Sunday, March 28, 2010

World Cross Country Championships

It was a disaster today.

"Of the twelve individual medals at stake, only three escaped Kenyan runners: the senior men’s silver and bronze which went to Teklemariam Medhin of Eritrea and Moses Kipsiro of Uganda and Melkamu’s senior women’s bronze."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Abebe Bikila Vis-a-vis Siraj Gena

"An utterly stunning picture: Ethiopian Endeavor! The (full) picture with bared, shone feet in homage to an outstanding lineage; arms outstretched, reaching midstride for the flag whilst all the while draped triumphantly with the finishing ribbon across his body is surely an Iconic picture of obvious meaning. What is more is the backdrop of the Roman Coliseum with its own singular place in sport history which at this moment attends to serve as a witness to this new great champion as it once stood in awe of Abebe Bikila."

Debre Tabor

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Team Ethiopia in Doha - Day 3

Day 3 in Doha was one for the books for multiple reasons. Ethiopia collected more medals, crowned a teenage phenom as a world champion, and concluded a very successful championships in Doha. The Ethiopian fans in the stand were again enthusiastic and loud in their support of their team.

Two events were on the card for team Ethiopia- Women's1500M featuring defending champion Gelete Burka and the new kid on the block Kalkidan Gezahegne, and Men's 3000M with Tariku Bekele and Dejen Gebremeskel.

Women's 1500M
After the heroic come back to win her heat on Friday, it seems Kalkidan Gezahegne has garnered the attention and respect of the running world, and as a result the final today was highly anticipated. Add to the mix the defending champion Gelete Burka and her nemesis Natalie Rodriguez of Spain (who pushed Gelete out and was DQed in Berlin), this race promised to showcase quite a battle. As it turned out, the race unfolded without much drama till the very end as medals appeared to be within grasp. Coming to the homestretch Kalkidan showed she had an extra gear to pass Gelete, who had always been at the front, and took the gold medal with a comfortable margin. Rodriguez, in what must be vindication for her disqualification in Berlin, was also able to catch and pass Gelete at the very end and took the silver medal. The defending champ Gelete who did a bit of work pushing the pace during most of the race had to settle for the bronze.

In winning the gold, 18 year old Kalkidan Gezahegne becomes the youngest world champion in history, and also retains both men and women's 1500M title for Ethiopia for the second indoor championship in a row. Kalkidan came to this meet ranked #1 in the world but still was a relative unknown in the larger athletic circle. That is now past history. She says "my career is just beginning" but thanks to her heroic come back win after falling down, and now becoming the youngest world champion, the bright spotlight is on her and her immense talent which must someday translate to world records and Olympic gold.

Men's 3000M
Ethiopia's historical weakness in global championships (with minor exception) has been in the shorter of the distance events- 3000M and 5000M. Not much success has been had recently, particularly in the absence of Kenenisa Bekele, in these events. Today was no different in Doha. At the end it was obvious that noone in the 3000M, not just the Ethiopians, was a match for the impressive Bernard Lagat who took an easy win with one move at the bell lap.

To their credit, both Tariku and Dejen employed the only feasible tactic against Lagat who is a 1500M specialist with a stinging kick at the end. Dejen's role appeared to be supporting Tariku to defend his title and did a good job but was obviously over his head with the pace as he had drop back during the last few laps and finished 10th. Tariku pushed the pace from the beginning knowing that Lagat's kick off a slow pace would simply be devastating as we saw in Osaka 2007. In the end, Tariku's push seemed not to have done anything to Lagat who took the win while making it look effortless. Tariku ran out of gas 100M short of the finish line and was passed by two other runners leaving him in fourth place and out of the medals.

Men's 3000M and 5000M are two events that the Ethiopian coaches need to go back to the drawing board to figure out a different training and racing strategy.

Team Ethiopia finished the indoor world championships with five medals- three gold and two bronze. This was good enough to finish in second place on the medal table, trailing only the United States in number of gold medals. With the possible exception of the 2000 Sydney Olympics (and not counting Cross-Country events), this championship must be the most successful ever for an Ethiopian team. Five of the eight Ethiopian athletes who participated earned a medal. This is absolutely amazing accomplishment and may place Ethiopia at the very top in terms of quality of athletes fielded.

Ethiopia won both the men and women 1500M title again, and this time in a much more convincing fashion. Ethiopia's focus has been in long distance events for more than 40 years but it is now obvious that we have talent to compete and win middle distance races too.

One final note that must not be overlooked is the strength of Ethiopian women athletes. All four women that competed in Doha won a medal while only one of the four men did. Something is going right with the way the women athletes are training and racing and it has just gotten even better with the addition of one Kalkidan Gezahegne to their ranks.

Well done Team Ethiopia! You have made us proud!!
You can get a more frequent update by following Roocha on Twitter here.

Team Ethiopia in Doha - Day 2

For fans of Ethiopian athletics, some days can be agony and other days ecstasy. Day 2 in Doha was pure ecstasy as Ethiopia took gold in both events the athletes contested and three out of the four athletes that competed came away with medals.

Women's 3000M
Everything went according to form in this race with Meseret Defar taking Gold and winning her record fourth indoor world championship title. Still, the race was joy to watch as the Ethiopians and Kenyans battled it out to the very end. Cheruiyot of Kenya took silver and Sentayehu Ejigu put in a solid race to take bronze medal, her first medal in a global championship. Meseret was in clear command of the race going into the last lap and simply ran away from the field with a blistering kick that noone could match. The large Ethiopian crowd in the stands were truly overjoyed and it was fun to watch Meseret and Sentayehu celebrate victory with their supporters.

Mens 1500M
When Deresse Mekonnen won the indoor 1500M title two years ago in Valencia, Spain, it was a surprise for most people, and there were questions if it was a fluke win or if he was the real deal. Following that, Deresse only managed 6th place finish at the Beijing Olympics, but since then he has climbed to the top of his field and has made believers out of many doubters including myself. He followed his silver medal in Berlin’s outdoor World Championships last year with the fastest time of the year this season and went to Doha as the favorite to win the 1500M.

In today’s final, Deresse showed once again that he can beat the best in the world and has brilliant tactical acumen to go with the leg speed and strength needed to win the 1500M. The race itself turned out to be a wild one with much pushing and shoving and many changes in lead. Both Deresse and Mekonnen managed to navigate through all of the traffic and when all kicked for the finish line Deresse went to the front to take the gold while Mekonnen finished fourth with only 1/10th of a second short of the bronze medal.

All in all, Day 2 was very good for Team Ethiopia, and when all competition wrapped up, Ethiopia stood in 2nd place on the medal table, tied with Australia and just behind USA.
You can watch all the races live on
You can get a more frequent update by following
Roocha on Twitter

Friday, March 12, 2010

Team Ethiopia in Doha - Day 1

The first day of a global championship is all about setting the tone for the rest of the meet. Remember Tirunesh Dibaba's super effort to win the 10000M gold in Beijing? How about last August in Berlin when Kenyan women dethroned our Ethiopian ladies who had reigned supreme in 10000M for a decade?

Well, indoor World Championship is not at the level of the Olympics or the regular outdoor World Championship meet, but it is no walk in the park by any measure. In fact, due to the smaller track and shorter and quicker events, there is higher chance of disaster striking at any moment. And that is exactly what happened today in the Women's 1500M when Ethiopia's Kalkidan Gezahegne (familiar name?) was tripped and fell half-way thru the race. Befitting an athlete who has been watching Rambo movies, Kalkidan got up and continued with the race, and not only caught up with the other runners but actually won the race!

Team Ethiopia in Doha consists of eight athletes and noone disappointed today, with all eight advancing to finals in their respective events over the weekend. Dare we dream of the perfect meet where we come out with 4 gold and 4 silver medals??

Ethiopia has very good chance of taking gold in both men's and women's 1500M as well as women's 3000M. Meseret Defar is as fit as ever and is going for her fourth indoor world title in 3000M, which will be a record. Deresse Mekonnen is also the defending title holder in 1500M and has the world's leading time this year. The women's 1500M can be a breakout race for the young Kalkidan Gezahegne but she will have to contend with Gelete Burka.

Back in 2007, Gelete was running 5000M races and was struggling to compete against the established Ethiopian runners in the event. After the Pre Classic in June 2007 where she won the 1500M, I wrote the following:
[Gelete] is a very talented runner who looks very natural at her trade. She needs to seriously consider competing in 1500M or 3000M at the World Champs and Olympics rather than join the crowded field in the 5000M with Tirunesh, Meseret, and Meselech and miss out on her medal chances.
I am happy to see Gelete has gone to that route for the past two years. Her accident in the 1500M final in Berlin last August was very unfortunate. We will never know if she would have won the gold although she looked very capable of it. I hope she will be able to put that terrible memory behind her in Doha.

The underlying theme in Doha, same as it was in Berlin last August, is the continuing emergence of Ethiopia in middle distance races. Doha is now a meet set up perfectly to show Ethiopia is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in middle distance racing.

You can watch all the races live on
You can get a more frequent update by following Roocha on Twitter here.
  • Team #Ethiopia in #Doha: Tomorrow 3/13 at 08:55AM EST Meseret Defar and Sentayehu Ejigu in Women's 3000M Final.
  • Team #Ethiopia in #Doha: Tomorrow 3/13 at 09:45AM EST Deresse Mekonnen and Mekonnen Gebremedhin in Men's 1500M Final.

Monday, March 08, 2010

News and Note: March 1 - March 8

Gemechu first Ethiopian runner to test positive for EPO
Olympic marathoner Shetaye Gemechu has received a two-year ban from the Ethiopian Athletics Federation after testing positive for the banned substance EPO. The 29-year old is the third high profile Ethiopian in the last six years to be charged with a doping offense but first to test positive for EPO. She denied the charges in an exclusive Universal Sports interview.

Ethiopia to send team to Qatar despite diplomatic strain
The Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) has announced that it will send a team to the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Doha in March despite strained diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Qatar.

'Rambo tough' Gezhagne eyes Doha gold
Kalkidan Gezhagne may be the best runner you've never heard of. The 18-year old Ethiopian went from never stepping foot on an indoor track to improving world indoor junior records over the mile and 1500m, and grabbing wins in Boston and Stockholm. Now, Gezhagne is eyeing gold at the World Indoor Championships in Doha.

Komen dares Ethiopia's Bekele
World 3,000m record holder Daniel Kipng’etich Komen has dared Ethiopia’s long distance runner Kenenisa Bekele to break his record at the indoor outing in France on Friday.“The record is hard to break. Let him try. I believe he is well prepared as the task would not be a walk in the park. But there was no need for him to announce it,” “I will reward him [Bekele] with a five-acre parcel of prime land within Eldoret municipality should he break the record. And any foreign runner who makes it can take the prize and invest here in Eldoret.”

Bekele back on track with record intentions The Ethiopian, current holder of the fastest times ever indoors* at 2000m and 2 Miles and the indoor World record at 5000m (and outdoors at 5000m and 10,000m) had announced his intention to break the World Indoor 3000m record held by Kenyan Daniel Komen (7:24.90) since 1998.

Bekele unsure of world cross-country participation
Ethiopian distance star Kenenisa Bekele said on Monday he was uncertain of competing in the World Cross Championships in Poland later this month owing to a calf injury.

Bekele and Isinbayeva set for Prefontaine eventWorld record holders Kenenisa Bekele and Yelena Isinbayeva will join American standouts Tyson Gay and Sanya Richards in the July 3 Prefontaine Classic at Eugene, Oregon, organisers said on Thursday.

Adere clocks 1:07:52, Lel beats Wanjiru at New Orleans Half Marathon
Former World Half Marathon champion Berhane Adere of Ethiopia won the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon in New Orleans, clocking the fastest time ever run by a woman on American soil for the distance.

Course record for Utura in Addis Ababa World Junior 5000m champion Sule Utura destroyed the course record to take victory in the 2010 Choice Women First 5km in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Saturday March 6.

Tsegay takes Lake Biwa crownBreaking away from the lead pack after 22Km, Yemane Tsegay of Ethiopia won the Lake Biwa Marathon on Sunday.

Gebrselassie hones in on third 10km title in ManchesterHaile Gebrselassie will chase a third victory when returning to compete over one of his favourite courses at the Bupa Great Manchester Run – IAAF Gold Label Road Race - on 16 May 2010.

Gebrselassie says Pinoys need role model
Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie says Filipino athletes need a role model in their bid to win an Olympic gold medal. Haile, was there last week during the launch of the G4S 4Teen program where he is the inspirational ambassador. The program groups together 14 of the world’s best young athletes who will be groomed for the 2012 London Olympics.

Other Running News:

When in Rome: Run the Marathon
For tourists coming to discover Rome, one of the best places to visit in Europe, the must visit list generally includes the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, the Vatican and the Pantheon, but chances are most tourists don’t consider visiting the Eternal City to take part in the Maratona di Roma , the Rome Marathon, held each March. This year’s 16th edition will be held on Sunday, March 21. Marathon is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the victory of Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila in the Rome Olympics Marathon of 1960