A year after winning Olympic bronze, Ethiopia Gudaf Tsegay powered by a chaotic final lap to claim the women’s 5000m world title on Saturday night.
With flying elbows down the straight, Tsegay broke away from the field to cross the line in 14:46.29. This is the 25-year-old’s second medal at the 2022 World Athletics Championships after winning silver in the 1,500m last Monday. (The video is embedded above.)
from Kenya Beatrice Chebet took silver, while Ethiopia Dawit Seyaum picked up the bronze.
Immediately after finishing, Tsegay was approached and picked up by a fan who had run onto the track with a Tigray (a region in northern Ethiopia) flag. The Ethiopian federal government is accused of committing war crimes and launching a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the people of Western Tigray since November 2020.
Citius Mag founder Chris Chavez tracked down the fan, who identified himself as Mearg Mekonnen and as the “voice of the voiceless”.
“There is an ongoing genocide in my country,” he said. “These two athletes are from my country, more precisely from my region. They cannot see their family, their sisters, their fathers. I just tell them, ‘You’re fine. You’re good. You did it.'”
(For more on the conflict in Tigray and its impact on female runners, read this story by Hannah Borenstein.)
I just spoke to the guy, who identified himself as Mearg Mekonen, after being sent back to the stadium. He came to Hayward Field just for the women’s 5000m.
“I kissed his feet on behalf of all the Tigrayan people.” pic.twitter.com/GEZrXkJTsu
—Chris Chavez (@ChrisChavez) July 24, 2022
World record holder Letesenbet Gideywho won the 10,000m earlier at the 2022 Worlds, led for most of the race but couldn’t hold on at the end, finishing fifth.
Reigning World Champion and Reigning Olympic Gold Medalist Sifan Hassan also fell just short, ranking sixth. Hassan, as is her signature style, stayed at the back of the pack for the early laps. She made a move at the bell, but passed out in the final meters.
Elise Cranny, America’s top finisher in ninth, described the race pace as “very fartlek-y”. As for his own performance, “it’s a bit mixed”, she says. “He tries to just take steps forward. You have to get into the top ten first and get through those stages…but you also want to get into that top six, top five, eventually top three. So it’s bittersweet.
Karissa Schweizer recorded a DNF and appeared to be struggling with an injury as she came off the track, but her status was not immediately clear. The third American in the final, Emilie Infeldfinished 14th.
The NBC Sports research team contributed to this report.
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC