CARLSBAD — The Ethiopian flags began to be unfurled about the time Meseret Defar rounded the corner, heading down the Carlsbad Village Drive finishing stretch. Then came the chants.
“Messi number one! Messi number one!” cried a partying crowd of Ethiopians near the Carlsbad 5000 finish line.
It had been six years since Defar, the two-time Olympic gold medalist at 5,000 meters, had raced at the seaside layout. But judging from her performance Sunday, the 95-pound whippet hasn’t forgotten her way around the downtown village.
Defar, 32, sped to victory in the professional women’s race in 15 minutes flat. Average pace per mile: 4 minutes, 50 seconds. Caroline Kipkirui of Kenya finished second in 15:11.