Genzebe Dibaba has contributed to her family’s amazing athletic accomplishments and put herself in a category with two of track and field’s legends, Jesse Owens and Usain Bolt.
The 24-year-old Ethiopian, the younger sister of three-time Olympic gold medalist Tirunesh Dibaba, Olympic silver medalist Ejagaychi Dibaba and the cousin of Olympic champion Derartu Tulu, will try and add to her remarkable resume Sunday, March 29, when she aims for her fifth world record in her debut on the roads in the Carlsbad 5000.
Not only is she hoping to win, she also will be trying to break the world record of 14:46 set by another Ethiopian, Meseret Defar, at Carlsbad in 2006.
“I know the world record is tough, but I want to come and break it,” Genzebe said.
“If she comes here healthy and in good shape, she’ll break the record,” said Matt Turnbull, elite athlete coordinator for the event.
If Genzebe accomplishes her goal, it would be her fifth world record in just over a year and make her a Carlsbad winner, just like Tirunesh in 2005.
Genzebe began her sensational assault on the world record books on Feb. 1, 2014, at Karlsruhe, Germany, winning an indoor 1,500 meters in 3:55.17, chopping more than three seconds off the previous mark. Five days later, at Stockholm, Sweden, Genzebe improved the world indoor record in the 3,000 to 8:16.60, 30 seconds better than her personal best and more than seven seconds quicker than the world mark. Then, on Feb. 15, at Birmingham, England, she set the world indoor two-mile record of 9:00:48, six seconds faster than the old mark.
That made her only one of three athletes to set three world records in three different events in 15 days, joining Owens and Bolt in that feat. And she is the only one to perform that feat in three different cities and meets and all in individual events.
This year, on Feb. 19 at Stockholm, Genzebe gained her fourth world record, winning an indoor 5,000 in 14:18.86.
With that kind of background, Genzebe is a prohibitive favorite to win her debut in the Carlsbad 5000, her first race on the roads. However, her task might not be that easy, since some formidable challengers await her.
There’s 42-year-old Deena Kastor of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., who set the American 5,000 road record of 14:54 in 2002 at Carlsbad and will be aiming to break that mark again. She also will be chasing the world Masters record of 15:48 established by Colleen De Reuck in 2004. Kastor also won at Carlsbad in 2000.
“I always have high expectations going into a race,” Kastor said. “This year, I am looking to run fast. I’ve lowered my mileage considerably and have been working on my speed, so I may be prepared to run about 15:30.”
“If she (Kastor) breaks the American record, she’ll also break the Masters record,” Turnbull said.
Another top contender should be Brenda Martinez, 27, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., the bronze medalist at 800 meters at the 2013 World Championships whose best 5K is 13:44 while finishing fifth at last year’s Carlsbad race.
Also, there’s Sentayehu Ejigu, a 30-year-old Ethiopian, the world indoor 3,000-meter bronze medalist who finished fourth over 5,000 meters at consecutive world championships and was third at Carlsbad in 2006.
Still, the race seems to belong to Genzebe. She trains with Tirunesh in Sondafa, just outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she lives with her sister and brother-in-law.
“Tirunesh gives me a lot of advice,”Genzebe said, “and I always take her advice because she has been on top for so many years. Sometimes I call her before my race. She is my idol.”
Her coach, Jama Aden. a Somali-born graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University and a former middle-distance runner, calls Genzebe “a very hard worker and easy to coach.”
“She can run fast from 800 meters to 10K,” Aden said. “Also, she runs with the big boys during tempo runs, fartlek and in hill workouts, and really mixes with them.”
Genzebe has run 14:28.88 for 5,000 meters on the track. If she runs anywhere close to that at Carlsbad, she will have world record No. 5.