Saturday, March 28, 2009

Livin' on a prayer

Here we are again. Another year another world cross championship. This may also be another year of excuses by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation. We have commented on the danger of EAF's overeliance on a handful of superstars rather than an organic approach to developing runners is dangerous in the long term. With Kenenisa and Tirunesh out with injury the EAF's approach will be tested at the World XC- Championship in Amman.

The men's team is lead by a retread, Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam who has never showed the incredible fortitude and desire he once teased us with his spectacular 2002 performance in the Junior XC Championship race. That had to be on of the great performances. Quite frankly, over the past few years Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam has been one of the most annoying runners to watch and I was hoping I would never have to see him run again. He has a chance to redeem himself but don't keep your hopes up.

Tariku Bekele is out. Good for him. He did not have much of a chance. Although very talented the self-confidence of a champion has eluded him. That wasn't about to change this year.

I like Tadesse Tola. A guy guy with a big heart. He earned a spot in my heart with his performance in Momabssa.The year of that shameful performance, the year Kenenisa and the rest of the Ethiopians melted in the heat, the year full of EAF excuses. Tadesse Tola was the highest Ethiopian finisher coming in 7th . I think that was his first international race. This kid does not like excuses. I have a feeling he will do good.

The dark horse is Habtamu Fekadu who finished 9th at last year's race. The 9th place finish made him the second Ethiopian finisher behind Kenny. He may well be the top guy on this team.

The women always seem to do a lot better than the men. They also seem to have a lot better depth. Missing Tirunesh will hurt. Gelete Burka choked big time in Beijing. She finished 6th last year's XC and can in the top 3 if she runs a good race. Meselech Melkamu was also a disappointment in Beijing but can place in the top 3 if she has a very good day. They all need luck.

Ethiopian runners are deferential to the pack leader. Maybe the absence of Tirunish and Kenenisa will confuse the pack and there will be a fight for dominance which may produce a star or two. That though could just be a wish. But I am Ethiopian and I can wish.

All in all if the women have a good day they have a chance of winning the team title. But the men are living on a prayer.

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