One year after claiming Olympic bronze, Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay powered through a chaotic final lap to win the women’s 5000m world title on Saturday night.
With flying elbows in the backstretch, Tsegay separated herself from the field to cross the line in 14:46.29. It is the 25-year-old’s second medal of these 2022 World Track and Field Championships after she claimed 1500m silver last Monday. (Video is embedded above.)
Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet nabbed the silver, while Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum picked up bronze.
Immediately after finishing, Tsegay was approached and picked up by a fan who had run onto the track with a Tigray flag (a region in northern Ethiopia). The Ethiopian federal government has been accused of committing war crimes and launching a campaign of ethnic cleansing against people in Western Tigray since November 2020.
Citius Mag founder Chris Chavez tracked down the fan, who identified himself as Mearg Mekonnen and as a “voice for the voiceless.”
“There is genocide going on in my country,” he said. “Both of those athletes are from my country, specifically from my area. They’re not able to see their family, their sisters, their fathers. I’m just telling them, ‘You’re ok. You’re good. You did this.'”
(For more background on the conflict in Tigray and its impact on women runners, read this story by Hannah Borenstein.)
Just spoke to the guy, who identified himself as Mearg Mekonen, after he was let back into the stadium. He came to Hayward Field just for the women’s 5000m race.
“I kissed her feet on behalf of the whole Tigrayan people.” pic.twitter.com/GEZrXkJTsu
— Chris Chavez (@ChrisChavez) July 24, 2022
World-record holder Letesenbet Gidey, who won the 10,000m earlier at 2022 Worlds, led for nearly the entire race but couldn’t hang on at the end, finishing fifth.
Defending world champ and reigning Olympic gold medalist Sifan Hassan also fell just short, placing sixth. Hassan, as is her signature style, stuck to the back of the pack for the early laps. She made a move at the bell, but faded in the final meters.
Elise Cranny, the top American finisher in ninth, described the race pace as “very fartlek-y.” As for her own performance, “it’s a bit of a mixed bag,” she said. “It’s trying to be happy with taking steps forward. You gotta crack into the top ten first and take those steps… but you also want to get in that top six, top five, eventually top three. So it’s bittersweet.”
Karissa Schweizer recorded a DNF and appeared to be dealing with an injury as she left the track, but her status wasn’t immediately clear. The third American in the final, Emily Infeld, finished 14th.
The NBC Sports research team contributed to this report.
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC