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

Wami to defend Berlin Marathon title

by David Monti, Race Results Weekly

Three-time Olympic medalist Gete Wami will defend her title at the 34th running of the real, Berlin Marathon, race organizers announced today.

Wami, who set an Ethiopian record of 2:21:34 at Berlin last year (since surpassed by Berhane Adere), is currently sitting in second place in the 2006/2007 World Marathon Majors rankings with 40 points, 15 points behind leader Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia. Should Wami win at Berlin, she would have 65 points and would vault into the lead for the $500,000 prize to be awarded to the points series leader after November’s ING New York City Marathon, the last race in the current series.

Also announced for the Sept. 30 marathon were Japan’s Naoko Sakamoto (2:21:51 PB), Russia’s Irina Timofeyewa (2:25:29), Poland’s Grazyna Syrek (2:26:22) and Germany’s Irina Mikitenko, who will be attempting to complete her first marathon.The real, Berlin Marathon was the fifth-largest marathon in the world last year with 30,118 finishers, according to Running USA, an industry trade association. With one of the fastest courses in the world, the race is the home of the men’s world record: 2:04:55 set by Kenyan Paul Tergat in 2003.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Osaka Bound

The Ethiopian Athletics Federation announced last Friday the Ethiopian squad of 32 athletes that will be travelling to Osaka, Japan to compete at the 11th World Championships in Athletics that is due to start in nine days. For the most part, it is a predictible list based on performance of the athletes so far.

However, I do have some questions that I will have to wait to get answers for:
1- Women 1500M: Why is Gelete Burka running in the already loaded 5000M when she can add to the medal count by running the 1500M in which she has done very well so far this year? Why is Mestawet Tadesse the only woman running the 1500M? Where is Meskerem Legesse? Did Mestawet or Meskerem meet the qualifying "A" standard that would have allowed Ethiopia to send more than one athlete in the 1500M? It appears to me that Gelete is getting a raw deal here by missing out in the 1500M.

2- Men's 5000M: Why is Kenenisa not doubling in the 5000M when he has run so many sizzling 3000M races in the last few weeks? This would have been his greatest chance to win a double gold. Perhaps, his experience from Mombasa has him focussed on beating Zeresenay Tadesse in the 10000M.

Incidentally, I am interested to know what the relationship between Kenenisa and Zeresenay is. I have watched many times over the 10000M at the 2004 Athens Olympics where Kenenisa was first and Zeresenay an unexpected third. After crossing the finish line, Kenenisa turned around and started to walk back looking for his team-mates Sileshi and Haile. About the same time Zeresenay crossed the finish line and appeared to approach Kenenisa wanting to shake hands or talk but Kenenisa simply walked past. I watched this many times over and it looks awkward. I wonder what the dynamics between the two of them is and if that contributed to what unfolded in Mombasa. It should make for another great 10000M race in Osaka.

3- Women's 10000M: Once again both Mestawet Tufa and Ahaza Kiros are on the list. Could there be a replay of the debacle in Mombasa? Also it remains to be seen how fit Tirunesh is.

4- Men's Marathon: Tesfaye Tola is back?? He won the Bronze Medal at the Sydney Olympics seven years ago. I was very impressed with him at the time (beautiful strides) but have not heard much of him recently. I like Gashaw Melese in this one since he did so well earlier this year at the Paris Marathon on a hot day (likely in Osaka). He won the Paris Marathon in 2006.

Overall, I think this is a great team. I hope the coaches learned their lesson from Mombasa and trained the athletes at a location that resembles Osaka's climate. Best wishes and I hope we will all watch and support as Ethiopia's best shine on a world stage.

Ethiopian squad for the 11th IAAF World Championships in Osaka 2007

MEN (16)
1500m: Derese Mekonnen, Mekonnen Gebremedhin
3000m SC: Roba Gari, Nahom Mesfin
5000m: Tariku Bekele, Abraham Cherkose, Bekana Daba, Sileshi Sihine
10,000m: Kenenisa Bekele, Sileshi Sihine, Gebregziabher Gebremariam, Tadesse Tola
Marathon: Gashaw Melese, Dejene Berhanu, Ambesse Tolosa, Gudissa Shentema, Tesfaye Tola

WOMEN (16)
1500m: Mestawet Tadesse
3000m SC: Netsanet Achamo, Mekdes Bekele, Zemzem Ahmed
5000m: Tirunesh Dibaba, Meseret Defar, Gelete Burka, Meselech Melkamu
10,000m: Tirunesh Dibaba, Mestawet Tufa, Ejegayehou Dibaba, Aheza Kiros
Marathon: Robe Guta, Askale Tafa, Dure Tune, Adanech Zekiros, Shetaye Gemechu

More Mesgana

They are back for more Mesgana...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Haile Successful

Gebrselassie reminds us once again of his greatness
By Brian Cazeneuve for

See his distinctive stride and you could read a chapter of Haile Gebrselassie's life, the telltale peek at the world's greatest living distance runner, blowing through Central Park, then Times Square and the streets of Gotham as the Ethiopian legend ran away with the New York Half Marathon on Sunday morning.

The man is light of feet, a skimming stone along the water. Does he even need to touch the ground or might he just float? His chin is straight, only moving laterally if he must espy his opposition. Otherwise, there is no excess energy. How does the bobbing and bouncing not shake his core? How can a spinal column stay so straight when limbs are moving so purposefully?

And then it strikes you. Even at 34, his left arm still has a perceptive, if subtle, flap. The form flaw is out of place. Compact at 5-feet-4, 117 pounds, he looks like the Greek statue with the missing ear. What, pray tell, is wrong? "My books," he tells you. "I needed them for school, so I carried them in my left arm."

The distance was convenient then: 10 kilometers from the farmhouse in Arssi where a single father raised 10 Gebrselassie children to the school where a 16-year old ran his first race, 1,500 meters against older, more accomplished boys. "People were laughing because I was sprinting at the beginning," Gebrselassie remembers. "Look at this boy. He's going to stop soon."

He still hasn't. For his victory that day, Gebrselassie won shorts and a singlet. Retail value: $1, by his estimation. He won certificates for his next two victories. Medals trophies and six-figure appearance fees were still off in the distance.

He has run as long and fast as anyone, setting 22 world records, winning eight world and Olympic medals, including six golds. In the debate among running aficionados to name history's greatest distance runner, Gebrselassie's name stands next to Paavo Nurmi, the Norwegian legend from the 1920s, and Emil Zatopek, the great Czech from the '50s. Neither has Gebrselassie's blistering kick. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he outlasted Kenya's Paul Tergat in the 10,000 meters, running the last 200 meters in 26 seconds. Who else on the planet could run 1,500 meters in 3:31.76 in 1998 and win the Berlin Marathon last year in 2:05.56? Despite his sublime resume, Gebrselassie had rarely run in the United States and never in New York City until Sunday.

"When I run in Ethiopia, I look out and see eucalyptus trees and rivers," he said this week, "I wanted to experience New York, to look up and see buildings."

His race began in Central Park for an initial 10 kilometer (six-mile) loop during which Gebrselassie ran stride-for-stride with Somali-born U.S. runner Abdi Abdirahman and Kenya's Robert Cheruiyot, the three-time Boston Marathon champ.

The fast pace played into the hands of Gebrselassie, the two-time Olympic champ at 10,000 meters who once held world records at both the 5K and 10K distances. "I don't know why they pushed," Gebrselassie said afterwards. "I thought they'd stay back. I am a 10,000-meter runner. But they pushed, so I said, 'OK, thank you, you are running my pace. Good-bye.'"

As the runners left the park and headed onto the streets of midtown Manhattan, Abdirahman made a bold push to build a lead. The move dropped Cheruiyot, but not Gebrselassie, who then shot into the lead and never lost it. "In running, you try to recover your surge," Abdirahman explained. "I was trying to build back up and Haile didn't give me that chance. He went right past me and the race was over."

Gebrselassie finished easily in 59 minutes, 24 seconds, a minute ahead of Abdirahman. This was a tune-up, one of many, for his transition to the marathon at the Beijing Olympics next summer, and perhaps for the New York Marathon in 2009. "The race is a natural challenge for me," says Haile, whose older brother, Tekaye, was a 2:11 marathoner in Ethiopia. "You lose the speed before the stamina. I always thought I would move to the marathon late in my career. . . When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time."

Gebrselassie has now won all eight half marathons he has entered to go with his marathon wins in Berlin, Fukuoka and Amsterdam. He has won 108 races in 56 different cities, but remains committed to helping his countrymen, many of whom remain impoverished.

His businesses in Ethiopia employ 400 people and include two hotels, a fitness center, a cinema and a car dealership. More than 1,200 students attend the two schools he opened. They are private schools, with a tuition of $7 a month. Students in the fourth grade there are on par with most 12th graders in the country. They have computers and science labs with proper equipment. More than 80 percent will receive higher education, compared with a national average of 10 to 15 percent. As passionately as he speaks about running, he is even more animated about he desire to make Ethiopia better.

"These last few years, we had many problems, from war to poverty, HIV. One year there is drought, next year flooding," he says. "I have to do something for my country. I have to do my part.

"People sometimes get angry with me, because I won't give money away. I tell them, if you want to work, I will find you work. I will give you a job with a good wage and I will take care of you. But a man cannot improve himself with free gifts, only with opportunity. When you find a child who wants to learn but cannot find a good school, or a man who wants to work and to better himself but he cannot find a job to help his family, that is where I must help. Work builds confidence."

In a land that has not always embraced strong women, Gebrselassie relies heavily on his wife, Alem, to run many of his businesses while tending to their four children. "Many times I think we should do something one way and she will suggest another way," he says. "I think, oh, OK, you are the smart one. We will do it your way. This is the modern man."

Hear Gebrselassie speak and you picture another life chapter in which a boy carried his books and learned well.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Haile Wins NYC Half-Marathon

Haile Gebrselassie won the NYC Half-Marathon in stunning fashion on Sunday, completing the course in 59:24, more than a minute ahead of second place finisher Abdi Abdirahman... more

You can watch a 5+ minute long interview Haile gave to WABC TV by clicking here and selecting the clip titled "NYC Half-Marathon... Part 2" and forward about 10 seconds from the beginning of the clip. If you pay close attention, you will hear what sounds like a group of Ethiopians chanting "Haile Haile... Gebrselassie" to the tune of Teddy Afro's song with the same title. There is also a nice wrap-up of the event on the clip titled "NYC Half-Marathon."

Thousand Men Dying

Why are they all sad? (click on the picture to enlarge)
Because they, and Ethiopian Athletics, lost a great friend.
Read more here.

"This is not one man dying. This is a thousand men dying."
Belay Wolashe

Berhane Adere Wins Great Wales Run

Francis Kibiwott and Berhane Adere proved themselves worthy winners of the inaugural BUPA Great Wales Run titles in Cardiff on Sunday [July 29].

The Kenyan and Ethiopian victors relished the flat and fantastically beautiful 10 kilometres course in Cardiff Bay including a speedy trek over the scenic tidal barrage...

...Adere after injuring herself at the London Marathon was enthusiastic after making a positive return from the hip problem she incurred in the capital.

This was a really good result for me - I felt nothing from my hip and now I can start preparing myself for the defence of my Chicago marathon title," said the Ethiopian, ranked on merit the world's number one performer last year... more

Kenenisa Update

July 25, Monaco

"Kenenisa Bekele was supreme in the men’s 3000m. The shortness of this paragraph denoting nothing more than that his run was not quite as fast as his race in Sheffield on 15 July (7:26.69), and that it didn’t provide such a shock! Yet Bekele was just as assured tonight. After the last pacemaker dropped out with three laps to go, he began a solo parade of brilliance which ended in 7:29.32"... more

July 28, Zaragoza, Spain

"The 25-year-old Bekele managed to dip under the 12:50 barrier in his first appearance over 5000m this summer campaign by clocking 12:49.53. In doing so Bekele raised himself to the top position on this year’s world list in a season which had not until last night seen a sub-13 minutes 5000m performance. Bekele also recorded a best Spain’s all-comers time in the process"... more