Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beijing to Berlin

One year ago today, all the attention of the world was focused on Beijing Olympics, and Track & Field took center stage with Women’s 10000M final. Who can forget the riveting performance Tirunesh Dibaba turned in that day while dueling Elvan Abeylegesse and the hot weather of Beijing!!

Well, we are a year of time and a continent of a distance removed from that superhuman perofrmance by Tirunesh, but we meet back in Berlin to write another chapter in the history of Track & Field. The 12th IAAF World Chamionships in Athletics have already gotten underway this morning in Berlin and in a short time (1:25PM EDT) the women 10000M final will be contested once again. As hard as it may sound, this time the two time defending champ Tirunesh will not be in the race due to a recent injury. It is not hard to imagine the outcome of the women’s 10000M will set the tone for the rest of competition Team Ethiopia will be participating in for the rest of the week.

Now, speaking of
Team Ethiopia, it is no accident that I started the piece by talking about Tirunesh rather than the whole team: the tri-color of Ethiopian athletics stands and falls with the three superstars of Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar. Losing anyone of these three is a huge blow and the results from Berlin will be more indicative of the future of Ethiopian athletics than its current status. Is there anyone waiting in the wings to take the proverbial baton and run with it?

Ethiopian runners are entered in 1500M, 3000M Steeplechase, 5000M, 10000M, and Marathon for both men and women. Given that we have historically had locks on women’s 5000M and Men’s 10000M, what I am looking for this time is noteable performances in the other events, particularly the 1500M and 3000M SC. The revelation of the season so far has been the improved performance of Ethiopians in middle distance races with national records set in men’s 1500M and women’s 800M. Can Deresse Mekonnen and Mekonnen Gebremedhin deliver in the 1500M in a big meet? Will Zemzem Ahmed and Sofia Assefa make a breakthrough in the women 3000M SC?

Surely, there will be other interesting story lines to watch including:

-whether Meselech Melkamu can maintain her early summer form (African 10000M record) and upset the staus quo of Tirunesh and Meseret

-whether Tsegaye Kebede can bring back the gold in men’s marathon

-whether Dire Tune can bring first women’s marathon gold (in a major meet) since Fatuma Roba

One final piece of item to note is how the former Ethiopians Elvan Abeylegesse and Maryam Jamal fare in Berlin. Should they win gold (for Turkey or Bahrain) at the expense of an Ethiopian runner in second place, the discussion of why they switched nationality will certainly be revived.

You can get a more frequent update by following Roocha on Twitter here.
You can find US TV Schedule for the World Champs
Universal Sports is providing live internet stream of the meet