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.

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