Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Men’s 5000M Team

Four runners are entered.

Kenenisa Bekele
Imane Merga
Abera Kuma
Dejen Gebremeskel

Although listed, Kenenisa Bekele will not defend his title. That Tariku is not entered is a surprise. Tariku’s time this year is better than Abera Kuma and he has more connections to the federation than the relative new comer Abera . Tariku is a good runner but is not a big threat to medal. Giving an opportunity to a younger guy like Abera is not a bad idea.

This group has some characters.

The Elbows
Imane Merga runs very aggressively. He is known to use his elbows when boxed in and is also accused of causing runners to crash. Abera Kuma on the other hand got some fame when he had his leg grabbed and a punch thrown at him by an Eritrean runner. The Eritrean claims that Abera cause both of them to crash by using his elbow.

The One Shoe Man
The third runner Dejen Gebremeskel also got some fame when he lost one shoe 50 meters into the race and won the indoor 3000M race beating Mo Farah with just one shoe on.

This is what Mo Farah had to say about the one shoe man.

“I was trying to hold off and he tried to come inside around the bend, and then he just came right past me, had a different gear,” “He was running with one shoe, so fair credit to him. "

Sounds familiar?

And Dejen Gebremeskel said…

“My foot was burning. After the race, it had blisters”

Sabrina Yohannes did a nice interview with Dejen Gebremeskel

This was not the first time he had ran barefoot:

“I’ve never trained barefoot, only with shoes. Tennis shoes, sneakers, regular shoes of some sort. I ran one competition barefoot. It was on the Addis Ababa track, a 5000 or 10,000, I don’t remember which, it was all the same to me then. It was maybe about five years ago. It was the regional competition at the Ethiopian championships.”

Asked why?

“It was my first time running on a proper track, and we were told we could only run on it with spikes. There were many of us in the same situation. So we ran barefoot.”

That’s really sad what Ethiopian runners have to go through to make it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Some Notes

Men's 800M Final.
Mohamed Amin finished last in a race that had a fast finish. He was out of position to respond when the big boys took off. He did show some flashes in the semifinals when he stormed from way back to win his heat. With experience and good coaching he can turn into a good runner.

Women's 3000 Steeplechase Final
Sofia Assefa fell on the first hurdle and yet finished 6th which indicates that she had a good shot at a medal. The problem with clearing hurdles is not limited to Sofia. Birtukan Adamu stumbled during the qualifying round.

Yuliya Zaripova of Russia ran a clinic. She ran from the front end to end dictating the race outcome.

Women's 1500M Semifinals
Gelete Burka failed to qualify. She started fading on the last lap and faded badly with 200M left. With about 150 meters left she stepped off the track. Time is passing her by and it's sad to see someone as talented as Gelete keep failing at major events.

Kalkidan looked good in her heat. Anytime Maryam Yusuf Jamal injected speed Kalkidan made sure to respond to maintain her lead over Maryam Yusuf Jamal.

Women's 5000M Heats
I thought Meseret looked much more comfortable at this distance than the 10,000. She ran from the front when she needed to and had the look of a confident runner. Sentayehu Ejigu looked a bit tentative but made it through.

There is something about Genzebe Dibaba. Big races don’t intimidate her. She looks like she has been running all her life. Maybe she has. There was a scary moment during the last lap when it looked like she was boxed in but she found her way out and sprinted to win her heat. Her sprint was very fluid. I should not put too much stock into qualifying round performances but she seems like she has the intangibles that a star has. The Kenyan women were at it again with team work and communication. It seems like we are seeing less and less communication among Ethiopian runners during the race.

Men's 1500M Heats
The two experienced runners Mekonnen Gebremedhin and especially Deresse Mekonnen ran from the front and avoided being tangled. While I thought Mekonnen Gebremedhin looked more fluid but liked how Deresse Mekonnen controlled his race. On the other hand Zebene Alemayehu did not impress and did not advance.

This should be a great final. I think Ethiopia have a couple of legitimate medal contenders in this race. The 1,500M is a very tactical race and very difficult to predict.

Men's 3000 Steeplechase Heats
Both runners played follow the leader to advance to the final. Nahom Mesfin did just enough. Roba Gari on the other hand ran with more confidence and focus. Brimin Kipruto looked a bit surprised when he could not close the gap on Roba at the end. Roba and Mesfin have in the past looked good in heats but were a notch below the top leaders in the finals. Will that pattern repeat?

Kalkidan Gezahegne

I was surprised to see Kalkidan Gezahegne is in semifinals. Obviously she did not advance based on time. Her heat time was slower than four runners that did not qualify. It looks like she protested the clip that almost caused her to fall and advanced based on that. That was a great break for Ethiopia.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Some Observations

Women's 1500M

Kalkidan Gezahegne a medal contender did not advance from the first heat. It's a disaster. Kalkidan did most of he leading in her race. But the race she lead was the slowest heat. If she goes through the trouble of leading why not lead a fast race? In addition, this was the first heat where one does not know how fast they should run to qualify so it is even more important that to lead a fast if you can run a fast pace. 11 of 12 runners in the fastest heat (heat 3) advanced. Obviously she had her tactics wrong. This is similar to what happened to Gelete Burka in Beijing 2008. The coaches should have prepared runners for this situation.

We now only have Gelete Burka and she does not look like the runner she was two years ago. She has always has had problems at big events. In Beijing she was one of the favorites but did not qualify from her heat. In Berlin 2009 she was shoved and fell during the final lap. She was fading when she was shoved. This time she is not considered medal favorite so with less pressure she may produce better results. That is just hope. First she needs to qualify for the finals and qualifying has been a problem.

Women's 400 M
During the introduction announcement of the 400 M runners Fantu Magiso did some hot dogging - pointing to herself - yeah I am the famos Fantu ya'all heard about. She should have conserved her energy as she finished last in her heat. She was out classed. Her body looks like it has never seen a weight room. There is a lot of work to be done there.

Men's 10000M

Did you think all that chest thumping by Ibrabim Jeilan at the finish line was a bit too much? It went on and on and on and on. Miruts never did anything like that. Haile never did anything like that. Derartu never did anything like that. All of these were classy runners. Ibrahim Jeilan is a fine runner but he does not want to motivate other runner.

Now this is class...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gold at Last

In what has to be on of the great finishes in the 10,000M, a gutsy Ibrahim Jeilan came through with a blistering finish to catch favorite Mo Farah at the finish line. Imani Merga came in 3rd.

Kenenisa should have never started this race. He dropped out at about the 5,000M.

The Kenyans were a non-factor in this race mostly because Zersenay Tadese kept the pace honest. A lot of respect to Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea who always runs an honest race. I always wonder what his results would be if he had a good supporting cast.

Ibrahim Jeilan emergence as well as Imani Merga 3rd place finish coupled with the poor showing by Kenenisa Bekele and Seleshi Sihine will transform the Ethiopian London field. Kenenisa Bekele and Seleshi Sihine had been fixtures at this event. It's most likely that one of them will not be at the 2012 Olympics as there is no room on the roster.

Will Kenenisa Bekele be back? Can Ibrahim Jeilan beat a fit Kenenisa Bekele?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Clean Sweep Plus

First the good news. The only bright spot so far in Daegu is that middle distance and steeplechase runners have all advanced to the next stage. Fantu Magiso has made it to the women's 400M semifinals.

We had suspected that Ethiopian Athletics is in decline. But 1-2-3-4 for Kenya? The truth is that Ethiopia has not been developing talent on the track for a while. 5,000 and 10,000 doubles medals by Tirunesh and Kenenisa had obscured the problem. With Tirunesh out the lack of talent was painfully clear.

Long gone were the days of Gete Wami, Derartu Tulu, Berhane Adere, Workinesh Kidane - all of whom were capable of medaling on any given day. There is only Tirunesh and she is injured. Haile was never the same after this first major injury. Who knows how Tirunesh will perform when she comes back?

It's time to acknowledge something is wrong to fix the problem. It took years to get here and it will take years to recover from it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Women's 10000M

The first thought that comes to mind is I miss Tirunesh.

There is talk that Meseret Defar is in great shape. It's hard to discount Meseret Defar but she did have a streak of failure at big events. She finished 5th in Berlin. With Tirunesh absent this is Meseret's chance to win the 10,000M. Meselech Melkamu is a good runner but never grew into a champion. Don't expect much from Tigist Kiros. She is green and was a Marathon runner last year.

The Kenyans are lead by defending Berlin championship Linet Chepkwemoi Masai She is beatable. Tirunesh Dibaba and Meselech Melkamu beat her at the African championship. Sally Kipyego is also a dangerous runner.

Keep an eye on Shalane Flanagan of the USA.

The Good News

In the 3000M Steeplechase all three women qualified for the finals. Sofia Assefa looked very good in her 3000M Steeplechase heat. She ran with the confidence.

Mohammed Aman advanced to the 800 Semifinals by taking 2nd place in a fast heat. He showed some inexperience. He had poor lane position and ran most of the race on the outside. He did however show good finishing speed.

Clean Sweep

A clean sweep in any event is hard but a clean sweep in the marathon is nearly impossible. But the nearly impossible happened today. What a race the Kenyans ran! They were properly prepared and had a plan for the conditions and executed the plans as a team.

The Ethiopians seemed so inept and unprepared. On this blog we have on numerous occasions suggested that the Ethiopian coaches need to change the training program so that Ethiopians can perform under hot and humid conditions. We know they don't read this blog. The weather where most of the Kenyan runners come from is not much different than Ethiopia. Sammy Wanjiru, by setting an Olympic record in hot and humid Beijing showed the weather is just an excuse. Proper training for the conditions is required. The Kenyans now know how to train their marathon runners for hot and humid conditions. The Ethiopians clearly have no clue. In any well run country such an embarrassing result would cause heads to roll. But in Ethiopia, they will continue to train the runners the same way and blame it on weather. Some things never change.

Strong Women's Marathon Team..

The following chart shows the average personal best times for teams that have 5 runners entered. The Ethiopian Women's team have the best time 2:23:43 followed by Japan 2:25:00. The margin is more than a minute.

ETH 2:23:43
JPN 2:25:00
KEN 2:25:32
CHN 2:29:01
UKR 2:29:47
USA 2:32:38
KOR 2:33:16

On paper this is a great team. Two issues that may affect the result:
1) Have the runners ran too many races this year?
2) The question is how will they perform in warm weather?

The second almost always is an issue with Ethiopian marathon runners and has been discussed extensively on this blog.

It would be a big disappointment if Ethiopia does not earn a medal. It would be a huge disaster if the team does not finish in the top 3 team race.

The interesting events

Saturday 27-Aug
Women Marathon
Women 3000M Steeplechase Heats
Men 800M
Women 400M
Women 10000M

Sunday 28-Aug
Women 1500M
Men 800M Semifinals
Women 400M Semifinals
Men 10000M

Monday 29-Aug
Men 3000M Steeplechase Heats
Women 400M Finals

Tuesday 30-Aug
Women 5000M Heats
Men 1500 M Heats
Women 1500M Semifinals
Men 800M Finals
Women 3000M Steeplechase Finals

Wednesday 31-Aug
The only event on this day is the 20K walk.

Thrusday 1-Sep
Men 5000M Heats
Women 800M Heats
Men 1500M Semifinals
Men 3000M Steeplechase Finals
Women 1500M Finals

Friday 2-Sep
Women 800M Semifinals
Women 5000M Finals

Saturday 3-Sep
Women 800M Finals
Men 1500M Finals

Sunday 4-Sep
Men Marathon
Men 5000M Finals
Women 800M Finals


There is something fulfilling and satisfying about writing. Right after finishing a blog post I often wonder why I don't post more often. But the truth is there are things we observe and things we do. The things we observe and the things we do require time. Roocha is a combination of both – we observe and we write so it really takes time and energy. Over the past couple of years the things I do outside of Roocha have been dominating more and more. A new job and new city, renewed focus on my running - all take time and energy. I have picked up golf (yes golf) and that takes time, much more time than I had ever thought. Then there is the everyday mundane stuff that never lets up and all those books that I want to read and it goes on and on.

Often the hardest part is getting started. Inertia – a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Who would have though Newton’s laws of motion applied to Roocha. I am back for at least a week and hope that inertia will keep me rolling after that. This week there are a host of things on my schedule so I will try to weave the blogging it in with the things I do – which means I won’t be updating as fast. For example on SaturdayI won't be able to update until late.

Daegu will be interesting. Track events in Ethiopia are at a critical juncture and Daegu may provide us some clues as to where we may be headed. I look for the next 10 or so days to answer a few questions.

Is Ethiopian Athletics in decline?
More and more talented runners are going straight to road racing. The pipeline on the track has not been replenished. Or has it? Do we have a young Kenenisa or a young Tirunesh? Are the younger runners competitive? What will things look like 4 years from now?

What’s up with Kennenisa?
Since his accention to the top in 2003 Kenny has been extraordinarly reliable. He is a vital piece for London ’12. Is Kenny fit? Does he have his heart in it?

Will the women’s marathon team dominate?
Gee.. this is a strong team they have. Can they dominate?

Will the Men’s Marathon runners ever learn to win in hot weather?
They seem to always melt in hot weather. Will this year be any different?

Men’s Marathon - will there be a spot for Haile?
If the men put a strong performance there may not be room for Haile on the 2012 squad.

Forget the Kenyans - I have always thought that this is an event that Ethiopians can dominate if focus is given. In past events Ethiopian athelets have shown that they can compete. The next step is medaling. Will there be a breakthrough?

Middle distance?
Was Deresse Mekonnen a fluke? Will any of the women step up?

800m and 400m?
Is there hope?

Any thoughts?