OSAKA, Japan (AFP) — Ethiopia's Olympic champion Meseret Defar timed her run to perfection to win her first world title in the women's 5,000 metres on Saturday.
The world record holder stalked the front runner for most of the race before sprinting clear with 200 metres 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 favourite 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.