable footsteps. It was very wonderful except that disturbing incident," Meseret reiterated. The accident of the police happened after the elite race was completed.
Ups and downs of Meseret
In her remarkable achievements in her 20 or so years athletics career, Meseret had a number of ups and downs.
She earned her first Olympic gold medal in Athens in 2004 in 5, 000m. Kenenisa Bekele also got his 10, 000m gold in Athens. For both Athens that was the beginning of their shining victory at the Olympics.
After Athens she was highly expected to repeat that feat in Beijing Olympics in 2008 but to no avail.
Instead Tirunesh Dibaba made historic gain by winning the 5, 000m and 10, 000m double Olympic medals in her debut.
Despite that failure Meseret made a remarkable comeback at the London Olympics to regain her 5, 000m Olympic title for the second time forcing Tirunesh to take the third place.
One can see from this that Meseret has the capacity to rejuvenate herself within 8-year intervals. In her athletics career her victories include the World championship and other international big meets in 10, 000m, 5, 000m, 3, 000m and 2, 000m.
Meseret has in mind that she will represent the country in marathon in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She had a plan to take part in the Rio Olympics but a combination of different problems including health forced her to miss that great opportunity.
She remembers that big miss with remorse. "I had the gut and power to go in to Rio but the circumstance didn't allow me. I tried up to the limit to keep up the name of the country in Olympics. It was not possible to make it. Currently I feel that I will do everything possible to appear for Tokyo Olympics. That is the golden Opportunity to show my full capacity with win in marathon," she said.
This time the veteran athletes are coming up with impressive performance. Tirunesh Dibaba has been doing pretty excellent in marathon. Kenenisa Bekele is struggling to do something substantial in marathon. Now Meseret Defar is in the making. The expectation is that the reemergence of the old guard gives impetus to the young athlete to fill the gap with extraordinary vigour.