Friday, August 29, 2008
It's back to the track for Kenenisa Bekele as he races in the Golden League meet in Zurich.
Reader Zemede has posted a link to view the race live in about 30 mins.
The race will be on at 3:35 EST 12:35 PST and 19:35 GMT.
Zemede, thanks for the link.
Kenenisa set a World Best of 12:50.18 at the 5,000M. He had overcome poor peacemaking, where he had to set the pace starting at the 5th lap. He opened up a huge gap early and kept adding to it. Look for him to go after the World Record this season.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Physically, over the past two weeks I have been transformed into a couch potato. Browsing the net and flipping TV channels. Now, instead of watching others run I need to get out and do my own running. Mentally, I am tired of thinking and talking about medals, federations, events etc..
Before I move one I wanted some sort of closure by listing the top five performances as well as the top five disappointments. I would have loved to go with a top ten list but we were kind of light depthwise.
1 - Tirunesh Dibaba, 10,000 M – Ran the 2nd fastest time ever and looked as if she could have run faster.
2 - Kenenissa Bekele, 5,000 M – He did most of the work from start to finish. What a magnificent kick and what a race.
3 - Kenenissa Bekele, 10,000 M – Made it look like a jog.
4 - Tirunesh Dibaba, 5,000 M – Great tactical race and nice close.
5 - Deriba Merga and Tsgaye Kebede, Marathon – It’s hard to pick among the two. Deriba was going for gold but collapsed. Who can fault him for going for gold? On the other hand, Tsegaye ran a very smart race but never really had a shot at gold.
Jacob Jarsso , 3,000 M Steeeplechase - Finished 4th the Steeplechase beating a Kenyan. He wasn’t even supposed to be in the finals.
Zemzem Ahmed, 3,000 Steeplechase – Solid performance in the Women’s Steeplechase.
Gashaw Assfaw, Marathon– came in a solid seventh in the marathon.
1 - Gete Wami and Berhane Adere, Marathon – The two did not come to run. They crashed out of the race early and it wasn’t even a very hot day and the pace wasn't fast when they crashed. What a waste!
2- Mestawat Tufa, 10,000 M– Went from a medal conteder to a DNF. Gives up easy. Exited the race when she lost contact with the lead pack. She should hire Shalene Flanigan to coach her on the art of catching runners form behind.
3 - Gelete Burka, 1,500 M– Gold favorite did not even make it to the finals. Enough said.
4 - Haile Gebreselassie, 10,000 M – Would have been better off running the marathon. At least he had a chance to medal in the marathon. I wonder what he though when Deriab was up there with the leaders? For sure Haile thinks he is better thanDeriba. What would Haile have been able to do? We will never know. With the emergence of young runners like Deriba, Tsegaye and others Haile is not a lock to make the Olympic team in 2012. Actually odds are against Haile making the team. Beijing was not a great way to go out.
5 - Nahom Mesfin and Roba Gary, 3,000 M Steeplechase – These two should have been in the steeplechase final. Instead they bombed out early.
Mekdes Bekele, 3,000 M Steeplechase :- Should have been in the Steeplechase finals but decided to chill early.
Ejigayehu Dibaba, 10,000 M - How she has fallen! From Olympic silver to mid-pack runner. She has talent but she does not seem to care. She still makes good money though.
Mulugeta Wondimu and Deresse Mekonnen, 1,500 M – huge step back for the men’s 1,500M.
Sileshi Sihine, 10,000 M – Got slaughtered by Kenenisa once again. Disappointment is that he just sat there and got slaughtered. You would think he would get tired of losing and change something to mount a challenge. He did not bother. Does the same thing gets the same results. It looks like he as accepted being second as his fate in life.
Meseret Defar, 5,000 – Never gave us the battle we expected but gave it a good run. Should have challenged for silver harder once chance for gold was gone.
This is what I have. Your thoughts?
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Monday, August 25, 2008
Magnificent when your only overachiever is Tsegaye Kebede, a bronze medalist? Magnificent when you don't even meet your own goal of ten medals? Sorry to burst some bubbles but the "magnificent" moments were created by two – get this - two athletes. Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenenisa Bekele! Team Ethiopia did not have a magnificent Olympic. These two athletes had a magnificent Olympic.
Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenenisa Bekele were asked to double out of desperation. They skewed the medal count and covered up the poor development, selection and preparation by the Federation. Ethiopian athletics is in decline. Just take a look at the list of Kenyan athletes that earned a medal next to the list of Ethiopians.
Mighty thin for a county that has twice the population of Kenya!
Obsession with sweeping...
In Ethiopia, there is a bizarre obsession with sweeping events. Winning multiple medals in any event is very hard. The best way to increase medal counts is to the expand into new events. Spending time and energy trying to sweep is more expensive than developing medal contenders in the 800 M and 1,500M. Kenyan will always have at least two medal contenders in the 10,000 and 5,000.
A sweep does not happen often. If it does, it can't happen at every Olympic. You can't design successful programs that sweep races. The odds are against sweeps. This wrong headed obsession with sweeps has made the Federation lazy. Instead of developing athletes in middle distance events the Federation dreams of multiple medals in a few events.
Ethiopia has the talent base (if developed) to compete in races 800M and further. In Beijing, Kenya for instance, contested the men’s 400M and won gold in both the Men’s and Women’s 800M while Ethiopia did not even have enough runners to fill its slot of 1,500 M Women’s runners. Take a look at how diverse Kenya’s medal haul was compared to Ethiopia’s.
There is no guarantee that the next Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba will be Ethiopian. They could be Kenyan. What would we do then?
We need to stop obsessing about sweeps and double medals. Diversification is needed to increase medal counts.
Lack of breakthroughs...
Sydney was high mark for Ethiopian Athletics. Sydney was remarkable because several unknown athletes stepping up to win gold. Million Wolde surprised even himself by winning the men’s 5,000M. Gezahegn Abera and Tesfaye Tola came out of nowhere to win two medals in the marathon. Everyone had assumed Derartu was on her last legs when she won gold.
Almost every other Olympic Ethiopia participated in has had a surprise. Abebe Bikila, Mamo Wolde, Miruts Yifter, Derartu Tulu, Fatuma Roba and Meseret Defar produced unexpected results.
So who stepped up in Beijing? Tesegaye Kebded, Deriba Merga, Zemzem Ahmed and Yakob Jarso - barely. None of them had a true breakthrough.
Time to change
Kenyan athletics had been in decline since 1988. In Sydney the Kenyan Athletic Federation was stung by Ethiopia’s success and recognized something was amiss. They started changing course. They revised the selection process and modified their preparation. They kept working on it in Athens and in Beijing we saw the results of the changes. Fourteen medals!
They were smart. They did not waste time trying to reclaim the 10,000M and 5,000M medals. Instead they strengthened their 1,500 M and 800M programs while at the same time working to improve in the long distance events. Notice how Kenya had fielded some excellent talent in the 5,000 M and 10,000M. From Athens to Beijing they went from winning one gold medal to winning five gold medals and doubling their medal totals. Kenya now has a foundation on which they can continue to build. Ethiopia on the other hand seems stuck since Sydney with no medal growth.
The number of medals won can be misleading. The number of individuals that produce these medals is a good indicator of how good a country is at developing athletes. From the chart below Ethiopia actually took a step back while Kenya has made great leaps.
Grow or die
There is a mantra that says if you are not growing you are dying. The world is catching up. One just needs to look no further than the performance of Shalane Flanagan who finished 3rd in the 10,000M. She beat two Ethiopian favorites.
Had we not had Tirunesh Dibaba, Turkey would have had a double gold medalist. Turkey, Bahrain, Spain and Israel fielded Ethiopian-born runners. Look for many more Ethiopian-born runners to run for their new countries. Look for these Ethiopian-born to fight Ethiopia for medals.
Life is not getting easier.
Now that the Ethiopian Athletics Federation failed to achieve its own goals it’s time that someone is held accountable. Responsibility must be taken and changes made.
I suspect that is not going to happen. Ethiopian Politicians, who themselves have never been held accountable and therefore clueless when it comes to accountability will spin the "success of Beijing" till we drop from dizziness. No one will be held accountable because no one wants to admit there are problems. Meanwhile the same people will continue doing the same things and we will continue getting worse as others get better.
Decline can come fast. One only needs to look at the decline of football in Ethiopia. I hope that is not in the future of athletics.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Yonas Kifle hit the wall real bad. Martin Lel looked bad between 30km and 35km. Tsegaye Kebede was fading when he caught Deriba Merga who was fading even faster.
The chart shows that Samuel Wanjiru was unbeatable. Gashaw Asfaw finished strong but he was too far behind. A few runners increased pace over the last 10K. The only runner to run the second-half faster was 15th place finisher Ruggero Pertile of Italy.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
The results are good. Two Ethiopians fighting for a medal albeit bronze. Given that is a young crew I would take this any day. Best of all, all three finished in the top ten. Tsegaye Kebede third, Deriba Megra fourth and Gashaw Asfaw seventh. It's a statement of the talent level of these runners. Three relative unknowns in the top 10!
Deriba is a different type of runner. It's nice to see a runner is not afraid to push. Too often, Ethiopian runners are timid. The exceptions are Kenenisa and Haile. Deriba of course is still green and this is part of his learning experience. It's a shame he did not even get a medal out of this. He will be back.
Tsegaye ran a smart race and looked good at the end. He ran within his limits and looked like he could have ran a bit more. Look for him to step it up.
Samuel Wanjiru was better prepared. As for the gold, there was no way an Ethiopian would have won it today. I don't think an Ethiopian could have run 2:06 today.
Do you see a way an Ethiopian could have won?
When we look a bit deeper into the performance of the team, it is hard to overlook the DNFs (drop outs) from Gete Wami, Berhane Adere, and Mestawot Tufa and the mediocre performances turned in by Meselech, Gelete, Ejegayehu and several of the other middle distance runners. I think a common thread to all that has gone wrong with the team is lack of proper acclimation to the humidity of Beijing.
It is noteworthy that there was a last minute decision by Ethiopian team officials to delay the travel of the athletes until it was near their competition time. Meseret Defar cited jet lag and weather as part of her difficulty in the 5000M. With only the men’s marathon remaining to be contested, there is a case study that could shed light on just how much the weather has been a factor.
In particular, watch these two athletes: Ryan Hall of USA and Deriba Merga of Ethiopia. Their lifetime record is comparable in the 2:05-2:06 range. Both ran 2:06 in London this year finishing 5th and 6th. Both are 25 years old and appear to be smart runners. Here is the big difference between Hall and Merga: Hall arrived in Beijing 2 ½ weeks ago to acclimate properly to the weather while Merga was among the last to arrive. Here is an entry from Ryan Hall’s diary:
After settling into our spacious room I headed out for an easy shakeout jog. I have never sweat so much in my entire life. By the end of the 30-minute easy run I was dripping in sweat. I was glad that I was there 2 ½ weeks early to get used to the humidity. I had practiced in warm temperatures and over dressed in practice but there was nothing I could have done to totally prepare for this level of humidity besides getting over here early to make the adjustment. Now that I have been here for nearly two weeks, I am used to the humidity and theextra sweating that comes with it.
I have read that Deriba Merga is creative in his training and racing in different parts of Ethiopia. However, it is hard to imagine he has been able to shake free of the “team camp” over the last several weeks. Merga is definitely a talented runner with some impressive results in half and full marathons. I expect him to do well if the weather is good and do poorly if the weather is bad.
Finally, watch out for Yared Asmerom of Eritrea. He is definitely a dark horse in today’s race as he has done well previously in warm weather. He definitely has the potential to be Eritrea’s first ever gold medalist.
Speaking of ages, literally speaking this time, the Beijing Olympics have brought into focus what a well trained human body can achieve whether young or old. The Olympic Games are intended to be a gathering for the “youth of the world” as the opening and closing acclamations suggest. China appears to have taken this to a new level by supposedly fielding underage gymnasts that have not reached the minimum age of 16. China’s divers also look young enough to need a chaperon’s supervision outside the home. Still, it is impressive to see that skills can be so perfected at a young age and executed perfectly on the grandest of all stages.
On the other end of the age spectrum, we watched the 41 year old American Dara Torres nearly get the gold in the 50M free style- a SPRINT and not endurance event. The 38 year old Constantina Tomescu ran away from a loaded field to win the women’s marathon. In the past Ethiopia’s own Mamo Wolde won a Bronze Medal in the 1972 Munich Olympic at the age of 40!
As we near the end of the Beijing Games with the highly anticipated men’s marathon yet to be run, another ageless wonder waits to compete with no fanfare surrounding his presence. He is an Ethiopian by birth but runs for Israel. He is 53 years old (or 48 depending on who you ask). He finished the Athens Olympic Marathon in a very respectable 20th place. He is back at the Olympics as one of the oldest athletes competing in Beijing. His name is Haile Satatyin and he is an Olympian for the ages.
This guy has been in the news.
After a short stint in an Gonder prison, Ethiopian-born Israeli Seteng Ayele(akaHaile Satayin) is in Beijing. At 53 or 46 years, whatever his real age is, he has no chance to medal but you have to appreciate what he did in Osaka where he finished 19th, ahead of 4 Ethiopian runners.
Here are bits from a nice write up
Yes indeed he has given it his all. That is all you can ask.
“After a race, after a difficult practice, I go home in suffering. That’s why I hate the marathon. Everyone suffers, but not everyone hates it.”
Why, then, does he persist? “I have no choice. What can I do? It’s a job, it’s work.”
Is it also fun? “No, it’s just work.”
A train hurtles by as he explains, “Running for three hours isn’t easy.”
His grin becomes a grimace. “That’s why I hate it. It’s not good for the body, I keep getting injured.”
When the topic of the 2012 Olympics is broached, he begins to answer, then stops. Suddenly his voice trails off, “It’s too bad, I don’t know why I began to run. I saw the world, I did everything…but I lost badly, in terms of standard of living. It’s not easy, you know, running the marathon. I gave it my all, my body is breaking down, don’t ask about the fatigue.”
Update: Seteng Ayele finished 69th in 2:30:07!
The top favorites:
- Luke Kibet (KEN) - 2007 World Champion in Osaka. Recovering after being hit in the head by a stone by post-elections rioters.
- Mubarak Hassan Shami (QAT) - Kenyan-born 2nd Place finisher 2007 in Osaka.
- Tsuyoshi Ogata (JPN) - 4th in 2007 and 3rd in 2004 WC. He is hoping for "terrible conditions," which means "humid enough that you feel like you're going to die" to slow down the pace.
- Stefano Baldini (ITL) - Defending Olympic champ says bring on the heat and humidity but is nursing a thigh injury. Says he runs 8000km/year
- Samuel Kamau Wanjiru (KEN) - Trains in Japan and is the record holder in the half-marathon record holder. Winner in Fukuoka and 2nd in London.
- Viktor Röthlin (SUI) - 3rd in Osaka. Should be there with the pack. Trained in Kenya for ten years. Trains with Martin Lel.
- Jaouad Gharib (MAR) - 2005 and 2003 World Champion. Solid champ.
- Abderrahim Goumri (MAR) – 3rd in Marathon debut in London 2:05:30!
- Martin Lel (KEN) – Prolific marathon winner. 1st in London has the second fastest time of the year behind Haile.
- Yared Asmerom (ERI) – 4th in Osaka, tough runner. Good medal chances.
Some of the dark horse include:
- Abderrahime Bouramdane (MAR) – 2nd in Boston but 25th in Osaka
- Ryan Hall (USA) – 5th in London ahead of Deriba Merga.
- Julio Rey (ESP) - Has the pedigree and Spanish runner do well in hot weather. He has a PB under 2:07.
- Satoshi Osaki (JPN) – 6th in Osaka.
- Samson Ramadhani (TAN) -5th place in Athens but 25th in Osaka. Has what it takes to medal but has not run a marathon since Osaka.
- Janne Holmén (FIN) – 9th in Osaka,. Slow runner with an outside shot if it is very hot.
- José Manuel Martínez :- 10th in Osaka, 9th in Athens and 2008 Winner in Madrid.
Having watched how Gete Wami and Berhane Adere wilted in the streets of Beijing one can conclude that the preparation for the Beijing Olympics was totally inadequate. The Ethiopian prospects are poor. Even Haile picks Martin Lel to win.
If an Ethiopian win’s a medal it’s due to individual effort. Gashaw Asfaw’s 14th place finish was the top Ethiopian performance in Osaka. He is a very smart runner. Of the three Ethiopians he has the slowest PB. While not a medal pick his experience in Osaka and Hilsenki should help him.
Deriba Merga was 2nd in Fukuoka last December and 6th in London. He is a fine Marathoner and has the talent to run with the big boys but his inexperience and weather conditions could limit him. For sure, Ethiopia’s poor preparation will hurt him. To win a medal he will have to run a smart race.
The story among the Ethiopians is the amazing Tsegaye Kebede who continues to surprise even himself. He is was the winner in Paris this year in 2:06:40 in only his second international Marathon. In Paris this year, he shaved 1 ½ minutes off his Amsterdam début of 2:08:16. Like Deriba his inexperience and poor team preparation will hurt his chances. Tsegay Kebede is a natural and if he wins a medal it’s because of his superior talent. The last Ethiopian Marathon winner was also the Paris Marathon winner.
No need to get too excited about this race. One thing I am glad to see is the new talent. Having new talent does not hurt. Who can forget Gezahenge Abera’s and Tesfaye Tola’s run in 2000.
Kenenisa Bekele is not known for being a great tactical racer. He usually just out muscles the field. He may just have acquired that lost art by running an excellent disciplined race.
Two keys to the victory were:
- The Ethiopians pushed the pace early and kept increasing the pace winnowing the field down.
- Kenenisa accelerated with 400 to go rather than later in the last lap as he normally does. This took the sprint out of Soi.
Lot's of kudos to Tariku Bekele and Abreham Cherkos who did the early work. Despite the pacing work, Abreham Cherkos finished 5th. The future is bright for this budding 19 year-old.
For all that Haile has accomplished, there are some things Haile was not able to do, and for anyone that aspires to beat Haile in the race for the title of “the Greatest Ever,” there are opportunities to build resume even more impressive than Haile’s. Today’s 5000M race presents one such opportunity for Kenenisa Bekele. Haile was never able to achieve the revered 5000-10000 double at the Olympics. In the 100+ year history of the modern Olympics, five men and one woman runner have achieved this distinction, the latest coming from Tirunesh Dibaba yesterday.
Kenenisa has the opportunity today to distinguish himself further by achieving something that has eluded even the great Haile. And there is more. If Kenenisa was to win the 5000, he will have earned something that puts him head and shoulders above all the great Ethiopian runners of the past, including Abebe Bikila: OWNING THREE OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALS!
Friday, August 22, 2008
This was a super-ridiculous slow pace. Tirunesh won it in 15:41.40. For perspective, the NCAA Division I Champion won in 15:15.08. It’s crazy to run at this speed at this level. At this pace all bets are off. It's anyone's game.
The slow pace was dangerous as Meseret Defar tripped and almost crashed. The slow pace also opened the hole Elvan Abeylegesse exploited.
Nonetheless, this was a thrilling race to watch. Meseret Defar and Tirunsh Dibaba played cat and mouse until Tirunesh had had enough and pushed the pace with about 3 laps to go. Later Elvan injected pace but most of the pack covered. During the last lap Tirunesh broke early for gold but Meseret was sitting behind her. It looked as if Meseret was about to explode in a sprint. Instead with 2,40 to go she dropped off a bit. That is when Tirunesh exploded in a sprint and opened a huge gap and kept going. Meseret gave it all she had but did not have the stuff to match Tirunesh. She faded and Elvan Abeylegesse caught her around the bend.
Ladies and gentlemen Tirunesh has made history. She is the double gold medalist. No one could have beat her today.
Hat's of for Meseret's effort. It looked as if something was not right with her. Had she been going for silver it would have been a cake walk. Tirunesh is a champion. Meseret can’t be disappointed with her effort.
Elvan Abeylegesse ran a hard and smart race to maximize results from opportunities. She is in great shape.
Meselech Melkamu disappointed finishing 8th but she was in the mix with 300 to go.
The surprise was that the Kenyans were so passive and ended up getting slaughtered. Even more surprising was that the Russian Liliya Shobukhova did not push the pace or that Gulnara Samitova-Galkina who slowed the pace early was not in the mix at the end. But nether had a chance.
Look for the 10,000 M World Record to fall. At 22, Tirunesh is already among the greatest long distance runner of all times. If she keeps this up she will surpass Haile.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Since Tirunesh and Meseret are desperate to win, each will be preserving their energy for the last lap. Neither will want to do the work of leading the pack. One exploit a 1,500 M runner can carryout (with a lot of luck) is to hope for and work to keep the pace very slow, around 15:00 minutes. This runner then would turn the race into a 1,500 M race by springing a surprise sprint. To pull this off the runner would need explosive speed. None of the runners in the finals have explosive speed over 1,500 M. If it’s a ridiculously slow race, look for Gulnara Samitova-Galkina of Russia to try to take advantage. This is a nearly impossible task for her to pull off since she does not have the explosive speed required to open a sudden gap. In addition, the slow pace will be against the interest of several kick-deficient runners who will work to keep the pace moving.
The other risk is if Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya is allowed to linger near the end. It is possible that she can make a sudden move while the two favorites play cat and mouse. Vivian Cheruiyot is the silver medalist in Osaka and has excellent all around skills. She is the third fastest runner and has great closing speed. If Tirunesh and Meseret are not careful they may give her an opportunity. For Vivian Cheruiyot to beat either one of these fine runners it will require a large amount of hubris and neglect on the part of the Ethiopian runners.
Only two women have ever run faster than faster than 14:22. There is a 10 second gap between the two and the rest of the field. Tirunesh Dibaba (14:11.2) and Meseret Defar (14:12.9) have run their personal best this year. Obviously, Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar are in a league of their own. One can view the 5,000 M final as two races. One race is between Tirunesh and Meseret and the other race is for the bronze.
Let’s start with the race for the bronze medal.
The lack of diversity in representation in the 5,000 is surprising. Ethiopia, Kenya and USA have three runners each. Turkey and Russia have two each while China and Canada each have one finalist. The Chinese and Canadian have little chance of keeping up with the rest and in all likelihood will have little if any impact on the outcome of the race. For the most part you can view the battle for the bronze medal as a battle between teams. Here is the run down of the team outlooks.
Two Kenyans (Priscah Cherono and Vivian Cheruiyot) have very good closing kicks. The Kenyans probably would love a slow race where they can out kick the field with the exception of Meseret and Tirunesh of course. In a slow race they could even take a shot at sliver if either Tirunesh or Meseret sputters at the end. However, they will find themselves in trouble if they go for gold in a race that is too fast for them. Just on talent, Kenya should be favored to win the bronze. In Osaka Kenya took 2-3-4 behind Meseret Defar.
In the 10,000 M last Friday, Elvan Abeylegesse found herself between a rock and a hard place. There was not much she could do against Tirunesh. This time she is in between two rocks and a hard place. There is not much she can do. Four years removed from her best 5,000 time of 14:24.7 (which is 12 seconds slower than Mesert’s time of this year) she would have found herself between two rocks and a hard place even at her peak in 2004.
Since Alemitu Bekele does not look to challenge in a fast race Turkey may use her as a rabbit during the first half. Once Alemitu is consumed Elvan will keep pushing in an attempt to drop most of the runners. Elvan’s only hope for a medal is to be part of a lead pack of three with Meseret and Tirunesh. If she is able to do that she then gets the bronze without having to sprint at the end. Unfortunate for her, the mind may be willing but the body may not be able to do this. Four runners are faster than Elvan at the 5,000. Meseret, Tirunesh, Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) and Liliya Shobukhova (RUS). It may turn out that Elvan my not be able to reduce the pack to less than five runners. She may do all the work and be left in the dust. Still, having run under 30 minutes in the 10,000 she should be considered a serious thereat.
While Elvan has no need for a slow race, Alemitu Bekele may benefit from a slow. Alemitu's times are not good but have been getting better. Alemitu also has decent sprint speed. If the pace is slow, look for her to try to sneak in for a medal.
The three runners will not pay a whole lot of attention to what the other runners are doing. They will run at their pace. They are realistic and will be working for the bronze. If the race is slower than their pace look for them lead. They are good at pacing themselves so you will not see these runners lead early only to crash and burn late. Shalane Flanagan ran an outstanding run in the 10,000 M where at the end she caught two Kenyan runners that were spent while trying to capture an improbable gold. The Kenyans looked helpless as she passed them by. Smart running makes the US a legitimate contender for the bronze. Shalane Flanagan must have gotten a confidence boost from the 10,000 as her racing tactics have been affirmed with results. This makes her dangerous.
Liliya Shobukhova would like a fast race. Her only chance at a medal is by dropping the Kenyan runners before it gets down to a sprint. Look for her to set a fast pace. The combination of Liliya and Elvan could produce a scorching pace.
On the other hand Olympic 3,000 Steeplechase champ Gulnara Samitova-Galkina would prefer a very slow race (14:55 +). She has good 1,500 M speed and can compete with the Kenyans if it comes down to a 1,5000. She has chance to medal if the Kenyans fall apart after going for gold.
Team Meselech Melkamu
Meselech is a long shot to medal. In all likelihood she will finish anywhere from 4th to 7th. There are six runners that have better times at this event. Two Kenyans, one Russian and even Elvan have better closing speed than Meselech. Meselech has had a good 2008 and it seems like her career is back on track. She has a chance to medal is if she somehow keeps up with the other two Ethiopians as they make a break from the pack. To do that she will need to run the race of her life.
Don’t look for a sweep. If Ethiopia was unable to sweep the Men’s 10,000 a sweep hear is very unlikely. The favorites for bronze have got to be the Kenyans.
As for the big race (Meseret vs. Tirunesh), both are in top form. Both have something to prove. Both will not cave in. It’s an epic battle of wills. An analysis of their past head-to-head races reveals no favorite - it only shows that they are evenly matched. It’s hard to pick one over the other. It’s hard to not pick both to win it.
But here is my prediction (and this is a wild guess)
If it’s a slow race 14:52 or slower look for Mesert Defar to win at the tape.
If it’s a fast race, faster tan 14:33 look for Tirunesh Dibaba to win by a whisker.
Good luck to both. Either way Ethiopia wins. Women’s running has come a long way.
Runners World Preview of the 5,000 M Final
The fact that this embarrassing defeat happened at this stage (after she has been established) will have a huge physiological impact. Confidence is the material champions are made of. She probably will never realize her potential. Gelete will continue make money on the track circuit (you don't have to win to make money) but she most likely will never win an Olympic medal. She will never be a champion. What a waste of talent.
Meskerem Assefa, was a token entry and come in 11th. That is not a suprise. You reap what you sow.
We can conclude that the 1,500 has been a huge disappointment. Some changes have to be made. the sooner the better. To have success in the 1,500 M it must be taken seriously.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Unlike the men, two qualification heats (heats and semi-finals), the women have to pass though just one qualification heat. Ethiopia had entered four runners (three runners and an alternate) but just two will be running in the heats.Gelete Burka and Meskerem Assefa. The other two entries were steeplechase runners, Mekdes Bekele and Zemzem Ahmed. These two had never ran the 1,500 internationally. It's hard to understand why the were entered in the first place.
I find it astounding that Ethiopia is unable to field three runners in this event. When it comes to the 1,500 M the Federation seems completely lost. It always confuses it with other races. This is not the 5, 000 and this is not the Steeplechase! This is the 1,500 M!
Ethiopia has an abundance of talent at this distance. Case and point, Maryam Yusuf Jamal who now runs for Bahrain. Maryam Yusuf Jamal who claims to have been mismanaged while running for Ethiopia is the prohibitive favorite in this race. Talented Gelete Burka has also been mismanaged by being entered in one too many 5,000 M races and a slew of cross-country races. While one can never question Meseret Defar’s results in the 5,000 M, my suspicion is that she probably would have been as good or better at the 1,500 M. Others include Kutre Dulecha (Bronze in 1999 World Championships and now a marathon runner) and Mestawot Tadesse who has disappeared. And finally, who can forget the immortal Alem Techale, 2003 World Junior champion. She would have be 21 and in her prime. The country is loaded with talent. The Federation needs to learn how to harness the abundant talent. The 1,500 M must be taken seriously. In addition an 800 M program goes hand in hand with a 1,500 M and should be part of any 1,500 M program development. Ethiopia needs to stop trying to sweep races and instead it should expand event participation.
The women have a trail that that can follow. It was blazed by Kutre Dulecha who was a silver medalist in the 1999 World Championships. She went on to finish 4th in Sydney in 2000. Unlike Gelete, Kurte was never entered into 5000M events. Gelete is one of the finest athletes in the 1,500 and she should easily qualify. Gelete is considered a medal contender. Meskerem Assefa was 12th in her heat in Athens four years ago. Her times are not great. She will find it will be hard for her to advance, but she can always surprise us.
Look for Gelete in the finals.
All three easily qualified. So did Alemayehu Bezabeh of Spain. From looking at the results it looks like the Ethiopians were laying low, all three finishing 3rd. I am surprised that Kenenisa Bekele finished third. It's something he hates doing even in heats.
Rashid Ramzi winner of the 1,500 in Beijing did not run in his heat. He would have been one of the favorites.
The loud-mouth Australian Craig Mottram did not make it to the finals.
Mohammed Farah Britain's great hope also failed to qualify.
Finally, my sentimental favorite, Soe Min Thu finished dead last in a time of 15:50.56. Two minutes and 13 seconds after the finisher and a minute and half after the guy in front of him. This is the Olympics. If you are here you finish. Some names come to mind Gete Wami, Berhane Adere and Mestewat Tufa... Enough said.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
The story of twenty one year-old (he guesses his age) Alemayehu Bezabeh Desta is heartbreaking yet elating. Like most of us he left Ethiopia to make something of himself. In his case he wanted to do it by running. It was not that easy.
He had no papers and struggled to survive For a while he slept in Bravo Murillo, in Madrid and ate at mission soup kitchens for the homeless. A priest at the mission helped him apply for political asylum. The priest also contacted an African refugee assistance group called Karibu.
Karibu put him in contact with another Ethiopian who living in Madrid. The other athlete, Fekadu Bekele, introduced him to his club. The club in Madrid is called Bikila, like in Abebe Bikila. The club was amazed at his talent level and he has progressed quickly. In July of this year he was granted Spanish citizenship. He had to run a race to qualify for the Olympics which he easily did. His talent level is such that he is already threatening the Spanish record.
This in short is the story of Alemayehu Bezabeh Desta. From the streets of Madrid to the the Olympics in just months. He says he would like to repay Spain with a medal. He is in the 5,000 Heat with Tariku Bekele.
World Champion Bernard Lagat (USA) will be running the 5,000. In what is a major disappointment of the US, he failed to qualify for 1,500 M finals. Actually Deresse Mekonen was nipping at his heals and almost overtook him at the end. Lagat is probably fighting an injury. But if he is healthy, a rested Legat is a dangerous Legat.
I think the best Kenyan 5,000 M runner at the moment is Moses Masai, 3rd place finisher at the 10,000 M. But lucky for us Kenya is not running him in the 5,000 M. Without Masai, the Kenyan team is still a loaded team. Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) second place finisher in Osaka and Olympic silver medalist is a very dangerous runner. So far this year, Eliud Kipchoge beat Tariku Bekele in Ostrava and again in Rome. Hope he does not make that a habit.
Moses Kipsiro of Uganda, 3rd place finisher in Osaka. He is only 22 and a very dangerous runner.
And then there is Soe Min Thu (MYA) , - Myanmar – Burma. Soe Min Thu has a personal best time of 15:16.23. His best time would not qualify him for the Women’s finals. I should be more polite as Burmese are very kind and the most polite people you would find on the planet. Having traveled there, I have a soft spot for the people of Burma. It’s easy – almost natural for an Ethiopian sense repression and relate. It would be hard to pass without commenting that China is the primary supporter of the repressive regime that doles out misery. The people of Burma will be cheering on their native son because one still cheers their countrymen regradless of the govenrment running it. Well, I can relate to that too. Good luck to Soe Min Thu. Hope he sets a personal best.
Returning to the 5,000 M, there are three heats and in each heat the Ethiopian runner has the best 2008 time. The three, Abraham Cherkos, Tariku Bekele and Kenenisa Bekele are in great shape this year. It should be a jog for the them.
The things to watch for:
1- How does Kenenisa look?
2- How well do Tariku and Abraham assert themselves in the heats? Do they take control of the heat? How confident do they look?
3- Does Legat make it to the finals? Is he in good shape?
What are your thoughts?
In the second heat Meseret Defar easly makes it into the finals.
I think Meseret is the favorite to win this race. What are you thoughts?
Monday, August 18, 2008
In addtion to Tirunesh there are a few runners doubling. Gulnara Samitova-Galkina (RUS) winner of the 3,000 Steeplechase is going for a double gold. She was dominant in Steeplechase and broke the World Record on Sunday. Fifth place finisher in the in the 3,000 Steeplechase, Jessica Augusto (PUR), is also running the 5,000. Both Steeplechase runners are entered for the 1,500 M. I am not sure how they plan to pull off the triple.
Seven 10,000 M runners will be starting the 5,000. In the first heat has Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) and Yingying Zhang (CHN) from the 10,000 M. In the second heat hedlined by Meseret Defar, will have a pack of tired legs from the 10,000 M. Kara Goucher (USA), Joanne Pavey (GBR) and Yukiko Akaba (JPN) are looking for redemption in the 5,000M while Shalane Flanagan (USA) and Elvan Abeylegesse(TUR) look to add to their medals.
A runner to note is 31 year-old Alemitu Bekele of Turkey who has a personal best time of 15:05.85 and does not have much of a chance to win a medal.
What to look for? How is Tirunesh holding up? How does Meselech Melkamu look?
The steeplechase is like a marathon. It's hard for someone without the track record to step up. When a young athlete steps up, it's raw talent over skills. It is obvious that Yacob has an abundance of talent. One don't come in fourth and set a National Record at 20 with limited experience unless you are immensely talented. If managed properly he is a force to be reckoned with. He alone will cause Kenyans plenty of headaches.
Yacob's performance, Zemzem Ahmed's seventh place finish in the Women's Final as well as Legesse Lamiso's godl in the 2008 World Youth World Championships are successes that Ethiopia needs to build on.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Here are some of my thoughts that come to mind when weighing if she should or should not.
- Tirunesh Dibaba proved she was in great shape. Looked like she could sprint another lap.
- She must be brimming with confidence.
- Her 5, 000 M WC in June means she may be even better at the 5,000 (scary)
- The runner that would be displaced, Belaynesh Fekadu, is not a medal threat.
- She is a sure thing to medal.
- She ran a super fast 10,000 M and may not recover fast enough - slow performance.
- Too many races in a short time increases the risk for injury.
- Belayanesh Fekadu only 21, is on an up swing and will miss out an opportunity.
Men's 1,500 Semi-Final M - Backsliding
Both of the guys did not make it to the finals. This has to be a dig disappointment. Mulugeta Wendimu was in the finals four years ago and this is a step back. The expansion program is a failure so far.
Women's 3,000 M Finals - Solid Performance
Zemzem stood her ground and finished seventh. This is a good result that came about as a result of an individual's extraordinary effort.
Men's 3,000 M Final
If I had to, I would bet on a Kenya sweep. Yakob Jarso has his work cutout. He has to run the race of his life to be in the top six. The following are the favorites.
1. Brimin Kipruto (KEN)
2. Ezekiel Kemboi (KEN)
3. Richard Mateelong (KEN)
4. Bouabdellah Tahri (FRA)
5. Mustafa Mohamed (SEW)
6. Ruben Ramolefi (RSA)
Good luck to Yakob go out and have a great outing like Zemzem.
"As for these young ones, either I will end up staying on their heels or they'll be the ones doing that," said Gebrselassie with a smile.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Here it is! I will go on a limb and say anything other than a sweep is a disappointment. What’s the point of Haile taking up a spot if he is not here to win a medal? If the others don't medal it's a huge disappointment.
Kennenisa and Sileshi have been as solid as it gets. In 2004 an injured Haile still came in 5th. Haile is fit and he showed it in Hengelo coming in 2nd after Sileshi. Sileshi had to run his third fastest time ever to beat Haile.
Kenya has a young crew; the senior among them is twenty three year old Martin Mathathi who took bronze in Osaka. You never know what this young crew can do.
In Osaka, Zersenay Tadesse of Eritrea pushed the pace alone only to fade later. This time around he has his brother Kidane Tadesse. Zersenay and his brother are both capable of winning a medal if they work together.
And there is Boniface Kiprop of Uganda who lost his bronze in Athens to Zersenay in the confusion that Kennenisa and Sileshi created in Athens. Boniface, was 19 in Athens and had broken of from the pack along with Kennenisa and Sileshi but when the two slowed down to pick up Haile they confused Kiporop and at the same time picked up Zersenay. He is still a solid runner.
One thing to watch for is competition among the Ethiopian runners is going to be fierce. This may work against the sweep. Sileshi and Haile probably can’t out sprint Kenenisa so a slow race is not in their favor but at the same time a fast race does not help them either since Kenenisa has the Seasons Best. Of the two bad options, Haile probably would prefer a fast race hoping the heat would distract the other two. The danger is that there probably won’t be a team approach to this race.
What are your thoughts?
On paper the following are the favorites.
1. Catherine Ndereba (KEN)
2. Chunxiu Zhou (CHN)
3. Reiko Tosa (JPN)
4. Xiaolin Zhu (CHN)
5. Paula Radcliffe (GBR)
6. Lidia Simon (ROU)
7. Deena Kastor (USA)
8. Constantina Tomescu (ROM)
The marathon is one of the most unpredictable events but Ndereba has been a solid performer. It would be hard to bet against her. Paula Radcliffe who was suffering from a stress fracture is fit for the race but the edge should go to Ndereba. Look out for the Chinese runners on home turn. Zhou and Zhu were impressive in Osaka which was hot and humid.
As for the Ethiopian runners, Gete Wami and Brehane Adere had skipped the last World Championship. I think that was a big mistake. The heat and humidity of Osaka would have helped them prepare, but the two had some money to chase on the Marathon circuit in cooler climate. Who can blame them? They have a living to make just like me. In April Gete Wami came in second behind Radcliffe in London. I can’t see her beating Ndereba in hot humid Beijing. Last October, Brehane looked like she was overcome by the heat and humidity in Chicago where it was unseasonably hot88F/31C in October but in the last quarter of a mile (400m) she put on a sprint to blow by a Romanian runner that was blowing victory kisses to the crowd. Somehow I think she is our best chance. This would be a great way to cap an amazing career.
The third runner is Boston Champ Dire Tune who had a big DNF in Osaka. Again, her preparation is suspect but having run in Osaka she knows what to expect. Dire Tune is fine runner with lots of untapped potential. It would be wonderful if she stepped up.
My prediction is that Berhane will be in the mix with the Chinese, Japanese, Romanian’s and Ndereba. Look for the home crowd to lift the Chinese runners.
What are your thoughts?
Women’s 3,000 M Final
The long-legged Zemzem Ahmed set a Personal Best to make it to the finals. Zemzem Personal Best and Season Best ranks 12th among the 15 runners. She would have to set another personal best to have a good showing. This event is going to be a battle between three Russians including world record holder Gulnara Samitova-Galkina and two Kenyans. Zemzem somehow has to squeeze her way somehow. This is a lot to ask from someone who started competing internationally just last year. In additions, Zemzem will be running one full-day of rest after setting a personal best. Although Zemzem is a very long shot to medal it’s not impossible for her to do so. Earlier this year she came in second at the Athens Grand Prix beating five of the runners in the finals including Ruth Bisibori of Kenya.
Mid-pack finish will be great. I would be elated with a 4th-6th place finish.
Men’s 1,500 M Semi-Final
There is not much to say here. Mulugeta Wendimu barely made it into the semi-finals and Deresse Mekonnen was not much better. The 1,500 M is one of the most tactical races while at the same time physically draining. For Ethiopia to have two runners among the 12 finalist would be a huge accomplishment. Talentwise there will be nothing preventing these two from making it into the finials. The only questions is: are they going to step up to the challenge?
Look for on of the two to be in the finals.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Men's 3,000 M Steeplechase - Baby Steps
Ethiopia has made steady progress in this event. In 2004, Luleseged Wale and Tewodros Shiferaw were entered and both failed to advance. At the 2005 World Championships Tewodros Shiferaw failed to advance. At the 2007 World Championships Roba Gary and Nahom Mesfin advanced to the finals. The team of Roba Gary, Yacob Jarso and Nahom Mesfin is still young but having advanced to the WC finals Roba and Nahom should be in the finals. This however is not a cake walk, both are on the buble and have to work hard to advance. Yacob would have to follow Zemzem Ahmed's example and set a PB to make it to the finals.
Look for Roba and Nahom in the finals.
The surprising Yacob Jarso ran a personal best and won his heat and will be in the finals on Monday. Roba and Nahom did not make it. Nahom just missed out, finishing 5th in a slow heat (top 4 qualify). This is a step back for Roba and Nahom but it's gratifying to see some young runners such as Yacob and Zemzem step up.
11 of the top 13 runners set some sort of record in this race. Ejegayehu Dibabadid not rise to the occasion. Ejegayehu was off her PB of 30:18.39 by more than a minute. She was also off here Athens time of 30:24.98 by 58 seconds. This is a huge drop off. I wonder if she has the hunger of a champion. What ever happened to the Athens silver medalist we knew? I suspect this may be her last hurrah. Look for her to fade from the 10,000.
Mestawet Tufa is fast becoming a perennial disappointment. No one ever questions her talent. But somehow she seems to choke under the bright lights. No doubt she is hungry, but hunger alone does not win championships. Champions figure out ways to win when conditions change and it that that Mestawet has had a problem doing. At 25, she may have a few more chances but this was her big opportunity.
Next Olympics it my very well be Meseret and Tirunesh in the 10,000M and there are just too many young budding atheltes.
The disappointements should not take away from an amazing performance by Tirunesh. Today we saw a display of hardwork, courage, confidence and determination. These are attibutes we all want to have more of. She is simply an amazing human being.
Men's 1,500M - Two Advance
As expected Deresse Mekonnen and Mulugeta Wendimu have made it to Sunday's semi-final's. Deresse Mekonnen had a solid run and was fifth in his heat. Mulugeta finished seventh in his heat but qualified on time. None of these guys are a sure thing to make it to the finals.
Women's 3,000M - Hello Zemzem
Mekdes Bekele ran 26 seconds slower than her personal best and failed to advance while Zemzem Ahmed ran a personal best and advanced. Running a personal best at hot and humid Beijing is a testament to her talent and courage. She is am example the other athletes should follow.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Mens 1,500 M Heats - Just Advance
In Athens, a then promising and impressive Mulugeta Wondimu made it all the way to the finals and finished 10th in the finals. At the 2005 World Championships Mulugeta finished 12th in the first round and did not advance. While Mulugeta Wondimu has somewhat stagnated since 2004,
in 2004 he left a mark against which he and his teammates will be measured against.
This time around two young runners Deresse Mekonnen and Demma Daba along with Mulugeta Wendimu will represent Ethiopia. The problem is that this young group of runners is still developing. Last year, Kenenisa Bekele ran a 1,500 M and this is how Kenenisa's time compares against the personal best of the three 1,500 M runners.
Mulugeta Wendimu 03:31.1
Kenenisa Bekele 3:32.35
Deresse Mekonnen 03:33.7
Demma Daba 03:35.3
The bottom line is that Kenenisa is as good at the 1,500 M Ethiopian runners and he is a 10, 000 M runner. We should not get our hopes up, at least not yet.
In 2007, none of the Ethiopian runners advanced to the finals. Deresse Mekonnen finished 11th in his heat but nearly qualified for the next round based on his time. Of the three Deresse Mekonnen has the best time this year, a slow but impressive win in Oslo where his beat some of the top athletes at the event. Demma is a solid young runner that is on the bubble and can advance with a solid run.
Expect two of the three to advance to the next round.
Women’s 3,000 M Steeplechase Simi-Final - First Ever
This is the first time the Women’s 3,000 Steeplechase is part of the Olympic program and we are in it. Ethiopia will be represented by Mekdes Bekele, Sofia Assefa and Zemzem Ahmed. Of the three, Mekdes Bekele is the most likely to advance. At the 2007 World Championship no Ethiopian woman made it to the final. Mekdses Bekele was close, finishing 6th in her heat (top 4 automatically qualify) and Zemzem finished 12th.
Look for Mekdes to make it to the finals. Anything else is a bonus.
Women’s 10,000 M Final – To Sweep or Not to Sweep?
The 2007 World Championship Women's 10,000M almost ended in disaster, when Tirunesh Dibaba tripped and fell. She managed to get back in the race and win. I would venture to say that Tirunesh Dibaba is a sure gold medal, more so that Kenenisa. After setting the 5,000 WR she comes in top shape.
After being involved in a fall Mestawet Tufa did not finish in Osaka last year. However, Mestawet has had a solid year which included beating Lornah Kiplagat by 25 seconds in Nijmegn. Kiplagat has the fastest time in the field. Mestawet is hungry so look for Mestawet to push Tirunesh.
The key to a sweep is how 2004 silver medalist Ejegayehu Dibaba performs. In hot and humid Osaka she faded to 7th place last year.
Let's identify threats to the sweep using the Personal Best and the Season Best of the top ten runners in the 10,000 M.
- Naving finished 2nd in Osaka, former Ethiopian Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey is a threat. She however is inconsistent and has been known to choke.
- Lornah Kiplagat has the best time in the field but was soundly defeated by Mestawet earlier this year. Even though her best years may be behind here, 34 year old Lornah Kiplagat is still a dangerous runner.
- The dark horse is Inga Abitova of Russia has run in a lot of 10,000M races this season and has quietly had a very good season. I won’t be surprised if I see her on the podium.
- In May at Palo Altho, Shalane Flanagan (USA) and Kimberley Smith (NZL) recorded to top two times of the year, both set personal bests. With the impressive times there is a buzz around these two runner but they are a long shot.
Look for two medals. One is solid gold.