Although most of the news regarding Ethiopian athletes during the past couple of weeks has been about Haile Gebrselassie’s record breaking performance in Ostrava on June 27, there was a significant event that went under the radar just one day earlier. On June 26, in Valkenswaard, Netherlands, Mestewat Tufa ran the year’s fastest 10000M finishing in 31:00.27, which is five seconds faster than the previous year’s best.
With this performance, the unheralded Mestewat earned herself a spot on Ethiopia’s National Team that will compete at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan in August. Incidentally, it is worth noting that Mestewat took second place behind Meselech Melkamu earlier this year in February at the 24th Jan Meda Cross Country which served as Ethiopia’s qualifying meet for the World Cross Country meet held in Mombasa, Kenya in March.
Despite Mestewat’s spectacular result, there were some reports that the coaches dropped Mestewat Tufa from the Mombasa line-up just the night before the race and gave the spot to Ahaza Kiros, who finished fifth at the Jan Meda trial. This decision caused a mutiny by Ethiopia’s men runners, who came to the defense of Mestewat, threatening to boycott the championship race on the following day unless Mestewat was reinstated. Mestewat herself was reportedly quite angry and took on matters literally in to her own hands, physically confronting one of the coaches. Eventually she was given back her spot and took part in the Senior Women’s race and finished 47th.
One can not help but wonder what may have initiated the coaches to undertake such a disruptive action at the last possible moment. Perhaps the heat and humidity was the least of all the problems Ethiopia’s athletes faced in Mombasa.
Now that Mestewat has once again earned herself a spot on the National Team, she should be allowed to run in Osaka without any interference. She has shown that she is the world’s best 10000M runner so far this year, and she deserves a chance to go for the gold in Osaka. Let her run!