OSAKA, Japan -- Ethiopia's Olympic champion Meseret Defar timed her run to perfection to win her first world title in the women's 5,000 meters on Saturday.
Defar timed her run to perfection to add the world 5,000m title to her Olympic title.
The world record holder stalked the front runner for most of the race before sprinting clear with 200 meters to go, finishing in a slow 14 minutes 57.91 seconds.
Vivian Cheruiyot took silver in 14:58.50 with team-mate Priscah Jepleting Cherono winning the all-Kenyan dash for bronze in 14:59.21.
Defar was ecstatic with the win after finishing behind great rival Tirunesh Dibaba, who pulled out with stomach pains, two years ago, and failing to qualify for the final in 2003.
"Finally I'm the world champion. My tactics were to wait until the last two laps and then start my finish," Defar said.
"I am the champion and that's great. In Beijing (Olympics) I will run the 5,000m and maybe in future I will try the 10,000m."
The 23-year-old Defar, who set the world record 14:16.63 just two months ago, was the hot favorite after Dibaba's withdrawal.
And the double African Games champion showed her class as she burst free at the last lap.
Cheruiyot, who owns the second fastest 5,000m in history, tried to go with the Ethiopian as the tightly bunched field finally opened up.
Kenya's Sylvia Jebiwott Kibet finished fourth with Turkey's 10,000m silver medallist Elvan Abeylegesse, a former world record holder over this distance, fifth.
Dibaba's late withdrawal deprived fans of one of the world championships' most hotly awaited showdowns. "Tirunesh Dibaba is a very strong athlete and a very good competitor for me. I'm sorry she is sick and she is not here," said Defar.
"But she is the 10,000m champion and I am the 5,000m world champion so that is good. I ran for my country and I wanted the gold medal, and today, I was 100 percent sure I would win."
Dibaba, who had successfully defended her 10,000m title, is the 2003 and 2005 world champion over 5,000m and her races with Defar are legendary.
Last year Defar beat Dibaba in Berlin to cut significantly her share of the Golden League jackpot, increasing reported tensions between them.
Defar beat Dibaba into third place at the Athens Olympics and she has lowered the world record twice in the past two seasons, most recently in Oslo this June.
Ethiopians swept the board at the last world championships, with Dibaba, Defar, Dibaba's sister Ejagayou and Meselech Melkamu finishing one, two, three and four in Helsinki.
Cheruiyot's silver, heading a Kenyan two, three and four, improved on her seventh-place finish in 2005.
"I'm satisfied with my second position. Next time, I will try to do better. Kenya came second, third and fourth -- this is extraordinary," said Cheruiyot.
The United States brushed off a last-ditch spurt by Jamaican sprint champion Veronica Campbell to retain the 4x100-metre women's relay title.
US anchor Torri Edwards took the baton from Mikele Barber with a slight lead and ran away from a surging Campbell, who won the 100m on Monday, for their second straight world championship victory over Olympic champions Jamaica.
The US team clocked 41.98 seconds, the year's best in the world, with Jamaica clocking 42.01 in the latest chapter of their tense sprint rivalry. Belgium finished third in 42.75.
Lauryn Williams, who placed second behind Campbell in the 100m photo finish, kicked off the US charge and Allyson Felix, who successfully defended her world 200m title against Campbell, kept up the lead for Barber.
Their winning time further eclipsed the season-leading time of 42.24 they set in the semifinals.
Kim Gevaert anchored Belgium with a storming run to slash by 0.1sec their national record which they too set in the semi-finals.
It was the fifth world 4x100 title for US women.
"Just feels awesome to be part of this great team," Felix said. "I was a team player today. I'm happy I won the gold. It was a lot of fun."
Campbell was disappointed but happy at the same time.
"I'm happy with my last race here, I'll enjoy this medal. The others executed well and I thank God for everything."
Looking ahead to the Olympics next year, Felix added: "In Beijing I will choose between 100 and 200m or 200m and 400m combination." E-mail to a friend