OSAKA--Born in Ethiopia. Trains in Switzerland. Represents Bahrain. Maryam Jamal, the one-woman melting pot, is the new world champion of the women's 1,500 meters.
Jamal delivered Bahrain its first gold in Osaka on Sunday night, holding off Yelena Soboleva down the straight to win in a season best 3 minutes 58.75 seconds, slightly more than two-tenths of a second ahead of the Russian favorite.
Jamal made up for her fifth-place showing in Helsinki, wresting the lead from Soboleva along the back stretch during the final lap and never looking back as she chugged toward her first world gold.
"It feels kind of strange for me," said the Lausanne-based Jamal, whose allegiance from Ethiopia to Bahrain was rubber stamped on New Year's Day in 2005. "I was born in Ethiopia, I train in Switzerland, but I represent Bahrain. So it's strange, but I'm very happy to win in Japan.
"This makes up for Helsinki, when I was in good shape, but I was pushed. I am certain that it that hadn't happened--even if I didn't win--I would have medaled then. This gives me great confidence for the Olympics."
Ukraine's Iryna Lishchynska, the fastest qualifier in the semifinals, won the bronze in 4:00.69.
Soboleva, second in the semis after Lishchynska, had led the field of 12 for most of the journey, setting a pace of 3:12.66 through the first 1,200 meters at Nagai Stadium.
The 25-year-old Soboleva, fourth at the 2005 IAAF world championships and with a world-leading time of 3:57.30, had been made the favorite after two-time defending champion and compatriot Tatyana Tomashova withdrew due to injury last week.
Soboleva said she had no regrets about the tactics she employed. Jamal, positioned right behind Soboleva until she reached for her finishing kick, said the pace which the Russian set couldn't have suited her better. They were the only two to post a sub-four minute finishing time.
"I had planned that if it was too fast, I would kick with 300 meters or 400 to go," said Jamal, formerly known as Zenebech Tola. "But as it happened, when the Russian took the lead, it was perfect for me to kick with about 200 or 150 to go.
"I am extremely happy."
Said Soboleva: "I wanted to win, did all what was necessary. I was fighting 'til the end, but she was better today. I would not change anything in my tactics in case I would be able to race this final again.
"It was a very tough race. As I told you after the semifinals, the final will be a quick race. The main difference was that she was running the previous race at 4:15 and me at 4:03 level. I think that cost me a lot of power in comparison with her."