Kalkidan Fentie arrived in Bydgoszcz with limited international experience to her name but any winner of an Ethiopian middle or long distance title – be it at U20 or senior level – should be respected heading into a global competition.
The 18-year-old was one of the slowest in the field with a 16:26.11 PB but on her racing debut in Europe, the Ethiopian junior champion duly upset the formbook to claim their country’s second title of the championships.
Fentie became the eighth Ethiopian to win the 5000m title, following in the footsteps of some redoubtable names including Meseret Defar and Genzebe Dibaba but the manner in which she ran this morning was more reminiscent of world champion Almaz Ayana.
After reaching the 3000m checkpoint in 9:34.03, Fentie tore the field asunder with a 65.93 lap – faster than world record pace – with four laps remaining before producing another hard surge in the last 800 metres.
The chasers, including Kenyan U20 champion Emmaculate Chepkirui and Ethiopian-born Bahraini Bontu Rebitu, were still in touching distance at the bell but Fente surged again, covering the last lap in 68.63 to claim victory in 15:29.64, a lifetime best by nearly a minute.
And there was clearly more in the tank if she needed it. Fentie kept running at the same pace for another 100 metres after crossing the finish line before the Ethiopian contingent positioned at the top of the back straight called out to her to stop.
“It’s great for our country that we keep the flag flying high here,” she said. “My plan for the future is to become the Olympic champion in Tokyo.”
One of the youngest athletes in the race, Chepkirui kept Rebitu at bay on the last lap to claim silver in 15:31.12 with the Bahraini taking bronze in 15:31.93.
The morning sessions in Bydgoszcz have been typically held in hot and sunny weather but the relatively cool and fresh conditions this morning were perfect for the long-distance runners with eight of top 10 finishers setting lifetime bests.