Sunday, November 25, 2007

Meseret Defar: Top Female Athlete of 2007

Earlier today, Ethiopian great Meseret Defar was crowned as the female World Athlete of the Year for 2007 at the World Athletics Gala in Monte-Carlo. This is the first time an Ethiopian female athlete has been selected for this most prestigious award in athletics. In the past, Kenenisa Bekele has received the men's award on two occasions while Haile Gebrselassie received it one time.

Upon receiving the award, which carries a USD100,000 prize, Defar commented:

I don’t have words to describe how happy I am. This is very special for me. This is very special for Ethiopian women. Those who struggle very hard and who don't have very many opportunities to achieve the highest levels of athletics. So I dedicate this award to them.
At the same Gala Awards, Haile Gebrselassie, who was one of the three finalist for male World Athlete of the Year, was selected for the category of Inspirational Award... more
Below is a summary of links to reports ROOCHA posted on Meseret Defar during 2007:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Snubbed Again for Chiba?

What has the Ethiopian Athletics Federation done to upset the Japanese? This has been an unanswered question for a year now. There is a report that Ethiopia, for the second year in a row, has not been invited by the Japanese federation to compete at the prestigious Chiba Ekiden Relay. The question I posed at the bottom of my Nov. 27, 2006 post remians unanswered.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tamrat Ayalew Wins Marine Marathon

Tamrat Ayalew, who has been a subject of an earlier post here on ROOCHA, won yesterday's Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. Today's edition of the Washington Post ran a nice story on the marathon. They also have indexed video clips of the finish line where you can watch the winners as well as all the other finishers.

Although Marine Corps Marathon does not award any money to top finishers (thus its nick name The People's Marathon), it is great to see an Ethiopian take the win in Washington, D.C., adopted home of perhaps the largest concentration of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia.
Personal kudos to a local friend Mamo who completed the marathon in 3:47 with minimal training. Great job!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Any Resemblance?

Do you see any resemblance? The hairline, the half-shut eye, the ear, the headtilt, the mustache? Is Haile doing some of it in purpose?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cheering Adere From The Back

By Roocha WeaDage

Once again this year, a hearty congratulations to Berhane Adere who won Chicago in 2:33:49, albeit right at the intersection of Marathon Ln. and Champion Dr.

At the crack of dawn, walking down to the starting corral in Grant Park, it was a breath of fresh air walking into a forest of runners who were stretching and getting ready for the race to start. Walking past the starting line, I imagined this is where one of our country heroes Adere will be starting off along with the other elite athletes. Isn't it great that only and only in running one is able to compete with the who's who of world class athletes!

Chicago '07 certainly was a marathon to remember from its record heat wave to the unprecedented finish as Adere reached deep into her track & field days to win Chicago back to back. For elite athletes and others alike, Chicago '07 perhaps will go down in history book as a disappointment. Couple days before the race, a Chicagoist article
"Chicago Marathon 2007: This One's Gonna Hurt" wrote:

Don’t be a hero. These aren’t the conditions for a personal best; finishing in one piece is good enough.

For those who heeded this advise, it served well, and for others Chicago '07 was chalked as one of the most challenging marathon. To put it in perspective, instead of spectators congratulating finishers for finishing a marathon, the scene last Sunday was such that spectators were congratulating finishers for surviving the record heat wave.

However, beneath Chicago's heat wave and disappointing finishing time, there was a common thread that united hundreds of runners: the love of running under the name of charity, the unity to bring opportunity and miracles to others less fortunate. It's this combination that made this year's Chicago marathon an extraordinary marathon for many as hundreds were running for a great cause, mine being a
A Running Start Foundation which is making a tangible impact to Ethiopia's future runners.

A Running Start Foundation is an organization that is dedicated to using the power of sport to improve the lives of underprivileged youngsters in Ethiopia and East Africa. One example is a project that is taking place in Ethiopia with the youth sports club in
Bekoji that has produced world renowned athletes such as Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba. Being part of this great cause through running was simply a priceless experience. This year's Chicago Marathon represented over 80 charities raising nearly $10M. Many thanks to those who supported these causes and a challenge for others to get involved.

These great charity programs involve common runners as well as elite athletes. In this spirit of charity, I had the pleasure of having a dinner with one of the elite athletes from neighboring Kenya who also combines the passion of running with a greater cause. Meeting
Christopher Cheboiboch who finished 6th last weekend was an experience. Christopher is an athlete who displays a compassionate and genuine attitude towards others not only through his words but also through his actions. Although Sunday's running condition left more to be desired, it gave Christopher and myself an opportunity to talk about running and how it can make an impact on society at large. Christopher, like many others, is involved in developing a primary school named Salba Academy in his home country Kenya. Through his generosity, Christopher has used his earnings from New York City Marathon and Boston Marathon winnings to afford kids in his community an opportunity to learn and grow. Kudos to Christopher and wish him best in his endeavors.

For the rest of us, let's continue to make a difference.
Yechalale! ... Translation from Amharic: "It’s possible". Together we can make a difference!

Long live ROOCHA!
Roocha Note: Thank you Roocha WeaDage for sharing your firsthand experience in Chicago and congratulations on surviving the heat and finishing the marathon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Beijing Pollution Concerns

A couple of articles of interest.

Nice article in today's Washington Post titled "Gray Wall Dims Hopes of 'Green' Games"
Two weeks ago, two Ethiopian middle-distance running champions announced they would forgo some events because of the "disgusting weather and air pollution." New Zealand and American athletes say they will wear face masks if necessary. Even Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, warned that some endurance sports might be postponed if the pollution gets too bad.

Also this article titled "A 'disgusting' Beijing Repels Olympic Athletes" quotes Kenenisa as saying that Beijing has “mixture of disgusting weather and air pollution" and that he will not try to double. Meseret Defar says that she will have to change her exercise regime and routines radically and will not attempt to double.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Happy Birthday!

After 135 posts over the past 12 months, ROOCHA, the blog, today turns one year old! It has been a remarkable year with lots of emotional ups and downs, victories and defeats, but it has been a lot of fun writing about our beloved sport of running from a personal, national, and international perspective. Looking forward to the next 12 months as we count down to Beijing. Your comments and suggestions are most welcome.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Berhane Adere: Talent and Guts

UPDATE: You can watch here the last few minutes of "one of the greatest race comebacks" turned in by Berhane Adere at the Chicago Marathon today.

As if the men's photo finish was not dramatic enough for one marathon, Berhane Adere produced the most amazing sprint over the last half-mile to come from some 80 meters behind to win the Chicago Marathon right at the finish line. Berhane won last year's race in what I thought was as gutsy performance as one can ever expect to see, but she has outdone herself this year in what is sure to become a classic come-from-behind marathon victory story.
Berhane Adere- all talent and all guts! Looking forward to cheer for you in Beijing Olympics next year. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Ivuti and Adere clinch Chicago Marathon
victories with dramatic sprints

Sunday 7 October 2007

Chicago, USA - The 30th running of the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon turned into a sprint as both the men's and women's winners won in dramatic, but very different ways... Defending women's champion Berhane Adere of Ethiopia made up 30 seconds in the last two kilometres, most of it down the 385 yard finishing straight to blow past a shocked Adriana Pirtea of Romania in the final 50 metres to win by three seconds in 2:33:49... Pirtea seemed to be on her way to a comfortable victory in her debut marathon, waving to the crowd and oblivious to the fact that Adere was sprinting at top speed down the homestretch. On her toes and in full flight, Adere, flashed past the celebrating Pirtea, passing several men in the process and missing the finish tape that had been stretched out for Pirtea. By the time the Romanian, who had attended the University of Texas, El Paso in the US, realized that Adere was anywhere near her, it was too late... more

Tight finishes highlight 2007 marathon, By Shannon Ryan,Tribune staff reporter

October 7, 2007, 11:09 AM CDT

...Ethiopian Berhane Adere recorded one of the greatest race comebacks, repeating as women's champion in 2:33:49. Adere fell behind by about 25 seconds late in the race but managed to sprint to the finish and overtake unsuspecting Romanian Adriana Pirtea. Pirtea learned a quick lesson in her marathon debut -- do not relax until it's over. She waved to the crowd in celebration of what she thought was a clear-cut victory after pulling ahead of Adere around the 22d mile. In a wise move, Adere ran to the outside of the course out of Pirtea's vision. Pirtea appeared unaware that she was being passed and was shocked to learn the news after finishing in 2:33:52... more

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wunetim Worku (Truly Gold)

By Haddis Tafari

When I recently discovered that Haile Gebrselassie would headline a half marathon race in New York City, I jumped at the chance and went to New York to watch the race. It was a rare opportunity to see Haile Gebrselassie in action and I did not want to miss it.

I was thrilled to see Haile, but I went home thinking about the other Ethiopian Athletes that were in the same race. I had often read race reports about Leteyesus Berhe, Kasahun Kabiso and Retta Feyissa. However, I was surprised to see that there are a growing number of over 20 Ethiopian athletes in the New York area.

Some are veteran athletes that are in their 30’s while others are youngsters that have made it to the US., through some form of Visa sponsorship and are attached to running clubs in the New York City area. As I made my way to the finish line to watch the end of the race I ran into a group of Ethiopians and Americans who talked about one of the local Ethiopian runners. They spoke passionately about Worku Beyi, a shy 20 year old guy who now runs for the Westchester running club.

As we waited for Haile to make his way down from the hotel for the award ceremony, we got to meet and talk to Worku. Worku had just finished 8th in the half marathon behind Haile in a personal best of 1:03.39. He talked about his race and the fact that he was not too happy with his shoes that day. He also joked about how Haile was impressed with his run. After the race Haile had quipped, “I am calling the federation to tell (report) to them the talent that is hiding here”.

Most of the Ethiopian runners that are in the New York area have gravitated to the Big Apple because of the New York Road Runners system that puts on multiple races a year. This allows the runners to earn a living while working small jobs. According to a recent New York Times article some of them work in nursing homes. Worku and Leteyesus work as pacers which involves taking some local runners on paced long runs in Central Park. Worku primarily survives on his race winnings which he uses to support himself and his family.

I was immediately scared to death when I heard how these runners are left to fend for themselves. Many of them live in the Bronx and room together in small apartments and their obligations likely exceed their means. What happens when they are injured? How can $500 and $1,000 dollar race checks cover rent, room and board? How do they communicate?

The most heartbreaking thing is that the thousands of Ethiopians that live in the NYC area are probably not aware off the plight of these athletes. There is no support system. From what I could tell the Ethiopian runners are supported by some coaches in the NYC area and some Americans who they have befriended. I felt a sense of shame that we (Ethiopians) are not helping each other because we are not aware of there plight. I felt so guilty that I made it a point to make sure I knew how to contact at least one of the runners … and how to provide whatever assistance I can afford.

As we headed to the Subway with Worku and his young Wife, we realized that we only had a $20 bill to purchase our subway ticket. Worku refused to let us use our credit card to purchase a subway card. He quickly scanned us through the turnstile and he paid for our trip.

I was fighting tears when I thought about this young man's generosity to random Ethiopians. If they can be generous to their countryman why shouldn’t we?

I vowed to myself that I will help Worku in anyway I can. I felt a need to return his generous favor 100 fold. I wanted to help make his dreams come true.

I urge the writers of this blog and others that may be reading this to help our local Ethiopian runners. Lets create a network to help them. It may be something as simple as providing them a place to stay as they race in your town. It may be paying their rent when they are injured. Whatever it is we should help these guys realize there dreams.

Here is a short list of Ethiopian runners in the east coast of the United States. I am sure there are more but this is what I am aware of:

* Worku Beyi
* Demesse Tefera
* Retta Feyissa
* Abiyot Endale
* Deressa Deniboba
* Genna Tufa
* Gurmessa Megerssa
* Alemtsehay Misganaw
* Leteyesus Berhe
* Atalelech Ketema
* Aziza Aliyu
* Tereza Yohannes
* Hareg Sidelil
* Maru Daba
* Bruk Debrwork
* Mohammed Awol
* Sentayehu Haile
* Tadele Worku
* Brehanu Adane
* Alena Reta
* Belyanesh Zemedkun (DC)
* Meskerem Legesse

Since I initially wrote this article Abiyot Endale and Worku called me before a race they ran in DC. I gave them a ride to and from their friends house and they finished 1st and 3rd respectively despite niggling injuries. Belaynesh and Atalelech Ketema finished 2nd and 3rd. We gave all the runners a ride back from the race. It was a pleasure to listen to them call the other runners who were running in VA, PA etc., to exchange news on how everyone did that day. It was a pleasure to do my part in helping my countrymen and women be as successful as they can be.

Roocha Note: We thank Haddis Tafari for joining our growing list of contributors. Readers interested to learn more about these local runners can do so by listening to a segment broadcast by Voice of America's Amharic service this past Sunday Sep. 30. The broadcast will be archived here until Sunday Oct. 7. Forward to 23:25 mark to listen.

Monday, October 01, 2007

2:04:26 Predicted!!

I am not a golfer but every now and then I hear mention of someone hitting a “hole-in-one.” Apparently, at least one witness is required to confirm that someone’s claim of a hole-in-one is true. I read that the worst nightmare for a golfer is achieving the rare feat of hitting a hole-in-one, but with no witness around to corroborate the story.

So, what does a hole-in-one have to do with Roocha? Well, as I watched Haile Gebrselassie cross the finish line in Berlin yesterday, I had a very similar experience of someone who had just hit a hole-in-one but with no witness! On Friday evening, I had sent out an e-mail to a private google group reminding family members to watch Haile run the Berlin Marathon on WCSN’s live webcast on Sunday. I then wrote down my prediction for Haile’s finishing time.

Imagine my shock watching the finish line clock tick over the last 20 to 30 meters of the race as Haile rushed towards the tape. I can at least try to make my case with e-mails I pulled from the “Sent” folder…

-----Original Message-----
From: "xxxxxx"
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2007 09:09:54
Subject: [Xxxxxxxxxx] Re: Watch Berlin Marathon on Sunday

Am I good or am I good? Haile breaks the record in 2:04:26!!!

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

-----Original Message-----
From: "xxxxxx"
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2007 21:50:02
Subject: [Xxxxxxxxxx] Watch Berlin Marathon on Sunday

Haile Gebrselassie will be attempting to break the marathon world record in a highly anticipated race in Berlin and Gete Wami will also be defending her title. You can watch it LIVE at for US$4.95.

My prediction: Haile gets the record in a time of 2:04:26


Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007


I think it is now beyond debate that Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia is the greatest distance runner of all time...

BERLIN (AFP) — Double Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie broke the world marathon record with an unofficial time of 2hr 4min 26sec in winning the 34th Berlin Marathon on Sunday.

The 34-year-old Ethiopian, who won 10,000m gold at Atlanta in 1996 and at Sydney four years later, bettered Kenyan Paul Tergat's record of 2hr 4min and 55sec set in 2003 also in the German capital... more

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In Flight With Golden Athletes

By Tariku Taye
Jan 8 2004

As the British airways flight 6565 landed at the Bole International Airport in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, there was a sigh of relief for the two internationally known athletes who were unfortunately traveling with the rest of us in the economy class. These athletes are returning from an athletics competition in Europe. He from England, she from Spain, both having just won gold medals in their respective field.

Although their look and body structure speaks volume about their profession, these athletes were not recognized by most of the passengers in the aircraft. On this flight, my seat was located at the stern of the plane, Triple seats are located on each side of the plane. My wife and I were sitting on one side with out having another passenger with us, while the seat on the other side was fully occupied and a young beautiful girl was sitting at the edge with two white males.

I looked at this young girl and wondered where I knew her. Her braided hair and her Nubian dark complexion reminded me of someone I know somewhere. For several minutes, I was browsing my memory file searching for her identity. Suddenly, as if I found the reat mystery of the cosmos, I was eager to ask her if she was Tirunesh Dibaba, the young athlete who won the 5000m competition in France. I remembered how, on that day, I jumped out of my seat when she crossed the finishing line. Fear of embarrassment kept me hesitating to ask if she is not whom I thought she was. I decided to wait until I found the right moment.

A few seats further ahead of us, a young man was kneeling and leaning on the seat and looking back ward towards us, It seems that he is searching for a reason to come and sit beside the young girl. After meals were served, this young man came and stood by her side. He looks like a very polite and down to earth person. Since I found a reason to talk to him, I asked him if he wants to sit beside me. He said no thank you. I told him politely to consider the offer again but his answer is still no, no thank you. Since we started a conversation, I took this opportunity to ask them if they are athletes, He answered right away, "Yes, yes, I am Sileshi Sihine and she is Egigayehu Dibaba." Although my first assumption was wrong about the young girl, my excitement grew as I kept on talking to them. I asked him if he was the one who came third in Paris, first in Addis run and first in LAGOS. He said yes, yes and yes. I told him how I'm honored to have him sit beside me. I coaxed him almost to take the seat. With two hands between his legs, he burrowed his head between his shoulders and dragged his feet to take the seat. For a man of his status, this kind of behavior could be considered bizarre by many, but for an Ethiopian it is a polite gesture.

The name Egigayehu didn't strike me at first but the last name's resemblance with Tirunesh Dibaba excited me more to ask her if they are sisters. Her snowflake white teeth with a perfect smile glowed in the blurred light of the airplane and her nocturnal eye glanced at me and confirmed my assumption with a nod.

Sileshi become extremely happy, sitting with someone who has extensive knowledge of the names and history of Ethiopian athletes and their professional achievements. He asked how I came to collect immense knowledge on Ethiopian athletes. I told him that several years of continuous harassment of my country by its leaders and western media made me turn my face to look for role models and good citizens who once again could bring my country Ethiopia to the spotlight of the world and to show some of our good side. Where I live, I found the only good news coming out of that country were the great achievements of our athletes in the world stage. I walk with pride whenever I see our young, energetic and bold athletes rise to the podium to receive their medals. For those of us living in Diaspora you are our shining stars, that's why I follow up your stories.

I looked at Egigayehu and told her about the great achievements of her sister in the Paris competition, and how happy and proud I was the day she won the race, "You are going to be the golden family if you keep on winning", I said. To my excitement, she added that Derartu Tulu is her aunt. My excitement grew as I heard the name Derartu who is one of the greatest athletes in the world, the queen of long distance, and the double medal winner of the Olympic. With Derartu on their side, Ethiopia is blessed to have such a wonderful, internationally recognized family. They are the real jewel of
the country.

These very well mannered athletes grew up poor in a peasant family. Sileshi Sihine grew up in a small town called Sheno a few kilometers away from a town called Debre Birhan. "My father was a peasant who did grow enough food for the family. It was a struggle to survive in such a harsh condition but I used to go to elementary school in Sheno before I moved to Addis Ababa to pursue my career in athletics." he said.

"While I was continuing my high school study, I was searching for athletics clubs to support me in my career. I came to Addis Ababa with two of my friends, with the hope of becoming great athletes. Because of the extreme cost of living, my friends quit and went back to their village while I stayed on to fulfill my hope. If it was not for my elementary gymnastic teacher, who encouraged me a lot to become an athlete, and my role model Haile Gebreselassie whom I admire and respect, I might have probably gone back to my home town and become a peasant rather than an athlete. I kept on practicing everyday without losing hope."

"One day I was accepted to run with big athletes like Haile and Kennenisa Bekele. I proved that I can run and Paris was the highlight of my life, I become third after Kennenisa and Haile in the ten thousand meter athletic competition. Since then I have been running many great runs in Europe and Africa, I've been winning and winning and winning. Today I came from another competition in England, the great North run with another gold medal and few thousand dollars in my pocket. I've the news paper clips with me." he said with passion.

As he stood up to bring the news paper clips he brought with him, Egigayehu told me her part of the story. She also got a gold medal in Barcelona, Spain and showed me the Spanish newspaper clip with her picture in the front page wearing the gold medal on her neck.

In one weekend, three Ethiopians in women's and men's competition won gold medals in Europe. As Sileshi brought me the news paper clip, I saw Egigayehu's other sister, Tirunesh Dibaba, who was also another winner in the women competition in the Great North Run.

These athletes compete with the best of the world and are writing history with golden ink. These proud son and daughters of mother Ethiopia are the only hope to repair her tarnished image, while the educated and the the well off are running away from the country for a better world. For a country whose pride in the past is going down the drain and has become known as the poorest of the poor and worst place to live, such amazing people are the ones who bring her name to the high podium of achievers in the world stage of sports.

Sport is one of the measurements of strength in a society. A healthy society is one which takes the courage to participate in sports and have healthy well-built citizens. In today's Ethiopia, an early morning trip out of the capital proves that the future generation will dominate the world stage of running. Many young athletes are coming up to show the world our strength in sports. Hard work and continuous training is the way to prevail over poverty. We will learn more from our athletes about how to become successful than from our politicians and so-called elites.

That's why I love Roocha.

Mil gracias to our dear reader and contributor Tariku Taye not to be confused with Tariku Bekele or our favorite runner Tariku Aboset

Thursday, September 20, 2007

1992 Clip - Haile Whacked

If you haven't already seen this clip, it is a must see. This has to be one of the strangest finishes.

In 1992, Josephat Machuka gave Haile Gebrselassie a solid whack as Haile pulled ahead of him at the finish of the World Junior Championships 10,000 M race. For a long time I had heard about the hit Haile Gebrselassie took. Now, thanks to YouTube I get to see it.

Haile had been shadowing the Kenyans the whole race without leading. Needless to say the Kenyans thought that was unfair. Machuka lost his cool and was of course disqualified.

As a junior runner, Machuka was an outstanding athlete. He would have placed second in the 1992 World Junior Championships had he kept his fist to himself. He finished third behind Haile in the 1992 World Junior Cross Country Championships. Machuka went on to be a solid runner but never managed to win a big event.

Also impressive was how a young Haile was baffled but calm.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Osaka Recap: What We Got Wrong

The disappointing Men’s 5000M performance was a sour finale to Osaka. One week later I am still a bit sour. That said, let’s get this wrap up done.

First off was this World Championship a Success? The chart below should answer that question.

Clearly, Osaka was a big step back, the worst result since 1997. The Ethiopian Athletics Federation needs to take note. The medal count is unimpressive. Even less impressive is how these medals were won, brute force.

So what did we get wrong?

Poor Preparation
It has been obvious for a while that the hot weather preparation Ethiopian athletes have been doing is not working. In 2004, the touted Athens Olympics Marathon preparation was a farce when only two of the men managed to finish. The guys finished in 15th and 46th place. That was on the heal of the 1st and 3rd place finishes just four years earlier at Sydney. Earlier this year, before Mombasa the Federation confidently boasted about hot weather preparations. Mombasa was a total disaster. Obviously the preparation is not working. What did the team do different for Osaka? Nothing. Same old preparation same old result in the Marathon. I feel like yelling: what ever you do please do not use the same hot weather preparation before Beijing. It won’t work!

Team Selection
Tactical running has become a lost art among Ethiopian runners. It seems like in the Haile Marathon era, tactical marathon running is not appreciated much. Gezahenge Abera was not a fastest runner but he sure knew how to run tactical races and win. Runners that do well in hot weather generally are going to have slower times than those that do well on fast courses. The present selection process favors fast runners. Why select a cold weather speedster when you know the marathon in Beijing is going to be a hot weather tactical race? Coaches should look at selecting runners that are tactical runners.

Old Superstars Opted Out
Gete, Berehane and Haile opted out of the World Championships. All thee are former tack runners that are speedster marathoners. I am pretty sure they would have taken a good licking had they ran Marathons. However, if they have plans to be part of the Beijing squad they should have taken their lessons in Osaka rather than show up unprepared for the Olympics. The conditions are going to be similar.

Slow Races
Enough said on this topic.

Slow Middle Distance Development
The Ethiopian Athletics Federation is not moving into the 1500M and 800M races aggressively.

At the 1999 World Championships Kutre Dulecha won a bronze medal in the Women’s 1500M. At the 2000 Olympics Kutre finished 4th in the 1500M, while Wendimu Mulugeta was a finalist in the Men's 1500M and Alemu Berhanu was a semi-finalist in the Men's 800M. For a while it looks like things were going to blossom.

Sadly, the Ethiopian Athletics Federation has not built on these successes. Ethiopia is loaded with 1500M talent that needs to be harvested. Former Ethiopian and 1500M World Champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal has shown that.

Only two men and one woman were entered in the 1500M. The 800M has been totally abandoned.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Osaka Recap: What We did Right

The Great Ones Came Through
Ethiopia had three great Athletes that were overwhelming favorites. Tirunesh, Meseret and Kenenisa. All there delivered. Sileshi also belongs in that category. I actually think Sileshi was the best runner in the men's 10000M race. He just did not run the best race. All Ethiopian medals were won on account of superior talent. There were no upsets.

Men's 10,000M Good Team Work
Not the best team work but good team work. Tadesse Tola unselfishly tried to slow down the pace. Later Gebre-egziaber also did his part to tire out Zarsenay Tadese. Mostly these two made sure that a gap did not open up. The work done by these two fellows set Sileshi and Kenenisa for the finish. When Mathathi made a move and Kenenisa was struggling, he signaled Sileshi to responded. Sileshi took off with Mathathi and Kenenisa caught up. They ran as teammates till it was just the two of them. This is nice to see.

3000 Steeplechase Mens
Decent performance reaching the finals. Roba Gari finished 10th while Nahom Mesfin finished 12th in the finals. Good showing for two young fellows.

I can't think of much else. Anything you want to add?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Osaka Recap: China Watch

I start looking forward to Beijing I noticed something did not add up.
Last December, I blogged about 17 year-old Xue Fei of China who had put on an impressive display at the Asian Games. I found it curios that Xue Fie was not in Osaka. Add to that the absence of reigning 10000M Olympic Champion Xing Huina. In fact, China did not enter a Women’s 5000M or 10000M squad. The Authorities claim that Xing Huina is injured. But that does not prevent them from entering other athletes.

China is historically competitive the Women’s 5000M and 10000M. The world championship is an important step in any Track and Field athlete’s preparation for the Olympics. So why in the world would China decide no to enter a single athlete in the 5000M and 10000M? Not entering a squad in the World Championship’s almost always is the result of country not having athletes that can compete in that event or not having the budget. In this case we know China has the budget and the athletes. Not having experienced athletes is like conceding the Olympics. As a strategy, this defies logic.

Last December I quoted an article that basically said that Chinese officials declared themselves dissatisfied despite winning 316 medals at the Asian games. China finished second to the USA at the Olympics in 2004 but has set its sights on finishing first at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The article says that officials are under intense pressure to deliver after a massive financial and personnel investment from the Chinese government.

To meet such lofty goals China needs to medal in every event it can. So how can such goals be met while conceding the Women’s 5000M and 10000M? Clearly Chiana will not concede these event. Will China spring a surprise like the one in 1993 when Junxia Wang who appeared from no where to set a world record that has been untouchable? Just keep your eye open.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Osaka: Day Nine - Closing Day

There are two events of interest, the Women's Marathon and the Mens 5000M. A medal is not guaranteed in either event.

The Women's marathon starts are 7:00AM Osaka time. Considering the weather at 4:00 am in Osaka was 79F degrees (26c) with humidity, it is a long shot for an Ethiopian runner to come through. In addition, the leading ladies in this event Gete Wami and Berhane Adere are sitting out this one. The experienced Shitaye Gemechu leads the Ethiopian pack. Shitaye has run the three previous World Championships, 7th in Edmonton, 10th in Paris, 22nd in Helsinki. The squad includes Askale Magarsa , winner of the 2007 Paris Marathon, Dire Tune winner of the 2007 Houston Marathon, and Adanech Zekiros winner of the 2007 P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon. This is a talented squal. Lets hope youth can prevail.

I don't hold high hopes for the the Men's 5000M. Tariku showed confidence and poise as he controlled the pace of his qualifying heat. But, I very much doubt he can do the same in the final. With just two Ethiopians running in this race it will be difficult to use team tactics. The failure of Bekana Daba to qualify is costly because he could have been a great rabbit. The Ethiopians need a fast race but not an all-out-sprint-start-to-finish. Basically the race has got to be fast enough to eliminate all the 1500 specialist but not too fast such that it favors fast- even runners. If the pace is just right Tariku and Abraham can then use their kick to destroy the weakend 1500M runners and the slower 10000M type of runners. Setting the right pace will be hard work. While both Abraham and Tariku can medal I will be tickled with one medal. Any color will do.

Marathon (Women):They Melted Away
It was a hot day and the race pace was dictated by Japanese and Chinese women. the Top Ethiopian finisher Askale Megersa Tafa finished 22nd. Early in the race, Askale and eventual winner Catherine Ndereba were dropped by the lead pack. Askale did her best to stay in contact with the lead pack. Then, when Ndereba made a slow surge to rejoin the lead pack, Askale tried to keep up with Ndereba but was unable to do so. Askale was physically hurting by the time she hit the 30km mark. What I liked about her run was that she was not afraid to take punishment. Adanech Zekiros finished 47th. Robe Tola needs a mention for her leisurely 3:26:45, coming in almost one hour after the winner was in. Dire Tune Arissi did not finish. Veteran Shitay Gemechu did not start this race. This was another disaster. Poor result and in both the Men's and Women's marathon show poor preparation or team selection. It's time to start pointing fingers at the coaching staff.

5000 Meters (Men):Same Tactics, Same Poor Results
Tariku finished 5th and Abraham Cherkos finished 8th. Of all the distance tack events them Men's 5000M is the one event that has not been dominated by Ethiopians. Two failures are this distance by Kenenisa should have proven out what works and what does not. You would think Ethiopian coaches would learn from experience and adjust. But NO. Tariku and Abraham were content sitting in the pack as if they were running a 10000M race. Who do these guys think they are going to out-kick? Lagat the 1500M Champ? The coaches have to stop this silliness.

My supicion is that instead of coaching the next time around the coaches will try to pressure Kenenisa and Sileshi to run in this event. The trick they play is that if Kenenisa can't win it's not a coaching problem it becomes a Kenenisa problem.

Kenya's Success: Congratulation to Kenya! On Sunday Kenya won 3 more medals (2 Gold Medal, and 1 Silver.) Kenya has won a total of 13 medals. Ethiopia just 4. They have done a great job! We have been out classed. More on that later.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Millennium Placard

Meseret Defar is the latest to display this placard.

Osaka: DayEight - Women's 5000 M Final

5000 Meters (Women):Meseret Defar Wins a Slow Race
Meseret Defar forced the pace during the last two laps to win. In what has to be a disappointment, Meselech Melkamu finished 6th
and Gelete Burika finished 10th. Gelete was off the pace by 9 seconds. Kenya took the next three spots and increased its already impressive medal haul. Kenya is not done yet. With possible medals in the Women’s Marathon and Men’s 5,000M, it could end up with a huge pile of medals. The most impressive phenomena at this World Championship is the quite revival of Kenyan Athletics. More on that later.
Regarding the race tactic, Meselech Melkamu was quoted as saying:

“We had hoped to take first through third, but we did not succeed. We were aiming to break away with two laps to go, and we tried, but I could not keep up with the speed.”

Running a slow race and counting on out-kicking your opponent is dangerous in the 5000M. By slwoing the pace you risk turning marginal runners or runners who don't specialize in that event into contenders. All they have to do is hang-on for the last lap. Tell that to Ali Saidi-Sief of Algeria, who slowed down the men’s 5000M finals in the 2000 Olympic. With a lap to go he went on a sprint. To his big surprise, a relatively unknown kid by the name of Million Wolde was still hanging on with 200M to go. This was not supposed to happen. Ali Saidi-Sief ran out of gas and Million Wolde went on to win a gold. Million was lucky that day but was not able to replicate that victory. He was very content with bronze in Edmonton 2001 and faded after that.

The 5000M race is too dangerous to play the out-kicking game unless you are a great 1500M runner. My suspicion is that Meserte probably would have been a dominant 1500M if she had started her career a 1500M runner. She is maybe the only one that can pull this off consistently. Some would argue Tirunesh but I doubt this she could have out sprinted Meseret. I hope the men don't fall in this trap. Tariku is no Meseret.

Friday, August 31, 2007


The organizers of the 2007 TOYOTA Great Ethiopian Run have been asked by the Ethiopian government to postpone the date of this year’s competition. The run had been planned for Sunday 9th September as a major part of Ethiopia’s Millennium celebrations just three days before the Ethiopian New Year and the news of the postponement will come as a huge disappointment for the thousands of participants who have been eagerly awaiting the seventh edition of the event. More than 30,000 participants including hundreds of participants from abroad had registered ... more

Osaka: Extra - Opportunity Seized and Opportunity Missed

Athletes usually write their legacy on their field of play- in this case the running track. But every once in a while, as a result of their unique athletic ability, some athletes are presented with an opportunity to make an impact felt much wider than the immediate sporting audience.

A prime example of this is Haile Gebrselassie's recent work in political mediation and his involvement with Ethiopian orphans. Meseret Defar's sponsorship of Mesgana Dancers is another fine example worthy of mention here. We would call these opportunities seized.

Such opportunities don’t always come in the form of an organized event. Many times they are little things done on a spur of a moment, but communicate a strong message.

Last month, I was reading a story about the Bix 7 race in Davenport, Iowa, when one of these “small acts” caught my attention. Ethiopian Wude Ayalew won the women’s race and was obviously happy about it, having gone through a stressful day just to get to the race. Wude, however, needed the help of a translator to describe her thoughts about her travel and the race in front of a waiting television camera. To my surprise, the willing translator from Amharic to English turned out to be the Eritrean-American marathoner Mebrathom Keflezighi! In a day and age where many Eritreans refuse to speak Amharic, Meb’s willingness to help out where he can should be a great lesson to all of us that politics must not dictate every action we take- such a fine example of opportunity seized.

I was, however, disappointed to read the following story yesterday:

No rooms for Eritrea athletes
SLEEPLESS in Osaka. That was the status of five athletes from Eritrea who arrived in Osaka to find they had no rooms. All five slept in a hotel lobby the first night. The second night, three found rooms and the two others shared with athletes from neighboring Djibouti for three more nights.

"It’s true there were some unfortunate mix ups at the start of the championships with hotel accommodations," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said. "However, I know for a fact these were sorted out in a couple of days. The information I’ve been given is that all team delegates do have accommodations."

As soon as I read this story, I substituted in my mind the name “Djibouti” with “Ethiopia” and imagined a powerful example of the Olympic Spirit:

…to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play…

Why didn’t the Ethiopian team rise above the fray, like Meb did, and host our neighbors from Eritrea? Imagine the great story that would have come out of it, and the powerful message of hope it would have sent. What an opportunity missed!

Osaka: Day Seven - Nothing Today

It's an off day for Ethiopian athletes. We have an exciting weekend coming up.

Till then enjoy some 10000M clips...

Sileshi gives Kenenisa a challenge...

Tirunesh's strong finish..

Thursday, August 30, 2007

What in the world is Kenny holding?

What's up Kenny?

It turns out it's an Ethiopian millennium placard. Here is a better shot...

What's up Kenny?

Who handed it to him? Why is he holding this placard? Is this the place for it? Do you think this is tacky? What are your thoughts?

Osaka: Day Six - Men's 5000 M Heats

The young ones, Tariku Bekele, Abraham Cherkose and Bekana Daba will be representing Ethiopia. All thee are expected to qualify. There are no sprpirse with Tariku and Abraham being on this squad. Bekana on the other hand is a fellow who ran himself on to the Osaka team with a series of surprising performances and luck this year. He first made noise winning over 5000M at the All-Ethiopian Games. Then in July, he went on to produced the season's 10th fastest time at Braaschaat(Belgium). The Braaschaat run made him the season's 5th fastest Ethiopan at that distance behind, Kenenisa, Sileshi, Tariku and Abraham. That run leap-froged him ahead of Markos Geneti in consideration for Osaka. He then got a break when a spot opened when Kenenisa decided not to double. Bekana was added to the team as the 4th runner, basically a reserve. Bekana's endless good fortunes continued. After running in that grueling 10000M run Sileshi Sihine opted out of the 5000M opening a spot for Bekana . The improbable will happen today when Bekana Daba takes the track.

It's always good to see new faces. In 2004, a young runner by the name of Meseret Defar was added to the Olympic team as a result of a chain of events. In a controversial decision, Berhane Adere was dropped from the 10000m squad. Ejegayehu Dibaba was moved from the 5000M to the 10000M to take Berhane's spot. That opened a spot for Meseret Defar on the 5000M squad. Meseret Defar won that event and the rest is history!

5000M Meters Heats(Men): Tariku and Abraham Advance
The first heat was a slow affair that ended up in an all out sprint. Tariku Bekele led the the sprint and held off the field (including 1500M champ Bernard Lagat) to win his heat in an impressive way. Newcomer Bekana Daba struggled when the pace picked up and faded when the sprint started.

In the second heat, Abraham Cherkos advanced by finishing second behind Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. Abraham showed great speed overtaking trash talking Australian Craig Mottram in the last 100M. Finals are on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Osaka: Extra - Saluting Sileshi Sihine

You gotta feel it for this guy, Sileshi Sihine, now being called "Mr. Silver." He is such a talented runner but he is unable to get out of the shadow of Kenenisa. Sileshi's talent is such that some are now referring to him as the most underrated runner of all time. But after having read Kenenisa's comment after the race, and watching the 10000 meters race several times over, I now think Sileshi should have won this race if it was not for a tactical error he made with two-and-half laps to go.

As it turns out, having run a fast paced 22 laps mostly led by Zeresenay Tadesse of Eritrea, the Kenyan Mathati jumps to the lead with three laps to go. Kenenisa gives chase with Sileshi right behind him but Zeresenay gets dropped right away. Then, with two-and-half laps to go, Kenenisa appears to lose his tight running form and at the same time turns his head back to Sileshi and gestures with his right hand.

As we now know, this is when Kenenisa tells Sileshi to go after the Kenyan because he himself is not able to do it. Short time later Sileshi senses a gap opening between Mathati and Kenenisa so he immediately passes Kenenisa and pulls right behind Matahti to make sure the Kenyan is not getting away. At this point, a gap starts to appear between Sileshi and Kenenisa and we get the first indication that Kenenisa may once again be in trouble.

I am fairly sure by this time Sileshi was thinking Kenenisa is done and he only has to contend with Mathati for the gold medal. With two laps to go Mathati backs off the pace a bit, which allows Kenenisa to catch up. With one-and-half lap to go Mathati is still leading with Sileshi following, but the two really start to pull away from Kenenisa. This is where Sileshi should have pressed and gotten away from both Kenenisa and Mathati. Instead Sileshi is content to stay behind Mathati until one lap to go but in doing so gives Kenenisa the chance to gather himself and recover (as Kenenisa himself admits).

As the bell rings for the final lap, Sileshi decides to go ahead and drops Mathati immediately (which he should have done a lap earlier) and Kenenisa also passes Mathati. As Sileshi gets into his full sprinting mode, he drops Kenenisa also but there is no way he can sustain this furious sprint to the finish. With 200 meters to go, Sileshi starts to tie up and Kenenisa catches up. Having timed his kick perfectly, Kenenisa changes gear with about 150 meter to go and passes Sileshi and pulls away to take the win.

I would bet that Sileshi was thinking that the footsteps behind him was of Mathati and not Kenenisa. Sileshi's sprint I believe was to get away from Mathati and not Kenenisa. In fact, when Kenenisa finally passes Sileshi, you can see Sileshi look to his right (expecting the Kenyan) and after seeing that it was Kenenisa, Sileshi turns again looking for Mathati. Having confirmed that Mathati is a good distance back, you can see Sileshi shutting down the engine and settling for the Silver.

As Sileshi crosses the finish line, he shakes hand with Kenenisa but never makes eye contact. He is probably thinking that Kenenisa did a number on him by telling him to go ahead after the Kenyan to only jump on him short time later after Sileshi expended his energy to preserve the gold for Ethiopia. Kenenisa appears to be unusually attentive to Sileshi after the race (giving Sileshi a flag, pulling him along for a victory lap) knowing what just transpired in the race between the two. Watch the last four laps of the race if you can, and you will clearly see all of this being played out!

Anyway, Sileshi probably learned two very important lessons from this race: first, Kenenisa is still vulnerable if the early pace is punishing; and second, Sileshi needs to run according to his own race plan. I believe Sileshi will beat Kenenisa soon. I am sure he knows that now, if he didn't before. If Sileshi runs a smart race, he might even take the gold in Beijing- a much deserved upgrade for a class act who has done so much for the Ethiopian team, but wants and deserves more than silver.

Osaka: Day Five - Women's 5000 M Kicks Off

Dispite Tirunesh's exit, this is the strongest 5,000 team Ethiopia has put together. There has never been a men's team that was this strong. Look for all three (Meseret Defar, Tirunesh Dibaba and Gelete Burika) to easly qualify. The fun will be on Saturday when they run for medals.

1500 Meters First Round (Women): No Qualifiers
Mestawat Tadesse finished 12th in her heat and did not advance. Not a surprising finish. Our former Zenebech Tola Kotu now Bahrian's Maryam Yusuf Jamal finished second in her heat and advanced to the simi-finals.

5000 Meters Semi-Finals(Women):All There Qualify
As expected all theree women have qualified for the finlas. Saturday should be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Kenenisa's Lioness Sighting

If you missed this bit about Kenenisa's encouter with a lioness at Entoto...

"When I was training up at the Entoto Hills with my brother Tariku, I swear that I saw a lioness and her cub about 100 metres away," he said on the official championship website.

"We stopped abruptly, let them quietly return to the forest, and then proceeded to turn away.

"I was scared a bit at the time. I had heard stories that a lioness would get angry if she thought anything would hurt her cub.

"When we asked shepherds whether lions existed in the area, they said the forests did not have any lions, only cheetahs. I still do not believe it. It was a lioness and her cub just like the ones I saw many times on television."

I am not sure what to make of this...what do you think?

Osaka: Day Four - Kenya Celebrates

Kenya had a great day, sweeping the Men's 3000 Meters Steeplechase and grabbing gold in the women's 800 meter final. The only event in which Ethiopia participated was the Men's 3000 Meters Steeplechase.

3000 Meters Steeplechase (Men): Kenyan Domination
With tonight's performance, Kenya sent a strong message - the steeplechase is still a Kenyan event. 22-year old Brimin Kiprop Kipruto led the sweep. Our own Roba Gari finished 10th while Nahom Mesfin finished 12th. In two years Ethiopia has gone from having one first round 8th place finisher who did not make it to the final, to two runners in the final. This is a big step forward. Roba and Nahom have set a solid foundation towards Ethiopia being competitive in this event. The reality however is that it could be a long time before an Ethiopian medals in this event. This event has been neglected since the days of Eshetu Tura, and the price of rebuilding is expensive. This is why continuity and consistency are important.

Osaka: Extra - Tirunesh Dibaba out of 5000M

Tirunesh Dibaba has decided against defending her distance double at the athletics world championships and withdrawn from the 5,000 meters.

The Ethiopian runner blamed lingering cramp in her side for preventing her from attempting to win a third consecutive 5,000 meters title.

Dibaba, who was bothered by the cramp in her win in the 10,000, made the announcement Tuesday, on the eve of the 5,000 heats.

She won both the 5,000 and 10,000 at the 2005 world championships in Helsinki and won the 5,000 two years before that at Paris.

The 5,000 was one of the most anticipated races of the championships because
... more

Monday, August 27, 2007

Osaka: Day Three - Kenenisa Day

Anyway you slice or dice it, what Kenenisa Bekele does today will be a big story. Win, the headlines would be about how he is the greatest ever at the age of 25 with many prime years remaining. Lose, and the story would be about how he choked and memories of Mombassa would be rekindled. Without a doubt this is his race to lose. Hopefully the pressure will not get to Kenenisa.

Pressure aside, the race should be a very interesting. Sileshi Sihine has the seasons’ fastest time. Look for him to challenge Kenenisa. Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam is back. He has been in looking good this season and is looking to do better than his disappointing 15th place finish in 2005. The very talented Tadesse Tola, the top Ethiopian finisher in Mombassa, will be making his World Championship début. Incidentally, this 19 year-old has the 10th fastest time this season and has impressed with his steady improvement.

1500 Meters Semi-Finals (Men): No Finalist
Entering the last lap, Mekonnen Gebremehdin was leading his semi-final heat before fadeing to an 8th place finish, failing to advance. Clearly Mekonnen was in the mix but it will take experience and refinement before he becomes a serious contender. By entering athelets in consecutive World Championships, EAF is signalling that it is serious about this this event . In 2005, Markos Geneti and Mulugeta Wendimu were entered. Markos Geneti made it to the semi-finals. The EAF needs to continue it's commitment to this event.

10,000 Metres (Men): Kenenisa Bekele Threepeat
Gold and Silver for Ethiopia. Kenenisa covered a challenge from Sileshi Sihine and sprinted away to gold, running a 55.90 last lap. Gebre-egziabher finsihed a respectable 6th and despite being lapped the young Tadesse Tola finsihed 13th. This was a solid performance and should silence the Kenenisa doubters.

If you missed the race, I have plagiarized the live coverage from the IAAF blog because there was no good way of likning to the blog. Note, the blogger has Gebre-egziabher and Tadesse Tola mixed up. The times in the blog are Osaka time.

21:40 : The 10,000m flag is out now, and with it, the Ethiopian flags.

21:44 : World Cross champion Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea is leading the 10,000m, followed by Tola Tadesse of Ethiopia and defending champion Kenenisa Bekele. The pace is nowhere near as sluggish as the women were on Saturday; the pack is strung out in a long line.

21:46 : Tadesse of Ethiopia takes over the lead from Tadese of Eritrea at 2km.

21:48 : Tadese and Tadesse keep trading the lead. They're joined by Kenyan Josphat Kiprono Menjo, with more close behind.

21:51 : There are twelve in the 10,000m lead pack, all African excepting Abdirahman of the USA, who was born in Somalia, and Abdulla of Qatar, born in Kenya.

21:53 : The pack continues to dwindle: now there are ten, and they lose one or two with every lap.

21:56 : Abdullah just stepped off the track with 12 laps remaining. The pack is now nine: three Ethiopians, three Kenyans, an Eritrean, an American, and a Ugandan, Boniface Kiprop.

21:58 : Zersenay Tadesse of Eritrea is doing the pace work, as he's done in many races like this. He may hope Bekele will wither as he did in Mombasa, but he'll need to thin the pack down more to run away with the win. They're down to eight--Kiprop's off--with nine laps remaining, and they're starting to lap runners.

22:01 : Now they've dropped a Kenyan; Menjo is off the back. Seven remain in the pack: Tadese, Tadesse, Bekele, Sihine, Ndambiri, Mathathi. Looks like six: Abdirahman is falling off next.

22:04 : Bekele into second with two kilometres remaining. Now it's four: Tadese, Bekele, Mathathi, Sihine, and they're bunched up to pounce on Tadese. They're lapping Gebremariam.

22:05 : Mathathi moves with three laps to go, and Tadese is out the back door immediately. Bekele and Sihine cover the move.

22:06 : It's Mathathi, Sihine, and Bekele, gathering strength for another move. Bekele is struggling!

22:06 : At the bell, Sihine goes, Bekele covers!

22:07 : Bekele up with less than 200m remaining!

22:08 : 28.0 for Bekele's last 200m, unofficially. 55.90 for the last 400m.

22:11 : Bekele and Sihine are taking their lap of honour together. 27:05.90 for Bekele; 27:09.03 for Sihine, still the fastest in the world this year. Bekele is holding up three fingers for his third consecutive win at 10,000m.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Osaka: Day Two - Solid Steeplechase Showing

The only event today in which Ethiopian athletes participated in was the Men's 3,000. After abandoning the race for over 20 years the Ethiopian Athletics Federation entered Tewodros Shiferaw in the 2004 Olympics. Tewodros finished 10th in his first heat and did not advance. In 2005 Tewodros finished 8th in the first round and again did not advance. This is not an easy event to crack.

This time around the Federation thinks that it has better representatives in Nahom Mesfin and Roba Gari. Nahom Mesfin grabbed a bronze medal in the African Championship behind Kenyan Olympic-champion Ezekiel Kemboi. In May, Roba Gari upset former World and Olympic 3000m Steeplechase champion Reuben Kosgei.

Today, these two athletes did not disappoint. Both qualified for the August 28 final. Nahom Mesfin finished a solid second in his heat while Roba Gari finished fifth and qualified based on his time. In the finals, Ethiopia, Kenya and Spain will be represented by two athletes each. This already places Ethiopia in a group of Elite counties in this event. These are encouraging results.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Osaka: Day One - Tirunesh Saves the Day

The first day of the World Championships started with a poor performance by the men in the Marathon. By evening the day had almost turned into a disaster when Tirunehs Dibaba and Mestawet Tufa tripped up during the women’s 10,000 meters final. A stunning performance by Tirunesh Dibaba saved the day and earned the lone medal of the day. Here is a summary of what happened today.

Marathon (Men): Embarrassing!
The Ethiopian men continue their streak of embarrassing performance in hot weather events. Memorys of Mombassa are still fresh.In the Mens marathon the top performance was turned in by 14th place finisher Gashaw Asfaw, while Dejene Birhanu came in 31 and Ambesse Tolosa 38. Tesfaye Tola and Gudisa Shentema did not finish. It was a hot and humid day and that will be excuse once again. Incidentally Yared Asmerom of Eritira finished 4th which shows that any effects of weather can be overcome.

3000 Meters Steeplechase Heats (Women): Baby Steps
None of the three women advanced to the semifinals. The top Ethiopian was Mekdes Bekele who was 6th in her heat with a time of 9:50.12. The slowest qualifier ran 9:44.01. Mekdes was off the qulifying mark by a little over 6 seccond. Zemzem Ahmed ran 10:07.77 and Netsanet Achamo ran 10:12.59. The women were not outclassed and Mekdes Bekele’s performance is encouraging. It takes baby steps like this to be competitive down the line. Look for results in 2012 or 2016.

1500 Meters Heaths (Men): Encoraging Signs
Mekonnen Gebremehdin finished second in his heat beating the speedy Algerian, Tarek Boukensa. Deresse Mekonnen failed to qualify for the next round. The slowest qualifying time was 3:41.96 while Deresse Mekonnen finished in 3:43.15. All in all it was not a bad performance. The 1500 Meters semi-finals are on Monday and if Mekonnen Gebremehdin makes it to the finals that should be considered a good achievement. It’s unrealistic to expect much more at this stage.

10,000 Metres (Women): One of the Ages!
What makes a true champion is the capacity to overcome adversity. Despite pre-race doubts about her overall fitness, a stomach cramp on race day and being accidentally tripped during the race Tirunhes Dibaba showed us what she is made of by fighting back to win the title. This will be a performance that will be remembers for years. Unfortunately Mestawet Tufa’s hard luck continues as she was unable to finish. Ejegayehu Dibaba finished 7th and Aheza Kiros finished 17th out of 18 finishers.

Dibaba wins world title in miracle fightback
By Alastair Himmer

OSAKA, Japan (Reuters) - Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba made an astonishing recovery to become the first woman to defend her world championship 10,000 meters title on Saturday.

Dibaba had contemplated pulling out of the race after complaining of crippling stomach pains before taking her place on the starting line.

She was then left languishing at the back of the field after being accidentally tripped on lap 13 but stormed back in draining humidity to win in a time of 31 minutes 55.41 seconds. more...

Friday, August 24, 2007

From Badme to Berlin...and to Osaka

What do Badme, Berlin, and Osaka have in common?

The answer: Gudisa Shentema, one of Ethiopia's marathon runners that will be competing at the World Championship in Osaka, Japan tonight. I will elaborate on the story of Gudisa in just bit, but first...

It is no secret that Ethiopia and Kenya are the top two nations in the world when it comes to distance running. And among the two, Ethiopia is ahead, especially when it comes to championship events. However, when you consider all races around the year and around the world, Kenya is light years ahead of Ethiopia in terms of the depth of its talent pool. Just consider the following example: in 2006, of all the marathons run in 2hr 10 min or faster, Kenyans produced 37 of them while Ethiopians accounted for only six. So far in 2007, the fastest Ethiopian performance has been by Gashaw Melese, a 2:09:53 in Paris, but there are 17 Kenyan performances faster than Gashaw's. This is domination!

Ethiopia has produced more legendary runners such as Abebe Bikila, Derartu Tulu and Haile Gebrselassie than Kenya has. When we compare the very best of Ethiopia with Kenya, it appears that Ethiopia is ahead. The obvious question, then, is why doesn't Ethiopia have the same depth of athletes outside of championship competitions?

I think a possible answer is two fold. First, Kenyan federation does not have a stranglehold on the talent pool as does the Ethiopian federation. There is more room for Kenyan talent to surface and blossom, and in time produce performances such as I stated above.

But I believe the second answer is the key regarding why there is such a big gap in the depth category between the two countries. Ethiopia is a country of 80 million while Kenya's population is only about half of Ethiopia's. Considering Ethiopia has a much bigger pool to recruit talent from and the fact that Ethiopia's best have been better than Kenya's best, I am absolutely convinced that, given the right conditions (an absolute key), Ethiopia can and will produce depth of runners that will dwarf even the mighty Kenya!

By right conditions, I mean alleviating poverty and disease and absence of devastating wars. Now, I know full well that Kenya is not free of these foes of humanity, but I believe Kenya has had less of these issues to deal with than Ethiopia. Particularly, in the war category. I do not recall any major war Kenya has been engaged in as Ethiopia has with Eritrea and Somalia. One has to wonder what Ethiopia is capable of producing, in athletics and otherwise, if its human resources were not bogged down in political strife and war and their paralyzing effects.

And that brings me back to the story of Gudisa Shentema. Gudisa has an amazing story that needs to be told and retold. Frankly, I find it surprising that this story has not been circulated widely considering the powerful message it carries. I came across it while reading the media guide from his sponsor, Global Athletics and Management.

So, who is Gudisa Shentema? Gudisa Shentema is a 27 year old Ethiopian soldier-turned-marathoner. Most recently, he finished second, behind none other than Haile Gebrselassie, at the 2006 Berlin Marathon where Haile came within a minute of breaking the marathon world record. Gudisa ran 2:10:43 in Berlin, good enough to earn him a spot at Osaka's World Championships.

But Gudisa's path to Berlin, and now Osaka, has the most unusual beginning. As an eighteen year old, he was at the front of the 1998 Ethiopia-Eritrea war (dispute over Badme). Here is Gudisa's story as written in the media guide:

Born in Ambo, about 85 miles from Addis Ababa, Gudisa Shentema was raised by an aunt and grew up with no interest in sports. In 1998, when the war broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea, he joined the Army and went to the front. In 2000, he was returning to his brigade after a brief leave when the bus stopped for a tea. A heavy smoker, Shentema went into a bar to have a cigarette, looked up at the TV, and "saw a guy named Gezahegne" winning the Olympic marathon in Sydney. "That scene never left my mind, so when I got back to my brigade I found out they had a 21K race in two months so I enrolled and won easily." When the war ended, he began training in Addis and made quick progress: in 2002 he finished 71st in the Abebe Bikila Marathon; in 2003 he won it. Shentema is now represented by GA&M, along with Gezahegne Abera, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist who distracted him from his cigarette.

Gudisa has run in more marathons since 2003, including the 2005 World Championships, and done well in most of them. In Osaka's World Championship Marathon to be run in few hours from now, Gudissa is not even given an outside chance of getting a medal according to the experts. It is my wish, though, that he will have a breakthrough performance so that his story gets told to a bigger audience.

But I wonder, what if Gudissa was among the tens of thousands that were killed in a meaningless war a decade ago? How many more undiscovered marathon aces died in Badme? As the song goes, "War, what is it good for?"

World Championships TV Schedule

The 11th edition of IAAF World Championships in Athletics will kick off in less than 24 hours. Viewers in the United States can follow the action on NBC and Versus channels.

Versus will televise events on a daily basis, twice a day on most days, although all of it appears to be on tape delay. Click here for additional information regarding Versus telecast.

NBC will broadcast several hours of the championships but only on the weekends. Again, all of NBCs telecast appears to be on tape delay. Click here for more information.

If you prefer to see the championships live, then your best bet is subscription based viewing at For a mere $4.95, you can watch the whole championships live as well as on demand.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Best of the Best

  • More countries are member of this organization than are of the United Nations (192);
  • More countries participate in events staged by this organization than do by FIFA (208);
  • The flagship event of this organization occurs twice as frequently as the Olympic Games, but it also hosts more countries than the Olympic Games (205)

The Organization: International Association of Athletic Federation (212)

The Event: World Championships in Athletics

The Stars: Ethiopia's Lions

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


What do you dream about? When you are awake, when you are asleep?

Most everyone who is close to me- family, friends, work colleagues- know my (excessive) interest in the sport of running. Some understand me, and others don't. But it does not change anything for me. Recently, though, I have been wondering how someone can tell when he/she is too interested in something. I think one possible clue is when you start dreaming about that thing while your are awake and while you are asleep.

When I was a child, and even after I grew up, I used to have dreams of being chased by someone or something. I would try to run to get away but it always felt like my running was in slow motion, while the attacker was fast closing on me. I was always glad when I finally woke up from such dreams.

Nowadays, though, I still dream a lot about running, but I am no longer being chased. When I am awake I often dream about the seemingly unreachable goal of running a sub 3 hour marathon. When I am asleep I dream a lot about being in a race where I feel the exhilaration of being right up front with the leaders. In such dreams, I always find myself being surprised that I could maintain such a fast pace to stay up front. It is an effortless feeling.

Just few days ago, I dreamt about being in a 1500M race, and during the last 300M I was locked in a battle with another runner for the lead. The other guy kept pushing harder every few strides and I covered his move every time.

The funny thing about these races is I never ever remember how the race ends. It is always thinking "I can't believe I am running this fast" but not knowing what the final result is.

Here is another recent running dream: several weeks ago, I found myself at a mile race on the track. There were several heats of the race so I decided to jump in with the group expected to finish between 7:00 - 7:50 min. I figured that I could get pulled to running faster than I could running by myself.

This was the third heat so as my heat is called up to the starting line, I walk onto the track for what I remember to be my first ever track race. I keep thinking about Haile, Kenenisa, etc. and wonder what they feel in such moments.

After giving quick instructions, the starter gets the race underway and I immediately find myself in the middle of the pack running a pace which I am not sure I can keep for four laps. The leaders go way ahead but I keep pushing and notice the clock reading 1:40 at the end of the first lap. Amazingly, lap two and three go consistently the same running each at a 1:40 pace. I am working hard now with one lap left, but by this time, I had already managed to pass many that had gone ahead of me. Only four or five still remain ahead of me as we get in the back stretch of the final lap. Feeling that it is now or never, I push even harder and manage to pass two more people getting myself in to third place. As we pass the 200M mark, I pass one more person and get into second place, and at the same time notice that the one person remaining upfront is a woman.

At this point, I still feel strong enough to know that I could pass her, but for a second or two, I have a mental debate with myself and my upbringing wondering whether I should pass her or not. With a possible first ever victory in sight and having convinced myself that everyone in the race is a fair game, I push more and come up even with the woman with about 50M to go in the race. She puts up a fight for few more strides but then she fades back and I find myself in the clear, ahead of everyone. I couldn't believe the race had unfolded this way and I start to revel in my first ever victory just steps away.

As I back off from my full sprinting stride in anticipation of the narrow finish line only 10 meters ahead of me, I suddenly hear fast approaching footsteps, and in the blink of an eye, I was passed by another man right at the finish line with no time or space for me to respond. I glance at the clock and it reads 6:37 and change, much quicker than I ever anticipated running. I could not believe I had committed this classical mistake at the finish line but I was still pleased with the turn of events.

I found it even more amazing that I was awake all along during this dream...

Countdown to Osaka

With less than three days remaining before the World Championships (the largest sporting event in the world for 2007) it feels like we are in the "quiet before the storm." Actually, as I write this, I look out the window from our condo and see the waves of the Atlantic crash on the beach about 50 meters away from me. My family and I have come here for our annual vacation at Bethany Beach, Delaware, but the weather has been horrible!

The storm has definitely arrived here as can be witnessed from the ongoing rain and stronger waves. Yesterday morning, I bravely went out for a morning run on the beach and returned 30 minutes later completely drenched. I couldn't get myself out the door for more of the same today, so instead I started to look at all that is being written about Ethiopian athletes headed for Osaka. Hopefully, the weather will clear up later today to go back to the pool and ocean with the kids, but in the mean time here is a summary of items I came across:

Short odds for Bekele's distance hat-trick
Who's the greatest? Kenenisa Bekele can take another step towards settling that argument with his third successive 10 000m world title.With Haile Gebrselassie's 5 000m and 10 000m records already in the bag, the diminutive Ethiopian can now move towards the Emperor's 1993-1999 haul of four successive 10 000m world titles."I am not thinking a lot about that at the moment," said Bekele, who also took his hero's Olympic title over the distance in Athens... more

Expected highlights in Osaka - Distances
Looking to the distance contests, several of the sport’s biggest names will be chasing even more superlatives to add to their growing collections at the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Osaka, Japan (25 Aug to 2 Sep).

While Kenenisa Bekele may have succeeded his mentor Haile Gebrselassie as a multi World record holder, the 25-year-old Ethiopian still has catching up to do in the ‘titles won’ category. Thus far this season, there’s been no evidence submitted to suggest that Bekele is not an overwhelming favourite to capture his third consecutive 10,000m title. While Bekele looms larger-than-life, his fiercest competition looks to come from compatriots Sileshi Sihine, Gebregziabher Gebremariam, and Tadesse Tola, although Eritrea’s Olympic bronze medallist Zersenay Tadesse, who just missed a sub-27:00 clocking with his solo run at the All African Games, can’t be discounted.

In the 5000m, considerable attention will be directed to Australian Craig Mottram, the reigning bronze medallist, as he seeks to end an African stranglehold... more

For Tufa, 10,000m was not love at first sight
Of the few things that irritated Ethiopian runner Mestawet Tufa in the two years prior to 2007, the mention of the words 10,000m definitely topped the list.

“I hated the mention of the event,” Tufa says. “Five years ago when I competed for the first time in the event in Addis Ababa, I was lapped by five or six runners and finished seventh.”
Instead of working hard and getting better at the event, Tufa chose to stay away from the event until this year when she ‘gambled’ on a decision to return at the 36th Ethiopian Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa.

It has proven to be a masterstroke of a decision that has since seen her take... more