Monday, March 31, 2008

Kenenisa Bekele: World Cross Country Edimburgh 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

No ‘sole’ can stop Bekele – Edinburgh 2008

Edinburgh, Scotland – In a remarkable triumph over adversity and the spirited endeavours of defending champion Zersenay Tadese, Kenenisa Bekele cleared a series of obstacles to win a record sixth Senior Men’s classic distance title - and US$30,000 - at the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, at Holyrood Park, today.

Bekele overcame, in turn, a missed flight, overnight stomach troubles, a dislodged shoe early in the 12km race, and Tadese’s determined mid-race surges, to regain the crown he had won in five successive years from 2002 to 2006. Today’s victory takes his record number of individual World Cross Country titles to 12 (6 Long Course, 5 five Short Course, 1 Junior).

After increasing his total number of World Cross Country gold medals to 16 (including 4 team golds) and his record total count to 27 (16 gold, 9 silver, 2 bronze), Bekele acknowledged that his six classic victories might be the statistic that stands above all the others. Until today, the 25-year-old Bekele had shared a record five classic distance triumphs with Kenyans John Ngugi and Paul Tergat.

Having failed to finish in Mombasa last year, suffering stomach problems in the heat and humidity, Bekele fought back from the troubles thrown at him here to pull clear in the eleventh kilometre. In the end, it proved a comfortable victory over runner-up Leonard Patrick Komon, from Kenya, and Tadese, whose valiant title defence was rewarded with the bronze medal.

“As far as the sixth Long Course win is concerned, I tried to accomplish it last year but, because of the weather, I was not able to do it,” Bekele said. “This has a very high honour in my life. I have won the double five times but I think this compares to that. However, I leave the judging to those of you in the media.”

It was in the third kilometre that Bekele’s shoe was caught from behind, and worked loose, as the field bunched taking a bend. From his place near the front, he dropped way down the field as he stopped to secure it. “My shoe did not fall completely off but I had to stop to undo it and put it back on, so it was as if it fell off because of the effort needed to put it back on,” he said It was the first time, he added, such a misfortune had befallen him.

Having secured his shoe, Bekele worked his way back up the field and, before long, was in the leading group. When Tadese picked up the pace in the seventh kilometre, Bekele was well placed to respond. Dictating from the front, Tadese threw in several bursts, by the end of which he and Bekele had opened a small gap on the last challenging Kenyans, Komon and Joseph Ebuya.

A brief relaxation of pace allowed Komon and Ebuya to close up but, with four kilometres to run, the front four were well clear. With Tadese at the head, and the Kenyan pair side-by-side behind him, Bekele sat at the back before seizing his moment. Of his recovery from his near shoe disaster, he said: “It was near the beginning and I knew it would make the competition difficult because it is not easy to catch up after losing your shoe.

“I knew it would make the rest of the race tough. After the shoe came off I began to think a great deal about what I had to overcome and I had to focus a great deal on my race. If I had tried immediately to catch up it may have affected the rest of my race but instead I controlled my pace.”

Bekele had arrived later than planned in Edinburgh the day before the race. He missed his flight connection at London Heathrow after a delay to his original Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa left him with only 30 minutes to connect in London. His delay was unrelated to the widely-publicised teething problems at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5.

Explaining how stomach trouble almost cost him dearly again, as it had last year, Bekele said: “The day before yesterday, as I was flying in from Ethiopia, there was a delay and I spent the night in London and arrived here yesterday about midday. I had eaten breakfast there before I left and, after it, I didn’t feel well. I then had lunch and dinner here and at night I didn’t feel well. I had to get up three or four times in the night to go to the bathroom and I wasn’t feeling good.”

Tadese said that he was happy with his run – “a bronze medal for my country is still important to me” – while Komon made a big impression in his first year out of the junior ranks. Aged 20, he led Kenya to a third successive team triumph (39 points) with Ethiopia second (105) and Qatar third (144).

The Dibaba sisters make history

Edinburgh, Scotland - As inspiration goes it takes some beating. Only minutes after becoming the most successful woman in the history of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Tirunesh Dibaba stood in the flapping white tent that served as a media/athlete mixed zone in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park and insisted it wasn’t her own victory that had painted the broad, joyful smile on her mud-spotted 22-year-old face.

What does it mean to win your third World Cross Country long course title, she was asked? “Yes, I am very happy to win again,” she replied. “But I am more happy about my sister than I am about myself.”

Just an hour before Dibaba had defied the doubters by winning her fifth individual World Cross Country gold, her 17-year-old sister Genzebe had sprung a surprise by winning the junior women’s title, emulating her older sister’s victory from 2003, the first of Tirunesh’s eight-medal haul.

For Genzebe it was her first major honour of any kind and an immediate inspiration to Tirunesh who was watching, nervously, from the sidelines. Indeed, she was meant to be warming up for her own race, but the anxiety proved too much and Tirunesh neglected her own preparations as her sister snatched an unexpected gold and set Ethiopia on the way to a record-breaking day.

“No, I didn’t warm up a lot,” said Tirunesh. “I was watching Genzebe’s race and I was very anxious for her, more anxious than I was for myself.

“I am so happy now that we have both won golds, but I am more happy for her than I am for me.”

The Dibaba sisters may have become the first athletes from the same family to win gold medals at these championships, but neither was assured of victory until the final stages of their races. Indeed, they adopted strikingly similar race tactics.

Both spent the early laps hanging off the lead but never losing touch with the front runners. Both made their strikes on the final climb around the one testing hill on the Holyrood Park course, known to natives of Edinburgh as Haggis Knowe. And both produced unmatchable bursts of speed from the summit to take them clear of their rivals.

What’s more, after finishing fifth last year in Mombasa, when she and two of her teammates miscounted the laps, Genzebe wasn’t even favourite for her event, while Tirunesh’s form and fitness were in doubt after unsolved stomach problems had caused her to cancel much of her 2007 track season.

Incredibly, according to officials from the Ethiopian team, she was still only 75 per cent fit coming in to today’s race. “The stomach was all right today,” she said. “In the middle of the race I did begin to feel it but it slowly went away, so maybe it’s not like in the past.”

Afterwards, with the doubts truly laid to rest, both sisters were eager to give each other credit for their wins.

For Genzebe, it was Tirunesh’s “very good” pre-race advice that held the key, while for Tirunesh it was the thought of her sister’s win that spurred her into one last heroic effort at the end of her gruelling, and compelling, 8km race.

“It was partly in order to match her (Genzebe’s) achievement that I dug in and put everything I had into winning,” she said.

Back in Ethiopia they actually compete for different clubs – Genzebe for the Muger Cement Sports Club and Tirunesh for the Prisons Police – but they do often train together, along with their older sister, Ejagayou, the Olympic 10,000m silver medallist. They also plan to come together in the same club later this year.

“Genzebe is so young and talented,” said Dibaba of her younger sister. “In time I expect she’ll become even stronger and quicker than me.”

But for the Dibabas the habit of winning World Cross Country titles runs even further back in the family. Derartu Tulu, the champion in 1995, 1997 and 2000, is their cousin and Tirunesh was also keen to pay respects to the first great lady of Ethiopian distance running.

“I am aware that my cousin has won this race three times, so I’m very happy to have done the same thing,” she said.

For Tirunesh, today’s victory was something of a redemption after she was beaten last year in the heat of Mombasa by the Dutchwoman Lornah Kiplagat when chasing a third consecutive gold. It was a tough year for Ethiopia as a whole and Tirunesh was clearly motivated this afternoon by the need to put things right.

“Last year, as individuals and as a team we didn’t do well,” she said. “This year we redeemed ourselves. We have been preparing for a long time. Cross country is very important to us and we wanted to bring a strong team and do very well here.”

Well and truly redeemed on the grass, now Dibaba will aim to match her cousin again, on the track, by becoming the Olympic 10,000m champion. “I expect to do well,” she said of the Beijing Olympics this August.

Perhaps she should make sure Genzebe races as well – just for the inspiration. (Matthew Brown for IAAF)

Peerless Kenenisa, Dibaba sisters win at Edinburgh

Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia won his record-setting sixth title at the world cross-country championships Sunday despite briefly losing a shoe, and Tirunesh Dibaba won the women's race.

Bekele, who won the 12-kilometer or 7.5-mile race in 34 minutes, 36 seconds, was leading in muddy conditions when his left shoe came off about seven minutes into the race.

He fell about 25 meters (yards) behind the leaders, allowing last year's champion Zersenay Tadese to pull ahead, but was able to put his shoe back on and get back into the race.

"I was expecting not to win after losing my shoe," Bekele said. "But it's not so tough to get back in the race. If it had been in the last two laps it would have been harder because I was have been more tired."

Bekele edged ahead of Tadese going into the final lap, gradually surging over the finishing line to beat the Eritrean.

"The Olympics is more important," said Tadese, who ended up third. "I tried very hard to win the gold here, but Bekele is hard to beat. My mind and preparation is all focused on Beijing."

Leonard Patrick Komon of Kenya was second in 34:41, followed by Tadese in 34:43.

The 25-year-old Bekele surpassed the mark of five titles he shared with Kenyans John Ngugi and Paul Tergat.

Last year, in the crippling heat of Mombasa, Kenya, Bekele dropped out on the final lap.

Dibaba won her third world cross-country title, finishing the 8-kilometer or 5-mile women's course in 25:10.

"I felt a stitch in the middle of the race and that's when I fell back," Dibaba said. "But it was after I recovered from that that I was able to move to the front."

At last year's world athletics championships in Osaka, Japan, Dibaba recovered from stomach pain to win the 10,000.

Mestawet Tufa of Ethiopia was second Sunday in 25:15, followed by Linet Chepkwemoi Masai of Kenya in 25:18.

Dibaba's sister, Genzebe, won the girls' 6-kilometer or 3.7-mile junior title in 19:59.

"When she was competing I was warming up and was watching her," Tirunesh Dibaba said. "I was more anxious for her than myself and happier for her gold than my own."

Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia won the 8-kilometer or 5-mile boys' junior race in 22:38.

World Cross-Country Championships Results

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) - Results Sunday from the World Cross-Country Championships:


(12 kilometers; 7.5 miles)

1. Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia, 34 minutes, 38 seconds.

2. Leonard Patrick Komon, Kenya, 34:41.

3. Zersenay Tadese, Eritrea, 34:43.

4. Joseph Ebuya, Kenya, 34:47.

5. Moses Ndiema Masai, Kenya, 35:02.

6. Felix Kikwai Kibore, Qatar, 35:15.

7. Gideon Lekumok Ngatuny, Kenya, 35:16.

8. Ahmad Hassan Abdullah, Qatar, 35:18.

9. Habtamu Fikadu, Ethiopia, 35:19.

10. Bernard Kiprop Kipyego, Kenya, 35:24.

Team Standings

1. Kenya, 39 points.

2. Ethiopia, 105.

3. Qatar, 144.


(8 kilometers; 5 miles)

1. Tirunesh Dibaba, Ethiopia, 25 minutes, 10 seconds.

2. Mestawet Tufa, Ethiopia, 25:15.

3. Linet Chepkwemoi Masai, Kenya, 25:18.

4. Doris Chepkwemoi Changeywo, Kenya, 25:34.

5. Hilda Kibet, Netherlands, 25:35.

6. Gelete Burka, Ethiopia, 25:35.

7. Priscah Jepleting Cherono, Kenya, 25:36.

8. Margaret Wangari Muriuki, Kenya, 25:46.

9. Meselech Melkamu, Ethiopia, 25:51.

10. Grace Kwamboka Momanyi, Kenya, 25:54.

Team Standings

1. Ethiopia, 18 points.

2. Kenya, 22.

3. Australia, 84.

Ethiopia romp home to their first ever sweep of all four individual golds – Edinburgh 2008

Edinburgh, Scotland - The heat of Mombasa is now but a memory, a nightmare of course, in the history of Ethiopian distance running.

In cold, occasionally rainy and blustery conditions in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park at this afternoon’s 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships it was not just a climatic differences between the previous and current venues of these championships which were noticeable but competitive ones too.

In Kenya last year the women’s senior team title had been the only success for the green vested runners from the Ethiopian highlands otherwise they had been routed by their Kenyan hosts, Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese and the Netherlands’ Lornah Kiplagat.

Had it just been the heat of the Indian Ocean coastal city which had defied Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba and their compatriots?

Whatever the reason Ethiopian flags were enthusiastically unfurled over the course in Holyrood Park today as a large expat community among an estimated overall crowd of over 20,000 spectators, celebrated their country's first ever sweep of the four indivdual race titles in the slippery muddy conditions of the heavily rain and wind swept grass circuit.

The last time such a feat had been achieved was 1994 when Kenya’s William Sigei (Men), Hellen Chepngeno (Women), Philip Mosima (Jnr men) and Sally Barsosio (Jnr Women) occupied all the top steps of the World Cross Country podium.

Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba, Ibrahim Jeilan and Genzebe Dibaba will now be lauded in Addis Ababa on their return home.

Kenya will be relieved to have pulled together team victories ahead of their foes in the senior and junior men’s race but this was redemption day time for Ethiopia’s Mombasa defeated who surprise, surprise, secured the other two team titles.

One could almost describe the day as ‘normal service resumed’ had the Ethiopian performance not in itself been unique in the annals of their all ready illustrious history at the World Cross Country Championships. .

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Kenya team out to prove sceptics wrong in Scotland

Kenya will be out to defend the world cross country overall title for the 24th time as more than 60 countries parade to challenge them with their arch rivals Ethiopia vowing to make up for the loss in Mombasa by beating Kenya.

Some members of Kenya’s 12km senior men’s team during training at the Kigari Teachers College in Embu last month. They will be trying to stop five time champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia from winning a record sixth title on Sunday. Photos/MOHAMMED AMIN
It will be a show down between seven countries namely Kenya, Ethiopia , Morocco, Eritrea, Qatar, Uganda and ,Bahrain , especially in the senior men’s races.

Kenya has fielded nine strong men to challenge Zersenary Tadese of Eritrea who won the men’s senior individual title in Mombasa.

The Kenyans are banking their hopes on the relatively young but determined team in this section led by the up coming Gideon Gangatuny, Leonard Komon and 5000m Commonwealth champion Augustine Choge .

Tadese told a press conference here that he was ready and fully prepared to tame Kenenisa Bekele as he did in Mombasa last year.

Tadese who has two brothers in the Eritrea junior 8km men’s team - , Kidane Tadese and Methawi Tadese - said that Kenyans were unpredictable and should be the team to watch.

Bekele skipped the press conference sending in an apology to IAAF that his flight had delayed and moments later arrived at the athletes village at Edinburgh University after the press conference.

The Ethiopia Squad will be spearheaded by Bekele , Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam and Sileshi Shine.

The first event 6k junior women will kick off at 2pm Kenyan time followed by the 8km junior men at 2.30pm and the 8km senior women and finally the 12k senior men

At the same time Five countries will on Sunday not compete in the world cross country championships after failing to obtain UK visa to travel here.

Tanzania is said to be one of the countries affected from the East African region. The Tanzanian team had not arrived by Saturday night and there were no hopes they would be here in time to compete.

A Tanzanian coach Max Iranga now based in Qatar said it will be sad to miss Tanzanians here as they have very strong team.

Post-election crisis

Burundi and Rwanda will be represented by only one athlete each. Jean Ndayasenga will represent Burundi while Divadane Disi will run for Rwanda.

* While the athletics world waits to see what impact Kenya’s violent post-election crisis will have on the country’s performance at the world cross-country championships on Sunday, the team’s fitness coach is proudly optimistic.

“No general accepts to go to war without confidence in his troops,” said John Mwithiga, declaring his faith in the young and hastily assembled team. “I will use simple tactics that have won wars in the past.”

Mwithiga, whose choice of words reflects his two decades as an instructor at Kenya’s Armed Forces Training College, is one of the unsung heroes of the country’s athletics success story.

Popularly known as “Warm-up” from his favourite phrase, Mwithiga, now 62, trained many of the country’s best distance runners.

Bekele unconcerned about late cross-country arrival

EDINBURGH, March 29 (Reuters) - Race favourite Kenenisa Bekele has cut his arrival for the world cross country championships fine after missing his connecting flight on Friday but said it would not affect his preparation for Sunday's event.

More... Bekele, 11 times a world cross champion but beaten last year, flew in from Ethiopia but after missing his connection in London was due to arrive in Edinburgh later on Saturday.
"I was always planning to arrive late in Edinburgh so although it wasn't planned to be this late I'm comfortable arriving the day before the competition," he said in a telephone interview with race organisers on Saturday.

"I have a lot of experience of the course here and have won here on three occasions so the delay does not worry me.

"My fitness is good, I've run three times this year, twice indoors and one cross country and have won each time."

Bekele won both the long and now-discontinued short races at the world cross country championships every year from 2002 to 2006 and is a three-times world champion over 10,000 metres on the track.

Last year, however, it all went wrong as he dropped out of the world cross race in the heat of Mombasa, Kenya, and had to watch Eritrea's Zersenay Tadese take the title.
It was his only defeat by his rival in 12 races, including the Edinburgh IAAF race over a shorter version of Sunday's 12-km course, when Bekele finished a second ahead of the Eritrean, who is also in sparkling form.

Asked if he feared the 2007 champion, Bekele said: "It's not a matter of fearing anyone, I run my own race but after what happened in Mombasa the whole Ethiopian team are determined to do their best to bring success to our country."

Tadese, who has a brother running alongside him in the senior race, said he was in ideal shape to defend his title.

"I'm really ready for this competition," he told a news conference. "I know the course, the weather looks fine and I'll have great support from the Eritrean people. Kenenisa is a strong athlete but I'm prepared."

Tadese also warned that Kenya would be a major threat, despite seven of their nine-man team being under 22 and five of them making their senior worlds debut.

Kenya's preparations were disrupted by weeks of violence in the country which followed the disputed re-election of president Mwai Kibaki.

"Whether they are new or old the Kenyans will be strong," Tadese said of the team gold medallists for the last two years.

Ethiopia's Tirunes Dibaba, second last year when seeking a third successive title, starts as strong favourite in the women's race, particularly as 2007 champion Lornah Kiplagat is not racing.

"Mombasa was very tough because of the weather, it was tough to even finish let alone win," she said.

"I've run only once this season indoors as I was still suffering from stomach problems but we have been training in teams in Addis, where it has been very cold, so hopefully that will help," added the 10,000 metres track world champion, who has a sister also racing on Sunday. (Editing by Clare Fallon)

Bekele, Tadese ‘Ready’ – IAAF press conference - Edinburgh 2008

Edinburgh, Scotland – Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, the dethroned 10-time senior men’s World Cross Country champion, will be hoping for a smoother passage towards regaining his crown tomorrow than the journey he endured today into Edinburgh.

Travelling to Scotland for the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Bekele missed his flight connection at London Heathrow after a delay to his original Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa left him with only 30 minutes to connect in London. His delay was unrelated to the widely-publicised teething problems at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5.

Bekele – ‘My fitness is good’

Bekele, who was now due to arrive in Edinburgh this afternoon, said that he was unperturbed by the delay. “I have a lot of experience of the course here in Edinburgh, and have won the annual race here on three occasions, so my travel delay does not worry me.

“I was always planning from the beginning to arrive late in Edinburgh, so although this even-later arrival wasn’t planned this way, I’m comfortable arriving the day before the competition. I love the city and the crowd are always very encouraging, so I look forward to running. My fitness is good. I have run this year three times, twice indoors and once cross country, and have won each time.”

The 25-year-old Bekele, who already holds a record 15 World Cross Country gold medals, the record number of individual golds (11, including one junior), and the record total (25, comprising 15 gold, 8 silver, 2 bronze), is seeking a record sixth senior long-course title. Many of his gold medals were taken from the short-course championship, which was discontinued after 2006, and the record for the greatest number of classic long-course triumphs (5) is shared between the Ethiopian and two Kenyans: John Ngugi won five titles between 1986 and 1992 and Paul Tergat five in succession from 1995 to 1999.

Tadese – ‘I am prepared’

However, Bekele failed to finish in Mombasa last year, when Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese took the title. Asked whether he feared Tadese here, Bekele said: It’s not a matter of fearing anyone. I just run my own race.” Bekele gained a small measure of revenge by beating Tadese in a close finish in the BUPA Great Edinburgh International Cross Country on 12 January.

Tadese said that he is “ready for this competition”, adding that he had prepared in Eritrea, away from his track-season preparation base in Madrid. Of the contrasting weather expected, compared with the high heat and humidity of Mombasa, he said: “In African countries like Eritrea, Kenya and Ethiopia, we have cold and hot. I know the course and it was cold (in January). I think it is no problem.

“Kenenisa is a strong athlete but I am prepared for this competition.” On the inexperienced Kenyan team (five athletes making their senior World Cross Country debut and seven aged under 22), Tadese said he would not discount them. “If they are Kenyan athletes they are strong,” he opined.

Dibaba aiming to leave Mombasa memories behind

Bekele’s fellow Ethiopian, Tirunesh Dibaba, is also seeking to regain her senior crown. Having done the short/long course double in 2005, and won the long course title in 2006, she finished runner-up last year to Lornah Kiplagat, of The Netherlands. “Mombasa was very tough because of the weather,” Dibaba reflected today. “Let alone winning, it was very difficult to finish the race.”

Although Dibaba retained her 10,000m world title in Osaka last summer, she encountered problems with stitch. “I never had the problem before,” she recounted today. “Osaka was difficult. I had a stomach stitch and I didn’t think I was going to win. The problem was ongoing and that is why I didn’t compete a lot last season.”

Geoff Wightman, the LOC chair, said that two years of planning had gone into what will be 90 minutes of racing. “It was Christmas 2005 that we started talking about moving on from the European Championships that we had here in 2003 to bidding for the World Championships, and we’re ready,” Wightman said.

“All the preparations are in place and it’s started already because we had a coaching conference last night that was packed to capacity. There were tickets for that being sold on e-bay.” And, he added tongue-in-cheek: “So I am always pleased to see a black market develop in athletics as it begins its fight-back!” He continued: “We had a great reception for the public partners who have enabled this event to come to Scotland with the IAAF council members at the (Edinburgh) Castle last night.

“But, ultimately, it boils down to those 90 minutes. We hope to have a vast number of people on the course. It’s free, there are no turnstiles, there’s no ticketing, so anybody can just rock up on the day. The forecast is good and that is an uncommon thing at this point in Edinburgh. The ambition of the LOC is that we not only deliver the best ever World Cross Country Championships but that we show how good athletics can be.”

Ed Warner, chair of UK Athletics, said: “London 2012 (Olympics) is just over four years away and, as things stand – although we hope there may be other opportunities – this is the last athletics world championships on British soil currently scheduled before 2012. It’s a fantastic opportunity for Britain to show what it can do on the international athletics stage both in organising an event and bringing in the crowds, and creating a great advertisement for our wonderful sport.

“Many people will say cross country is the purest form of athletic endeavour. In some way I would love to see the Heavens open tomorrow with hail, sleet and driving wind to create the purest challenge, but I think Geoff Wightman would hope for a bit of sunshine to bring the crowds in!”

European participation down

Of the backward slip in the number of countries competing, Pierre Weiss, the IAAF general secretary, said: “We will have here something like 64 countries taking part and the biggest ever is 76. What are the reasons? Some teams have been facing visa problems but that is not the main reason. The main reason is we have less Europeans.

“In 1973 (first IAAF World Cross Country Championships) the Europeans were 85 per cent of the participants – it was too much, a European competition not a world competition – but today we are down to 29. This will be the main topic of the cross country committee meeting, which starts tomorrow afternoon and continues on Monday – to see what can be done to revive cross country, mainly in Europe.

On this subject, the IAAF President, Lamine Diack, said: “We have teams coming from Canada, Australia, Japan but not some from here (Europe). This problem will not be solved by an IAAF committee – it needs to be solved at country level.”

Lord Sebastian Coe, a double Olympic 1500m champion, the chair of London 2012 and current IAAF Vice-President, said: “Coaches don’t see any relevance in the preparation of middle and long distance athletes on the track to using cross country. Cross Country was a standard part of my preparation.

“If you go back down through the annals of distance running – everybody from Carlos Lopes, Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele, Paul Tergat, Noureddine Morceli, Hicham El Guerrouj, Said Aouita – they all used cross country. You rarely find anybody at a European level who thinks there is a correlation between cross country conditioning and track and that is why our standards in distance running are as bad as they are.”

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ethiopia Football Federation engulfed in crisis

FIFA has confirmed that it will not send a delegation to a meeting on Saturday to restore sanity within the Ethiopia Football Federation (EFF). This means the internal wrangling which has affected the EFF for the past three months is set to continue. Fifa will not ratify the event because EFF boss Dr Ashebir Woldegiorgis has not been allowed access to his office.

"The president's denial to the headquarters cannot be seen as a return to normalcy," Fifa said in a statement.

The meeting is part of the road-map to normalize the problems within the EFF.

The EFF's general assembly fired Woldegiorgise in January for what they said was the "dismal" record of Ethiopian football and elected Ahmed Yasin to replace him.

However, the January meeting was not recognised by Fifa who met both parties to find a solution.

Fifa and the Confederation of African Football (Caf) released the road-map last month which was agreed by both parties.

The road-map said that Dr Woldegiorgis and his executive committee are the only leadership that Fifa and Caf would recognise but that an extraordinary meeting of the EFF should be held on 29 March.

The agenda of the meeting would simply be a "motion of dismissal" of the current executive committee.

According to the EFF statutes, for this motion to be approved it would have to supported by two-thirds of the valid votes cast by the official delegates in a secret ballot.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kenya, Ethiopia early arrivals in Edinburgh

Bitter rivals Kenya and Ethiopia were among the early arrivals in Edinburgh Thursday, setting the stage for what should be yet another bruising battle between the world’s best distance running nations.

Kenyan officials were happy with the reception and the weather conditions in the Scottish city ahead of Sunday’s 36th World Cross Country Championships.

“The weather is fantastic, slightly cold, and similar to the conditions in Embu where the team trained,” coach Julius Kirwa said. The Kenyan team arrived at 11.30 am, local time, and went for a jog at 3.30 pm to shake off the jet-lag.

The squad has been housed at the Pollock Hall of Residency on the Edinburgh University campus. After going through the accreditation formalities, the Kenyan squad’s physician Peter Nduhiu reported no injuries with the squad upbeat.

Athletics Kenya secretary David Okeyo, who is due to depart today, said: “This event will serve as a gauge to Kenya’s dominance in long distance races a year after we trounced our opponents at home in Mombasa.”

Scotland boasts a strong tradition in cross country running since the first recorded organised club cross country run was staged in Milngavie, Glasgow, in 1885 followed in 1886 by the first National Championships at Lanark Race Course. In 1889, the National Championships were staged for the first time at what was to become the spiritual home of cross country running, Hamilton Park Race course, the venue of this year’s event.

A total of 70 member federations of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) have made final entries to compete at this weekend’s event which will be marking its 36th edition.

The world’s best distance runners will assemble in Holyrood Park, in the Scottish capital on Sunday afternoon to do battle in four races – senior men and women, and junior men and women – part of the course for which tackles the steep incline and decent of Haggis Knowe.

Unpredictability and fresh talent - Kenya's line-up for Edinburgh

As Kenya prepares to contest 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland on 30 March, some mystery surrounds the team selected.

In the men's line-up, besides Bernard Kiprop Kipyego and Gideon Ngatuny, third and fourth in last year's World Cross in Mombasa, and Leonard Komon, fourth in the junior men's category last year, and Commonwealth Games 5000m champion, Augustine Choge, the rest are not what keen observers would rate as capable of taking on Eritrea's reigning World champion, Zersenay Tadese, or Ethiopia's multiple World champion, Kenenisa Bekele, and give them a run for their money.

Yet that is what the team management considers as their main strength.

"We have superb runners who are definitely going to retain the team title and seriously fight for the individual titles as well, especially in the men's and women's senior races," said Peter Angwenyi, the team manager.

"The team has been in residential training for less period of time compared to previous years because of the political problems the country encountered earlier in the year."

But the determination the team has shown, says Angwenyi, reflects their will to retain the title and even surpass last year's performance.

Ngatuny, a Maasai, whose rural home is on the edge of world-famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve, and whose name translates to a Lion in his native dialect, has emerged as the strongest, if winning the Kenya Prisons title and the national title are any measure.

Observers see a real Lion in him and opponents can rest assured of a real fight, almost akin to that which his tribesmen use as a rite of passage from youth to adulthood when they literally kill lions using crude weapons.

Also in the team is Mark Kiptoo, who was third at the Armed Forces XC Championships and second at the Nationals. Not quite known internationally, Kiptoo has won the respect of the team and has been elected unanimously as the captain, a coveted hat that has been worn by eminent people like Paul Tergat and Paul Koech in previous World Cross Country Championships.

Choge is back

Choge, the Commonwealth Games 5000m champion, who did not finish among the top-10 at the Nationals, but after benefiting from a wild card selection he has proved himself in camp at the foot of Mount Kenya, 125km east of Nairobi and is now rated among the top favourites for the 12km title, withHead Coach, Julius Kirwa, reckoning that he should not be ignored.
Choge suffered a career-threatening back injury, which kept him down the whole of last year after winning the Commonwealth Games title and finishing seventh in Fukuoka World Cross in the short course race in 2006.

Bernard Kiprop Kipyego, bronze medallist last year in Mombasa last year and junior silver medallist in St Etienne in 2006, is back after finishing fifth in the Nationals. He is a highly unpredictable but very polished runner who will prove useful in the team.

Joseph Ebuya, a late-comer to athletics after a charcoal-selling stint in Nyahururu, where top athletes set up camps to train for global championships, is another key plank in the team strategy.

John Thuo, who trains at the IAAF High Performance Training Camp in Eldoret, surprised pundits when he squeezed into sixth place at the Nationals.

According to Angwenyi, any of these athletes could easily spoil the party for whoever feels he has the individual title in the pocket.

Strict regime

Training in the high-altitude Kigari near Embu was strict. Head coach, Kirwa, maintained a military regime that saw the team soak up the early morning cold air inside the Mount Kenya forest. It was so cold inside the forest each morning that even with the athlete’s bodies sweating with their effort, their heads were usually glistening white with dew. Their daily schedule started at 6am for 45 minutes, then they did light work-outs after breakfast and hill work in the evenings.

Isaac Songok, who was silver medallist in the 4km race in 2005, Barnabas Kosgei, who won at the Armed Forces Championships and was ninth at the Nationals, former junior women's champion, Vivian Cheruiyot, Pauline Korikwiang, silver medallist in Fukuoka, and fifth at the recent Kenyan trials, all were dropped from the squad after this training period.

Masai going for senior honours

Grace Kwamboka Momanyi, who burst into the national awareness at the National champs, which she won after returning from a stint on the American road race circuit, is widely-expected to give the Ethiopians a strong challenge.

Priscah Jepleting, who was seventh in Mombasa last year, and first-timer in the World Cross team Doris Changeiywo, are also key to Kenyan hopes, as is last year's World junior champion, Linet Masai, who contests the senior category. Margaret Wangare and Linet Chepkirui complete the team.

Ethiopia runners in race

St. Patrick's Day may be an Irish holiday, but this year's Holyoke St. Patrick's Road Race will likely have an African flavor to it.

Three elite runners from Ethiopia, all members of New York City's New Flower Athletics, have registered for Saturday's race.

The tough 10K will begin at 1 p.m. on Maple Street before finishing on Hampden Street.

Also, race co-chairmen Mike Zwirko and Mike Tierney said this year's race could be the largest in its rich, 33-year history.

"We could possibly have a record year," Zwirko said. "I notice around Holyoke there are more people running. We could break the 3,000 mark for registration."

With this year's St. Patrick's race not falling on the same day as the New Bedford Half-Marathon, the field could be particularly strong. Premier runners typical sign up the day of the race, so the quality of the field is yet to be determined.

History shows, though, that quality runners from throughout the region will make the trip to Holyoke.

"I think anytime you have a race of our caliber, and the length we've been in existence, it's attractive to runners," Tierney said. "And when we're not competing against another race, and with our price structure, that attracts a lot of runners. We've attracted a lot of good runners of the years."

Male and female winners are awarded $1,000, followed by $650 for second and $450 for third.

Zwirko said the three Ethiopian runners are extremely talented, and could threaten the course records set by John Doherty (28 minutes, 46 seconds in 1993) and Leslie Lehane
"I think (having the foreign runners) certainly brings the race up a notch, and they've been a big part of the race for the last 10 years," Zwirko said. "They like the race. They like coming here. But we never know (who's coming). The communication isn't that great."

Demesse Tesera, 26, will not only compete for first place, but will challenge the 15-year course record. Tesera owns a marathon time of 2:18 and a 10K effort of 28:02.

Firehiwot Tesfaye and Adeba Tola head the women's field. Tola, 31, ran marathon times of 2:35 and 2:40 within the last year; Tesfave, 19, recently ran a 32:58 at a 10K, and 1:12:58 at a half-marathon.

While the Ethiopians may be at the front of the field, the rest of this year's runners could be in the middle of something special as well. Zwirko said, as of last week, more than 2,000 runners had already registered. Also, over the last few years, the race has registered 300-400 runners the day of the race.

"For the past seven years, we've been over 2,600 registered runners," Zwirko said. "It's been consistent. And this extra two weeks, and not falling on the New Bedford race and other races we compete with, it's quite possible we could break 3,000.

"We're a quality race, and people appreciate that. We like to think of ourselves as a runner-friendly race. Everyone seems to have a good time. Hopefully we'll have a big turnout."

The St. Patrick's Road Race set a Western Massachusetts record for the number of finishers (2,579) in 2006. Last year, despite a significant snowstorm the night before, the race drew 1,998 runners.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

PREVIEW - WOMEN’s Races – WXC Edinburgh 2008

Edinburgh, Scotland - Tirunesh Dibaba has something to prove. That may seem an odd thing to say of a 22-year-old who has already won two World Cross Country titles and four World Championship golds on the track.

But when the Ethiopian lines up for the start of the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Edinburgh, Scotland on Sunday (30 March) she’ll be aware of a few doubts lingering over her like a Scottish mist.

A year ago she was the undisputed queen of Ethiopian distance running and started the championships in Mombasa as red hot favourite to complete a hat-trick of victories. After all, she was a double World champion and the newly-crowned World indoor 5000m record holder.

But her dreams of winning a third successive title wilted in the Kenyan heat as Dutchwoman Lornah Kiplagat ran away with the honours, leaving Dibaba gasping in her wake. It marked the start of a difficult year for the Ethiopian, one she will want to put well and truly behind her this weekend.

Although she retained her World 10,000m title in Osaka, chronic abdominal problems forced Dibaba to cancel the rest of her 2007 track season and she lost her status as Ethiopia’s golden girl to Meseret Defar.

What’s more, while Defar has carried her record-breaking form into 2008, Dibaba’s fitness remains something of a mystery. She has raced just once this year, at the Boston Indoor Games in February, and not at all at cross country.

With Kiplagat not defending her title, a fully fit Dibaba will still start as favourite to win in the Scottish capital although her bid to match Lynn Jennings and Derartu Tulu as a triple champion will be far from easy.

The 8km course over Holyrood Park’s rough, hilly terrain couldn’t be more different from the hard, flat, oven-baked ground of Mombasa and without any cross country races behind her the slight Dibaba could find it tough going.

What’s more, in Gelete Burka and Meselech Melkamu, she has two formidable opponents from within her own team who’ve recently shown they’re in scintillating form.

Melkamu won a silver medal over 3000m at the World indoors in Valencia earlier this month, finishing just a place behind Defar, and will need little motivation to challenge her countrywoman. Last year she came close to denying Dibaba the silver medal, missing out by just one second in the closing sprint as she claimed her second bronze medal in a row.

Burka also had a successful World Indoors, setting an African 1500m record as she finished third in the Spanish city. She also won the Ethiopian cross country title for the first time and will be keen to improve on her fourth place from 2007. Like Melkamu, she’s an experienced cross country performer having won the short course race in 2006.

With these three leading the charge, Ethiopia will be heavily tipped to win the team title for the seventh year in a row, although as ever they will be hard pressed by the Kenyans.

After winning all the team contests in 2007 except for the senior women’s race, last year’s hosts have opted for youth this time, fielding a senior women’s team led by the 2007 World Junior XC champion, Linet Masai.

After such an assured victory in last year’s junior race, Masai, who’s still only 17, looks set to make an impressive debut in the senior ranks. Kenya’s young lions will be supported by the more experienced Priscah Jepleting, the 2006 short course silver medallist, and Grace Monany.

Apart from the Kenyan-born Kiplagat, Simret Sultan was the leading finisher from outside Kenya or Ethiopia last year. After placing ninth in Mombasa the Eritrean will again be looking for a top ten place.

Similarly, Zhor El Kamch, who was 11th in 2007, returns at the head of a Moroccan squad that took the team bronze last year and will again be hoping to make the podium.

Benita Johnson, the 2004 champion, leads the non-African challenge, although the Australian’s hopes of repeating her triumph of four years ago appear slight.

Johnson, who also finished fourth in 2006, became the first ever Australian World Cross Country champion in Brussels. But after her recent withdrawal from the London Marathon due to lack of training, it seems unlikely she will be in medal-winning form this year.

Despite being staged in Britain for the first time since 1995, the championships will be missing many of the host nation’s leading distance runners, including Paula Radcliffe, the 2001 and 2002 champion, Mara Yamauchi and Jo Pavey.

But in the sisters-in-law Hayley and Liz Yelling, they have two athletes capable of finishing in the top-20 if the course and the crowd work to their advantage. Hayley Yelling was European Cross Country champion in 2004, while Liz runs in Edinburgh as a warm up for the London Marathon in two weeks time.

Junior women

It is no surprise that the junior women’s race is also likely to be a battle between Kenya and Ethiopia as these are the only two nations ever to have won a junior women’s team title since the junior races were introduced in 1989. What’s more, every individual title except four have been won by athletes from these east African countries, and every one since 1995 when Finland’s Annemari Sandell won in Durham.

As it stands, Kenya are leading the team competition 13-6 and after sweeping the individual medals in Mombasa last year they will be confident of adding a 14th title to their collection in Edinburgh.

In Mercy Kosgei, they also have strong hopes for a third successive individual gold. With Masai promoted to the senior ranks, Kosgei will be hoping to improve on her silver medal from Mombasa.

Although 2007 bronze medallist Veronica Wanjiru is missing, Kosgei should be well supported by some new Kenyan faces, including Christine Mayanga and Dorcas Jepchirchir.

Ethiopia has not won the junior women’s team title since 2004, and the individual title has eluded them since Burka won in 2005. But in Emebt Etea they have a runner who has more reason than most to put the over-heated horrors of Mombasa behind her.

Etea collapsed dramatically after two of the three laps last year and her face became a symbol of the Ethiopians’ failure to prepare adequately for the Kenyan conditions. But Etea has bounced back in 2008 to win the Ethiopian trials and, like Dibaba among the seniors, feels she has something to prove.

Her assault on the title will be supported by Tirunesh’s younger sister Genzebe Dibaba, who was fifth in 2007, plus the less experienced trio of Tigist Mamuye, Emebet Bacha, and Bitaw Yehune all making their first journeys outside Ethiopia.

It was a sign of Ethiopia’s distress last year that they not only missed out on gold but also lost the team silver – the first time they’d been out of the top two since 1997. That was largely down to Meraf Bahta and Fortuna Zegergish, who finished sixth and eighth respectively tohoist Eritrea into second place. Bahta and Zegergish are back this time and will be hoping to put their country on the podium again.

Outside the three African nations, the Japanese squad can also expect to do well, and in Charlotte Purdue and Emily Pidgeon Britain has two athletes who finished in the top 20 last time. With so many of Britain’s bigger names missing, they’ll be keen to give the Scottish crowd something to cheer.

PREVIEW - MEN’s Races – WXC Edinburgh 2008

Edinburgh, Scotland - Already the undisputed greatest cross country runner of all time, Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele will enter new record-breaking territory this weekend if he succeeds in regaining the senior men’s title at the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland (30 March). In the headline clash of the four-race programme, against defending champion Zersenay Tadese, from Eritrea, Bekele is seeking to become the first man to win the classic long course title six times.

In the magnificent setting of Holyrood Park, in the shadow of Holyrood Palace, Bekele will attempt to regain his kingship after a year’s enforced absence following Tadese’s shock victory at the 35th Championships in Mombasa last March. Because of his record of 11 World Cross Country individual gold medals (inc. one junior crown), and his return to form after failing to finish in Mombasa, Bekele will start as favourite but Tadese showed when the two met on the same course in January that he will not give up his crown easily.

Since Mombasa, Bekele has retained his 10,000m World title on the track, set a World indoor best for Two Miles (8:04.35), and re-imposed his authority over Tadese with victory in the BUPA Great Edinburgh International Cross Country – IAAF Permit race - on 12 January. While separated by only one second at the end of the 9.3km race - they race over 12km on Sunday - Bekele’s victory appeared more comfortable than the bare results suggest.

The 25-year-old Bekele holds a record 15 World Cross Country gold medals, the record number of individual golds (11), and the record total (25, comprising 15 gold, 8 silver, 2 bronze). Many of these were taken from the short-course championship, which was discontinued after 2006, and the record for the greatest number of classic long-course triumphs (5) is shared between the Ethiopian and two Kenyans: John Ngugi won five titles between 1986 and 1992 and Paul Tergat five in succession from 1995 to 1999.

While IAAF World Cross Country Championships date from only 1973, the scale of Bekele’s achievements can be measured in the context of races going back to 1903. It was in Scotland no less, on Hamilton Racecourse, on 28 March of that year, that the first International Cross Country Championships were held and, even through their long history, before the rebranding in 1973, no athlete managed more than four individual victories.

The three winners of four titles – Jack Holden (England), Alain Mimoun (France) and Gaston Roelants (Belgium) – all won at least one of their honours in Scotland, so Edinburgh would be a fitting place for Bekele to write the latest record-breaking chapter in the book of these championships. Should Tadese be looking for omens, he might wish to note that it is 25 years since an athlete won only one classic distance men’s title – a runner by the name of Bekele! Since Bekele Debele’s victory for Ethiopia in 1983, every champion has gone on to take at least a second title.

Of further encouragement to him, Tadese could be the world’s most efficient distance runner, according to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. After defeating Bekele last year, he underwent physiological testing which showed that he needed less oxygen per kilometre than other elite athletes who had been tested.

In his build-up to his title defence, the 26-year-old Tadese was not only beaten by Bekele in Edinburgh but by Uganda’s rising star, Moses Kipsiro, when both men recorded the same time at the Cross Internacional de Italica, in Seville, on 20 January. However, the world champion did win at the Cinque Mulini in San Vittore Olona on 9 February, although neither Bekele nor Kipsiro was in the field.

Kipsiro, together with Kenya’s Gideon Ngatuny and Ethiopia’s Abebe Dinkesa, spearheads the challenge to the two favourites. In a ceremony attended by the Parliament Speaker and State Sports Minister, the 21-year-old Kipsiro was named 2007 Uganda Sports Personality of the Year after taking the 5000m bronze medal at the World Championships in Osaka and winning his country’s only gold medal at the All Africa Games in Algiers.

Like Bekele, Kipsiro fell victim to the heat and humidity in Mombasa last year, failing to finish. After snow showers in Scotland this week, and little prospect of double-figure temperatures, there will be no overheating problems for the athletes, who will soon warm-up on the steep climbs of Haggis Knowe. Kipsiro missed the World Indoor Championships in Valencia to concentrate on Edinburgh and said after winning the Uganda Cross Country title on 9 February: “My mission is to return with some silverware in Edinburgh.”

Also talking a confident game is Ngatuny, who said after winning the Kenya Prisons Championship on 9 February: “I will certainly be on the team to Edinburgh and I can assure Bekele and Tadese that they must prepare well to beat me.” Ngatuny, 4th last year, was as good as his word on the first promise – winning the Kenyan National Cross Country in Nairobi on 1 March to clinch his place in the team. Having fulfilled one of his predictions, can the athlete whose name is the Masai word for lion live up to his roar that he will be a contender in Edinburgh?

For Kenya, this year’s championships are especially important. For, as Isaiah Kiplagat, the chairman of Athletics Kenya, said after the team was named: “We have not won the senior men’s 12km individual title in 8 years (since Tergat in 1999) and we expect that the senior men’s team selected can win both the individual and team titles.” Furthermore, and bearing in mind Kenya’s weak showing at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, he called for the athletes to show that they have recovered from the fall-out of post-election violence.

During this time of violence the domestic cross country season was disrupted, Lucas Sang (1988 Olympic 400m runner) and Wesley Ngetich (2:12.10 marathon runner) were killed, and world marathon champion Luke Kibet survived attacks on his life. “We should show the world that we have returned to normalcy and winning will be part of the reconciliation exercise,” Kiplagat added.

Kenya’s incredible sequence of 18 team titles (1986-2003) having been ended by Ethiopia (2004 and 2005 team champions), they are seeking to rebuild with a third in a row in Edinburgh. At their camp in Embu, they have reportedly been paying particular attention to their finishing speed and, together with Ngatunyi, top performances are expected of Bernard Kipyego (3rd in 2007), Hosea Macharinyang (5th in 2007) and 20-year-old Leonard Komon, 4th in the 2007 junior men’s race and winner of circuit races in Elgoibar, Spain, and Hannut, Belgium, in January.

As winner of the Ethiopian trial, Dinkesa is expected to be Bekele’s closest compatriot, although the team also includes Sileshi Sihine, the 10,000m runner-up in Osaka and double World Cross Country individual medallist, with silver from 2006 and bronze from 2004. Another double senior long course individual medallist, Gebre Gebremariaim (3rd, 2003; 2nd, 2004) adds further experience.

In the absence of Mo Farah, 10th last year, the host Great Britain team does not have a top-20 contender, so the loudest support will be for Australia’s Craig Mottram, an ‘honorary’ Brit because his mother was born in Scotland. Mottram told the Scottish media: “I’m almost one of you guys – my mum’s from Aberfeldy (Perthshire)”. With Farah, United States trials winner Dathan Ritzenhein and seven-times European champion Sergiy Lebid (Ukraine) all missing, Mottram may be a lone non African near the front of the field.

Footnote: In contrast to the tragic circumstances surrounding Bekele’s 2005 victory in St Etienne/St Galmier, France, two months after the death of his fiancée, Alem Techale, the multiple-champion will be watched in Edinburgh by his wife of four months. He and Danawit Gebregziabher, an Ethiopian movie actress, were married in November.


While a Scot, Jim Brown, was the first winner of the IAAF junior title in 1973, the last 16 winners have been either Kenyan or Ethiopian. In the last four years these two nationalities have swept all the medals in the men’s junior race, and it would be an event if anyone broke that monopoly in 2008.

Expected to lead Kenya’s challenge on this occasion will be Levy Matebo Omari, who won Kenyan National Championship, and runner-up Mathew Kipkoech Kisorio, who is one of two brothers in the team (the other is Peter Kimeli Some). They are the sons of Some Muge, 3rd in the 1983 senior men’s race.

Ethiopian interest centres on Ibrahim Jeilan, the World junior 10,000m champion who failed to finish last year and then made no significant impression on the track. But he is on the comeback trail after winning the national trial, when he said: “I had some personal problems which I do not want to speak about. The problems still exist but I hope they can be solved.” Trial runner-up Ayele Abshiro is perhaps the other main challenger for the junior title.

If we were to consider the seemingly impossible it is from Uganda, who have taken a smattering of junior medals in the last decade, that a non-Kenyan or Ethiopian medallist is most likely to emerge. In their junior championships this year, World Mountain Running champion Geoffrey Kusuro beat last year’s World junior fifth placer Benjamin Kiplagat, and both athletes are included in a strong squad for Edinburgh. Uganda has taken five bronze medals in the team contest in recent years (2000-2005).

The only other nations with the potential to seriously mix it with Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda are the fast improving Eritrea (team: 1 silvers ‘07, 1 bronze ‘06) and Qatar (team: 1 bronze ‘05), who have been on the team podium in the last three years.

David Powell for the IAAF

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sudan salutes Kaki's success with huge celebrations

Khartoum, Sudan - More than two weeks have passed since teenager Abubaker Khamis Kaki became the youngest ever World Indoor champion and Sudan’s first ever winner of a World title when he took 800m gold in Valencia, but the population of Africa’s largest country has yet to cease its celebrations.

Although Sudan has little athletics tradition to speak about before this month, thousands of fans filled the Khartoum international airport upon the return of the Sudanese delegation to Khartoum ten days ago. Thousands more packed the streets of Khartoum to greet their hero as Kaki and fellow athletes made their way through the city.

Kaki then travelled north east to Ghadarif where he was awarded a piece of land by the head of the state. In a ceremony organized by Sudanese Athletics Association (SAA) last weekend, an Egypt-based Sudanese singer flew in directly to Khartoum exclusively to sing a song dedicated to the World Indoor champion. The rendition entitled ‘Kaki, Kaki’ got the crowd going with the 18-year-old enjoying the evening held up high on the shoulders of fans and well-wishers.

Due to his success, Kaki has been very much in demand and has had to refuse many more celebrations in order to focus on his preparations for the outdoor season where his main focus will be winning a medal for Sudan at the Beijing Olympics in August.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ethiopian Premier League Team MP W D L GF GA +/- Pts
Saint George 19 12 6 1 35 15 20 42
Ethiopian Coffee 18 11 5 2 31 14 17 38
Awassa City 17 10 4 3 25 14 11 34
EEPCO 18 7 5 6 22 16 6 26
Tikur Abay 19 7 5 7 26 21 5 26
Metehara Sugar 18 7 5 6 23 20 3 26
Muger Cement 19 6 8 5 12 15 -3 26
Harar Beer 19 5 9 5 12 11 1 24
Trans Ethiopia 16 5 7 4 9 11 -2 22
Adama City 18 5 7 6 7 10 -3 22
Insurance 18 5 6 7 21 28 -7 21
Defence 19 3 10 6 12 16 -4 19
Shashemene City 18 4 6 8 18 19 -1 18
Air Force 18 4 4 10 18 23 -5 16
Banks 18 2 10 6 12 20 -8 16
Nyala 18 2 3 13 11 41 -30 9

A city steeped in history – Edinburgh 2008

Edinburgh, Scotland - They are a mischievous bunch, students. They were among the first cross country athletes, in the era when it was known as Hares and Hounds, having been part of the exercise programme in British public schools.

Hares laid paper trails for hounds to follow. Sometimes they prepared false trails which would peter out, and it was not unknown for them to lightly wrap the paper round a few stones. When thrown into boggy ground or a marsh, it would sink, leaving the paper on the surface, invitingly demanding to be followed. The hares would continue laying the trail beyond the bog. Coloured paper would be used when there was snow on the ground. Mischievous hares would gleefully enjoy the impromptu comedy as the hounds followed the trail, often ploughing up to their waists into the mud.

That's how it was in the early days of cross-country in Edinburgh, where the 36th IAAF World Cross-country Championships will be contested on Sunday 30 March in the shadow of Holyrood Palace, Queen Elizabeth's residence in Scotland's capital.

Murder most royal and Body-snatching

The athletics club at the city's university is still known as the Hares and Hounds, as are many other student clubs in the UK. University records demonstrate cross-country was staged in the vast royal Holyrood Park which is dominated by the towering extinct volcano, Arthurs Seat, 15 years before Scotland's inaugural national cross-country championships were staged in 1886.

Robert Louis Stevenson, the poet and author, was born and raised in the city, and in the Edinburgh University magazine of 1871 he lamented: "No more does the merry medical student run eagerly in the clear wintry morning up the rugged sides of Arthurs Seat."

This was long before Stevenson penned such classic novels as Kidnapped, Treasure Island, and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. This is a city steeped in history. Peel back the sophistication of the Athens of the North, and there is a dark side.

Darnley, lover of Mary Queen of Scots, was murdered close to Sunday's course, and these "merry medical students" could be a sinister bunch. Their craving for bodies for anatomy lessons led to the infamous body-snatchers, Burke and Hare, plying their trade in Edinburgh, with a sideline as serial killers, while cross country was taking its fledgling steps.

Training in the 19th century was hazardous for students, as Scottish athletics historian Colin Shields recounts in his admirable Scottish centenary history of the sport: "Whatever the Weather." On their first session in February of that year, they were "attacked by quarrymen and a large black dog, and accosted by gardeners."

At least their bodies remained intact.

The infamous Burke was hanged, at the Tolbooth between Sunday's course for the world event and the city centre, and with a fine sense of poetic justice his body followed those of his victims. His skeleton is in the university medical school's anatomy library, and a book bound in his skin reposes at the Royal College of Surgeons.

The killings fueled Stevenson's imagination, and were local gossip of the day as the "Six-foot Club" organised a one-mile steeplechase on the outskirts of Edinburgh in 1828, the year Burke was hanged. The name of the club reflected the height it was felt members needed to be to hurdle farm gates and fences.

Scottish XC champs first held 122-years-ago

In Lanarkshire the "Red-hose" (red stockings) cross-country race, had begun more than 20 years earlier. The county in the West of Scotland has a long and proud sports tradition. King William the Lion of Scotland presented the Lanark Silver Bell for a horse race there in the twelfth century. It's Britain's oldest sports trophy, and the race course on which it was staged (the Silver Bell is still contested) was where the very first Scottish cross country championship was held, 122 years ago this week. The 10-mile (16,000 metres) race, over heavy grassland, was won by a stonemason.

Also in Lanarkshire, the very first cross-country international was staged in 1903. It was held on Hamilton racecourse, and the adjacent grounds of the palace of the Duke of Hamilton. It was contested by Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, and was won by England's Alf Shrubb. France entered in 1907, and it was from these beginnings that the IAAF event first emerged in 1973.

World XC returns to Scotland

However this is the twelfth time the international championship has been held in Scotland, but only the second in the IAAF era. This is the 30th anniversary of the last IAAF World Cross in Scotland (in Glasgow) where Ireland's John Treacy won. It is returning to Edinburgh 96 years to the day since Frenchman Jean Bouin won there.

Bouin was the first non-English winner of the championships, and first to win three in succession (1911-'13). He and the Finn, Johannes Kolehmainen, were respectively Olympic 5000m silver and gold medallists in Stockholm, first time the distance had been run under 15 minutes. The Frenchman also took the World 6-mile and 10,000m records from Shrubb. Sadly, the sport's first great multiple international champion was killed in World War I.

The first cross country handicap ever staged in Scotland, was in December 1885, over four miles from the Sheepshead tavern in Duddingston. It lies on the banks of one of three lochs within the royal park.

Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele has already won three times over Sunday's course, for it has hosted the Great Edinburgh International in recent years, so the course is tried and tested. It includes Haggis Knowe (or Haggis Hill, so named because it's shaped like the traditional Scottish dish) which also featured in the 2003 European Cross Country Championship and World Mountain Running Trophy in 1995.

But this remains a sport for everyone. A ‘Welcome the World’ 5km race round the park is open to everyone. Afterwards they can watch the toughest race on earth for free.

Kenya, Ethiopia face off again

ETHIOPIA AND KENYA ARE SENDing formidable teams to the 36th edition of the World Cross-Country championships — to be held in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 30 — as the two countries — the most successful in the history of the competition — face off once again.

But Eritrea, which won the men’s senior title at last year’s championship in Mombasa, Kenya courtesy of Zersenay Tadese remains a threat to the two dominant countries. Kenyans, however, still consider Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele as their main threat for the men’s individual and team titles.

Gideon Ngatunyi will lead the Kenyan men’s team chase for the title while five-time double World Cross-Country champion Bekele and two-time female long-course champion Tirunesh Dibaba will lead Ethiopia.

The Kenyan national team has been training at its traditional training base in Kigari, Embu, and even the post-election violence that rocked the country in January-February and disrupted training in the high altitude camps in the North Rift did not dampen their spirits.

Ngatunyi, fourth in last year’s championships, ran a tactical race to win the senior men’s 12km race at the Kenya National Championships in Nairobi and is being touted as the perfect replacement for five time cross-country champion Paul Tergat. Since retired from cross-country, Kenya has not won the title.

The Kenya women’s team will be led by 19-year-old Grace Momanyi who caused an upset at the trials. She will be leading a team of young talent such as Linet Masai, who won the World junior title last year in Mombasa, and Doris beChangeywo.

ETHIOpia is out to prove a point in Edinburgh after a disastrous performance in Mombasa, where the country won only two individual medals and a single team title, its worst showing in the 27 years of the competition. The team will also have Sileshi Sihine and Abebe Dinkesa, who apart from beating Kenya are also a threat to Bekele.

Bekele dropped out of the men’s senior race in Mombasa at the fourth lap. Although initially doubting whether he would attain the form that has seen him win five back-to-back short and long-course titles, the 25-year old won a third 10,000m world title in Osaka, Japan early this month. So far, he has won three races this year, including setting a two-mile world indoor best time in Birmingham in February. He skipped the World Indoor Championships to prepare for Edinburgh.

Dibaba, who was beaten by Dutchwoman Lornah Kiplagat in Mombasa last year and has since been struggling to maintain her status as the golden girl of Ethiopian athletics, made an astonishing recovery to defend her 10,000m word title in Osaka last year.

She however had to cancel the rest of her 2007 racing schedule after suffering severe abdominal pains during the race. In her only outing this year, she won the 3,000m at the Boston Indoor Games in January, but injury stopped her from participating in other races. Bekele and Ngatunyi aside, the man to watch will be Tadese.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ethiopian athlete puts China on spot

March 17 Beijing has spent more than Ethiopia's $13 billion economy improving its air quality. The marathon world-record holder, an Ethiopian, isn't impressed. He's taking a pass on running 26 miles (42 kilometers) in the city this summer.

Haile Gebrselassie was favored to win the gold at the Beijing Olympics in August. Instead, the 34-year-old may focus on running the 10,000-meter event, fearing his history of asthma won't mix well with China's smog.

China pooh-poohed Steven Spielberg blowing off the Olympics on human-rights grounds related to Sudan. It's harder to dismiss athletes worried about their health as self-serving troublemakers. Justine Henin, the 2004 gold medalist in tennis and the world's top-ranked women's player, may avoid Beijing because of air-quality concerns.

Could Beijing medals come with an asterisk because some of the best athletes weren't there? It's a humiliating prospect for officials who see the games as a coming-out party.

Beijing 2008 is supposed to be China's full arrival on the international scene, according it new levels of respect and nuance. Imagine the disappointment if headlines focus on designer facemasks and competitors wheezing toward finish lines. Or if they draw attention to how many athletes will be staying in Japan and South Korea, not Beijing.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi thinks it's much ado about nothing. "Most athletes who are coming to Beijing are satisfied and have confidence in the air quality, environment and sports facilities in Beijing," Yang said last week. "They have full confidence in these conditions."
Environmental nightmare

Presumably, Yang hasn't noticed that International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is open to rescheduling endurance events to protect athletes from poor air quality. More than Sudan, Tibet or Taiwan, pollution may be a public-relations nightmare for China.

What's more, environmental degradation is becoming China's biggest long-term economic challenge. It's not clear China's leaders understand that the needs to grow rapidly and reduce pollution are in direct conflict.

Premier Wen Jiabao did say recently that China "must increase our sense of urgency and intensify efforts to make great progress" on the environment. The government, he said, will redouble efforts to close high-pollution factories and clean up major river basins.

Last month, China launched its first national survey of pollution sources. It also has elevated the State Environmental Protection Administration to a full ministry. While that's all well and good, it's not the giant step forward advertised.
Growth favors

The new ministry won't control regional and grass-roots anti-pollution watchdog agencies. That will leave them under the direction of local leaders who focus solely on rapid economic growth to win favor in Beijing. It's not a mere bureaucratic detail.

China is getting impatient with activists linking politics to the Olympics. Spielberg's resignation as an artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies made headlines. Actor George Clooney is urging Omega Watches, an Olympic sponsor that he promotes, to speak out on China's Sudan policies.

Icelandic singer Bjork probably generated the most news of her career in Beijing recently by calling for Tibetan independence. The free-Tibet movement sees the Olympics as an ideal news peg.

Admittedly, what a couple of celebrities say won't matter much to a nation governing 1.3 billion people. One could argue famous Americans should direct their ire at U.S. abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
Sudan genocide

Yet China's support for Sudan's genocidal regime is hard to defend. China likes to keep its foreign and economic policies separate. It needs Sudan's oil and argues it has every right to be its biggest trading partner. China also is a key enabler of Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir, protecting him at the United Nations.

Chinese sales of assault rifles and other small arms to Sudan have grown rapidly, nonprofit group Human Rights First said last week. It said China sold Sudan $55 million of small arms from 2003 to 2006 and provided it with 90 percent of such weaponry since 2004, when a UN arms embargo began.

Outrage over China's African adventure is dominating Olympics coverage overseas. Just like the Eliot Spitzer scandal has caused a distraction in the U.S., the Darfur issue is sucking the air out of the good-news stories China wants to promote.

That is, when the story isn't about Beijing's air. When you think of forces that could derail China's 11 percent growth, pollution is a big, albeit underappreciated, one.
Right to breathe

Nothing captures the tension between China's boom and the need to maintain social stability as much as the environment. If you think the fastest Chinese inflation rates in 11 years are troubling now, just wait until factories used to polluting with abandon are reined in and have to raise prices.

Ask Chinese officials about pollution risks and many will say you are exaggerating. Yet how is that so when the World Bank says China is home to 16 of the world's 20 most-polluted cities? Or that, according to human-rights groups, 750,000 people in China die each year from illnesses related to foul air?

Human-rights campaigners tend to focus on China's treatment of dissidents and censoring of the Internet. Soon enough, the biggest problem for China's population might be the right to breathe.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tusker Set for Cecafa Tourney

Eleven teams have confirmed participation in this year's Confederation of East and Central Africa Football Association (Cecafa) Club Championships, in Dar-es- salaam ,Tanzania, between July 12 and 26.

Cecafa secretary, Nicholas Musonye,said only Ethiopia and Sudan had not confirmed whether they will take part in the two-week tournament.

" Ethiopia and Sudan who are delaying pooling of teams. We are waiting for official communication from them," said Musonye.

Tusker FC, who were recently barred from continental championships due to a debt the Kenya Football Federation (KFF) owed the Confederation of African Football (CAF), now have a chance to showcase their supremacy in the regional competition.

However, taking the trophy from APR of Rwanda would be no easy task, given that Tusker suffered off-pitch distraction due to recent post- election violence.

Musonye said this year's championships would be the most competitive in the history of the championships. "We have witnessed the positive changes in the region's football in sponsorships and football development projects. We wish to see the effect of these on our football," he said.

He added that, all clubs would want to impress because the world had taken keen interest in East African football.

Musonye hinted that Dar-es- salaam's main stadium, currently under construction, is the most likely venue for the games.

"Construction work at the stadium is almost complete. We are very positive everything will be ready before July," said Musonye.

The secretary is optimistic that the championships will be the biggest club competition in the region, as no serious football tournament has been played in the recent past.

"Since the curtain fell on the Africa Cup of Nations, football fans in the region have been waiting for the Cecafa Championships," he added.

As the host nation, Tanzania will enjoy an advantage of fielding two teams and will be represented by Yanga and Simba football clubs.

Defending champions, APR of Rwanda, will represent Rwanda ,while Burundi will send Pitaloo FC to the championship. Other teams, which have confirmed participation, are Miembeni FC of Zanzibar and Ten-Ten FC from Eritrea.

Rwanda: Rayon is Airborne

Rayon Sport departs for Sudan this afternoon for their CAF Confederation Cup second round, first leg tie against Al Merreikh scheduled for Friday in Khartoum.

The 23-man squad that comprises 18 players and five officials leaves Kigali International Airport aboard a Kenya Airways flight.

Speaking to Times Sport yesterday, head coach, Raoul Shungu sounded buoyantly about his teams chances of posting a good result in the first leg against last year's losing finalists.

"Morale in the camp is high and everyone is determined to get something out of the first leg," Shungu whose plans for the game have been boosted by the return of play-maker Kalisa Kase, stated.

The Rwandan international is traveling with the team to Sudan after missing the first round clash against Ethiopia's Harar Beer as he out of the country.

A good result for Rayon in Khartoum, which could be a win or a draw, will increase their chances of reaching the group stages ahead of the return leg in Kigali on the weekend of April 4-6.

Rayon's last continental show came in 2006 when the club was ejected in the second round by Egypt's Al Ittihad Al-Iskandary 3-1 on aggregate. The Blues had earlier seen off Ethiopia's Awassa City 4-0 on goals aggregate.

Last year, Rayon sports missed out after finishing third in the Primus national football league giving chance to Atraco to make their maiden appearance in the continental championship.

Meanwhile, Al Merreikh have strengthened their squad with new players ahead of the clash with Rayon.

The new players include; Nigerian midfielder Obinna Ako, Iraqi international duo of Saad Atia (defender) and Alaa Abd Al Zahra and Brazilian play maker Roberto Paulinho.

Sudan's cup winners have up to 12 players from their national side took part in the CAN Ghana finals early this year. They include; Mohammed Kamal, Mohammed Ali , Musa Zuma, Badr Aldin Galag, Faisal Al Agab(c), Haytham Tambal, Alaa Al Din Babiker, Jimmy Nataly , Amir Damar, Abd Al Hamid Amara (top scorer of last year's Cecafa Cup in Tanzania)

Reports reaching our desk indicate that the Khartoum club is worried of Rayon potent strike force of Labama Bokota, Jimmy Gatete and Jean Lomami who featured for them during the 2004/05 season.

Nasir Mohammed, a reporter with Khartoum's Al Sahha daily sports newspaper told Times Sport in a chart from the Sudanese capital that Al Merreikh coach Kroger has tirelessly spent time working with defenders on how they can cope with the trio.

Shungu had not yet named his traveling 18 players by press time however, club Secretary General; Farouk Nduwumwe hinted that Kase and Jamal Mwiseneza are among the traveling party and our sources inside the club gave us the tentative list below.

GOALKEEPERS:L. Webo, V. Niyonkuru.

DEFENDERS:O. Uwingabire, M.Yossam, B. Hategikimana, A. Rucogoza, S. Okello, P. Gasana,

MIDFIELDERS:A. Hategikimana, A. Nyumbayire, K. Kase, J. Mwiseneza, J. Kidega, C. Pizzorella

STRIKERS:J. Gatete, L. Bokota, R. Tuyisenge and J. Lomami.

OFFICIALS: Shungu (head coach, Thierry Hitimana (assistant coach), S. Habiyakare, Patrick Itagishaka and Bernard Itagishaka (head of delegation)

Confederation Cup first leg


Al Merreikh v Rayon

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Saint George closing the gap on

Crushing Addis Ababa Police 4-0 in mid week Saint George is just two points behind the league's leader Mugher Cement despite having six matches at hand. Full time domination over Police, the country's number one soccer club Saint George appears too strong compared with any one of the league sides. Saints are now fourth on the premier league table with 27 points from eleven matches. Saint George entertains knock out cup holders Harar Brewery today.

In the mean time arguably the side with the biggest fans Ethiopian Coffee FC could not manage to run away from relegation threatened zone. After a disappointing 1-1 draw on Wednesday against Ethiopian Water Works FC, the fans are left with no choice except speculating the fate of their beloved side for the coming year.

One of the capital city's strong side Electric is now progressing high with no defeat in the past four matches. Though a slow start in the season, the side's current form is second only to Saint George, the club with the best of taints in the country. The mid week 3-1 away win over Fasil Kenema FC helped Electric to claim sixth place on the table with 21 points out of eleven matches. The week end's biggest clash Ethiopian Coffee Vs Electric took place yester day at Addis Ababa stadium.

Mugher Cement FC still on top of the league table with 29 points out of 17 matches, defending champion Awasa Kenema has already shouldered in to top spot with equal points but a goal difference. Awasa has 29 points from 17 matches that means four matches in hand than the leaders.

Trans Ethiopia comes third with 28 points from 17 matches while new comer to the league Southern Police stands fifth with 24 points from 16 matches followed by Defense Force with 21 points out of 10 matches.

Methara Sugar FC is the other side to harvest goals in mid week after the 5-0 home victory over visitors Baher Dar University. The result helped Methara to revive in the league table after long stay in lower table. Southern Police is so far the season's surprise package for its consistent form unlike the other new comers.

To day Nyala encounters city rival Agricultural Marketing, Insurance entertain Tikur Abay with the days biggest Addis Ababa fixture Saints against Brewery. Saints Saladin Said still leading the top scorer table with nine goals.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ebuya, Linet Masai lead Kenya to Edinburgh

World cross country defending champions Kenya today named a strong team of 27 athletes to the 36th edition of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland. Over half of the team members are new faces in a squad that boasts of experience and enthusiasm.

Ebuya, Ng’atuny headline 12km

Winner of the Kenya national cross country Gideon Ng’atuny, who finished fourth in Mombasa last year and Joseph Ebuya will be leading the Kenyan onslaught for the elusive 12km title that was last won by Kenyans in 1999.

Ng’atuny, a Masai word for lion, has promised to combine efforts with team captain Mark Kiptoo and cause a major ambush to the title holder and pretenders to the title. They will be beefed up by Hosea Macharinyang and Augustine Choge.

Momany, Masai on “mission possible”

With the field wide open after Lornah Kiplagat opted out of the cross country, the Kenya senior women squad comprise of graduates who run away with the junior title in Mombasa.

But with the category attracting the best runners, Kenyans know only too well the expectations here are high. Assistant team captain Gladys Momany will headline the Kenyan chase alongside junior women cross country winner Linet Masai.

Priscah Jepleting brings with her the much needed experience that may prove beneficial as Kenyans seek to reclaim this title.

New faces in the junior men, women

Only two athletes who were in Mombasa last year - Mercy Kosgei and Mathew Kisorio - have retained their places in the team of ten junior runners.

Kisorio, the bronze medallist returns to the junior cross country to better his chances of winning the junior title after promising to fellow compatriot Asbel Kiprop, who will not be running in Scotland, that his title will remain in “familiar territory”.

Full Kenyan squad to Edinburgh 2008

12km men
Gideon N’gatuny
Mark Kiptoo
Hosea Macharinyang’
Joseph Ebuya
Bernard Kiprop Kipyego
Leonard Komon
Moses Masai
Augustine Choge
John Kimondo Thuo

Senior 8km women
Grace Momanyi
Linet Masai
Doris Changeiwo
Linet Chepkurui
Margaret Wangare
Prisca Jepleting

Junior 8km men
Levy Matebo
Mathew Kisorio
Charles Chebet
Lucas Rotich
Titus Mbishei
Peter Some

Junior 6 km women
Christine Kambua Mayanga
Chebet Cheptai
Delvin Meringor
Dorcas Jepchirchir
Mercy Kosgei
Jackline Chebii


Peter Angwenyi (Team manager)
Bab Mureithi (assistant TM)
Julius Kirwa (head coach)
David Leting (coach)
John Mwithiga (coach)
Peter Ndihiu (physio)
Fred kiplagt (physio)
Wanini waireri (Chaperon)

Saddique Shaban, Kenya Television Network- KTN- for the IAAF

Redemption or Retention – Tadese and Bekele prepare to do battle – Edinburgh 2008

Monte-Carlo – On paper it would seem an unusual head-to-head clash on which to promote a championship. Coming into the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Edinburgh, Scotland (30 March), Eritrean Zersenay Tadese has won just won one of the eleven global championship battles he has had with Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele during his career.

However, to think that would be to forget the momentous events which occurred last year in the senior men’s race at the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Kenya, where not only did Tadese, the World Road Running champion, win the gold but his chief opponent, Bekele, the reigning five-times long course race titleholder, could not even finish.

Bekele, as three-time World 10,000m champion and 2004 Olympic gold medallist is arguably one of the greatest ever track runners but at cross country with ten individual senior race gold medals (he also won titles 2002-2006 at the now Discontinued short race distance) and one junior crown he is definitively the greatest ever Cross Country runner.

Therefore Tadese’s defeat of Bekele last year in Mombasa was of seismic proportions in the world of distance running. The invincible five-times double champion had been slain, his run of victories halted in the spiritual heartland of the discipline, Kenya.

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Ethiopia's Gebreselassie won't run in Beijing Olympic marathon

MADRID (AFP) — World record holder Haile Gebreselassie has confirmed in an interview that he will not run in the Beijing Olympics marathon due to the climatic conditions in the Chinese capital.

"I have no intention of committing suicide in Beijing," the Ethiopian, who suffers from asthma, told the Spanish daily, El Pais. "I know that several other athletes are starting to have doubts about this."

"It's purely a personal decision that I have taken to protect my health. I do not want to endanger my future. I do not want to kill myself in Beijing.

"The marathon will be impossible because of the pollution, heat and humidity," he added before confirming that he intended instead to focus instead on the 10,000 metres

"I want to be an Olympic champion once again and also to compete in Beijing. That's why I have been trying to find a solution and that would be to once again compete in the 10,000 metres as I did at Atlanta, Sydney and Athens."

To do so, however, he will first have to secure his qualification as one of the three Ethiopian runners eligible to run in Beijing.

Bekele and Dibaba named in strong Ethiopia squad

Kenya’s biggest athletics rivals, Ethiopia, have named a strong team to the World Cross Country championships, to be held in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 30.Five-time double world cross country champion, Kenenisa Bekele, and two-time female long course champion, Tirunesh Dibaba, will lead Ethiopia’s team.

Bekele and Dibaba, however, are not the only strong favourites in this team hoping to heal the wounds of a disastrous outing last year in Mombasa, where the country was reduced to two individual medals and a single team title, its worst showing in its 27-year competition history.

The peak of the selections is the return of Bekele to the world cross country a year after he dropped out at the end of the fourth lap in Mombasa. Although initially doubting whether he would ever return to the form that has seen him win five back-to-back short and long course titles, the 25-year-old returned to his old all-conquering self to win a third world 10,000m title in Osaka.

Bekele will be joined in Edinburgh by double world 10,000m silver medallist Sileshi Sihine, who has recovered from the injury that saw him drop out of an indoor 3000m in Stuttgart earlier this month.

Bekele’s biggest challenge is expected to come from Abebe Dinkessa, who looked impressive when winning the trials a month ago, while Gebregziabher Gebremariam’s presence will add experience to the star-studded line-up.

Former World cross country double champion Tirunesh Dibaba makes a protracted return to competition and will have every reason to regain her title in a venue that has not always proven kind to her.

Monday, March 17, 2008

IOC harbors doubts over Beijing conditions

BEIJING, China -- The International Olympic Committtee (IOC) has given a tentative thumbs up after studying the results of an independent inquiry into air quality for the Beijing Games, but admitted that there are still risks to athletes in the outdoor endurance events.

Concerns over pollution in the Chinese capital were again highlighted last week when Ethiopia's long distance running star Haile Gebrselassie, an asthma sufferer, told reporters he would skip the marathon for fears his health would be damaged.

IOC President Jacques Rogge has repeatedly said that events would be postponed if the air quality is poor, which would be a huge embarrassment for organizers hoping to feature a clean, modern city.

But Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the International Olympic Committee's Medical Commission, said on Monday that an analysis by four independent experts of data supplied by Beijing organizers found heat and humidity might be a greater threat to athletes than the city's noxious air.

"In general terms I must say that I am sort of pleased really with the outcome of this analysis," Ljungqvist said, speaking to Associated Press on a conference call from Sweden.

"We find that the competitions, although not necessarily under ideal conditions at every moment ... will be good for athletes to compete during the Beijing Games."

Ljungqvist said the data were gathered on August 8-29 2007 in Beijing, dates that roughly match this year's Olympics -- and were supplied after the IOC requested the study.

However, the IOC's commission conceded there will be some risk to competitors in endurance events "that include minimum one hour continuous physical efforts at high level - urban road cycling, mountain bike, marathon, marathon swimming, triathlon and road walk".

And the risk is deemed high enough for the IOC to begin working on "procedures which will allow a 'plan B' to be activated for such events if necessary".

Ljungqvist said the decision to postpone any event would be made by the IOC executive board and IOC coordinating commission.

Gebrselassie expects more athletes to follow his lead and drop out of some events at the Olympics because of Beijing's notorious air pollution.

The two-time Olympic 10,000-meter champion said Monday he was disappointed about not competing in the marathon but that there was no way he would reconsider running the race at the Games.

"My decision not to run in Beijing is definite. Now I have to decide whether to run the 10,000 meters," Gebrselassie told Efe news agency. "I was in the city in August and I know what the extreme conditions of pollution, heat and humidity are. It's going to be the hardest marathon in history."

Justine Henin has already said she won't defend her tennis gold medal. The four-time French Open champion blamed the pollution for aggravating her asthma.

Some long-distance runners could wear face masks to counter the problem.

The 34-year-old Gebrselassie, who holds the world marathon record of 2 hours, 4 minutes, 26 seconds, sees the 10,000 as a viable option.

"The 10,000 presents a lot less problems. It's four times shorter, it's being run in the afternoon, it'll be less hot with less humidity," the Ethiopian said.

Gebrselassie also expressed his desire to end his career with a gold medal at the 2012 London Games, though he didn't expect the world record to drop under two hours by then.

"It'll be hard to get under two hours in the next 20 years," he said.

No youth team with tourney only 3 weeks away


THE KENYA FOOTBALL FEDERATION is shopping around for a model to adopt for its yet to be established youth development programme.

According to newly appointed KFF technical director Patrick Naggi, part of the programme will be to initiate a youth league countrywide and also direct premier league clubs to set up under-20 squads that will form part of the youth competition.

“We realise that we are lagging behind even in East Africa. Uganda and Tanzania have made great strides in soccer development but we have been slow in coming up with youth development strategies,” said Naggi.

KFF is already looking at models from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and West Africa to see how a viable development programme can be set up to identify and nurture young soccer talent in the country. The federation is also looking at youth models in Europe, notably the Netherlands.

“It is because of our tardiness that you now see Tanzania, Uganda and Sudan overtaking us in the Fifa rankings and Eritrea and Ethiopia making great strides,” Naggi said.

He gave the example of Rwanda, which did not have a national team at the end of the 1994 genocide but are now ahead of Kenya.

“They are even going to host the Africa Youth Championships next year,” added Naggi.

As part of the wider plan to develop youth talent, the country has entered the qualifiers for the Africa Under-17 and Under-20 championships, which begin next month.

In the Under-17 tournament, whose finals will be held in Algeria, Kenya will play Rwanda in the qualifiers with the winner playing Sudan in the second round.

THIS MATCH GIVES US AN OPPORtunity to test our capacity against nations that have taken youth development seriously. We will be forced to assemble a ragtag team because we do not have a programme as yet,” said Naggi.

The match is three weeks away, but Kenya is yet to identify players for the game, nor are plans for a training camp in place. Still, Naggi is optimistic Kenya will put up a show in the qualifiers.

“We hope to be ready in time for the matches, but we are also handicapped by the fact that potential players are still in school. We have to wait until the Easter holidays begin to assemble a team,” said Naggi.

In the Under-20, Kenya will face Somalia in the first-round qualifiers of the championships whose finals are to be staged in Kigali.

Naggi says KFF will be forced to use a database left behind by a Qatar-based youth academy — Aspire — which conducted a two-month selection programme to pick three Kenyan players for scholarships to the academy. Over 5,000 boys enrolled for the selection programme, which ended last month in Nairobi.

Haile Gebrselassie wins Lisbon Half Marathon

(IAAF) Lisbon, Portugal - Haile Gebrselassie dominated the EDP Lisbon Half Marathon from the start and made a solitary race after the 10th kilometre en route to his victory in 59:15 In the women’s field the race had a emotional finish with Kenyan Salina Kosgei achieving her third victory in Lisbon.

Near the 5 km race (in an official time of 14:00 min) Haile, with the Kenyans Charles Kamathi and Robert Cheuiyot, took the lead from a small group, but from the 10th kilometre, the Ethiopian ran alone, without “rabbits”, and so, the split times where below the requirements for an attack on the World record. With 27:59 (10 km) and 42:03 (15 km), Gebrselassie struggled for the mark, and along with it, a 50,000 euros bonus.

Haile said: "I tried to push myself for a better performance but I couldn’t do better. It’s a little bit hot, I’m feeling well, but I couldn’t achieve my goal. It’s no excuse, but I’m a litlle bit worried about my father’s health. I’m in good shape and I can’t tell why I couldn’t run faster.”

Behind him, the battle for second place was very tough, with Cheruiyot (six times on the podium in Lisbon without a victory) passing his compatriot Kamathi in the final metres.

Surprising with a fourth place showing was Samuel Karanja (1:01:52), ahead of the first Portuguese runner, Eduardo Henriques (1:02.08), who will turn 40 next week and who is preparing to compete at the upcoming IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, a few weeks after taking the Portuguese title.

Among the top ten runners, Portugal saw four runners, a strong position for them, ahead of well-known runners as Jaouad Gharib (10th), Nixon Kiprono (9th), and others.

Third victory for Kosgei

If, in the men’s race, Gebrselassie grabbed the lead and dominated the race, among the women, the title was in “game” during the entire race. All the favourites ran together, respecting each other’s form, and only in the last metres was everything solved with Salina Kosgei achieving her third title, after the wins in 2005 and 2006.

In the final “sprint”, Kosgei gained two seconds on her countrywomen Pamela Chepchumba, the 2007 World Road Running Championships bronze medalist, and to Souad Aït Salem, the 2004 World Half Marathon champion, who both finished with the same time of 1:09:59.

Off the podium, but very close, were the Ethiopians Berhane Adere and Tigist Tufa, who had impressed with a personal best, and Atsede Habtamu who finished sixth, under 1:11, as did Briton Jo Pavey, who was seventh in 1:10.39, also a personal best.

Among the Portuguese, Inês Monteiro was the best, in 11st place, with 01:12:33.

All performances of the elite athletes can be considered because the entire course was flat and measured in accordance with IAAF rules. The conditions were a little bit on the hot side, without wind.

António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF

Leading Results -
1. Haile Gebrselassie ETH 59.15
2. Charle Kamathi KEN 1:00.45
3. Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot KEN 1:00.50
4. Samuel Karanja KEN 1:00.52
5. Eduardo Henriques POR 1:02.10
6. Manuel Damião POR 1:03.07
7. Paulo Gomes POR 1:03.20
8. Hermano Ferreira POR 1:03.22

1. Salina Kosgei KEN 1:09.57
2. Pamela Chepchumba KEN 1:09.59
3. Souad Aït Salem ARG 1:09.59
4. Berhane Adere ETH 1:10.01
5. Tigist Tufa ETH 1:10.03
6. Atsede Habtamu ETH 1:10.15
7. Jo Pavey GBR 1:10.39
8. Madai Perez MEX 1:11.02

John Barnes in Ethiopia

A CLOUD of dust bursts into the air as John Barnes’s fancy footwork produces a round of applause from a crowd of onlookers.

The 44-year-old Strictly Come Dancing star is no longer rehearsing Latin moves in a studio or wowing TV audiences with his ballroom best.

Instead the Liverpool legend is working on a humanitarian mission to improve football facilities in Africa and his new audience is a group of Ethiopian children.

John, a dad-of-six, says: “I was told about a campaign called Score Ethiopia.

“It aims to help promote football in the poorest countries and build better facilities, as well as getting water to the communities and giving local people training and start-up loans to get better jobs.

“I wanted a new project to get my teeth into after the dancing and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time.”

John travelled to Lalibela, a historic town in the north of Ethiopia to launch a fundraising campaign for a new football stadium, complete with goal posts, corner flags, kits, clean water facilities and a seating arena.

Lalibela is famous for rock-hewn churches dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries but despite a steady stream of tourism, it remains desperately poor with many people surviving on just £1 a week.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ethiopia orders athlete to run

News Services
Published: Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ethiopia has ordered its world champion marathon runner to compete in this summer's Olympics in China.

Haile Gebrselassie, who suffers from exercise-related asthma, announced that he will not run the 42.195-kilometer race because the air pollution in Beijing is a possible threat to his health.

IOC president Jacques Rogge has said the long-distance events at the Games could be rescheduled if conditions are too bad. A BBC report quoted Gebrselassie as saying he would consider running the marathon if the venue were changed.
Now his country's sports federation says he can't opt out of the marathon and must follow Ethiopian sports rules.

"It is not up to Haile Gebrselassie to decide on participation in the marathon event in Beijing," said Ethiopian sports technical director Dube Jillo.

"It is the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, representing the nation, that determines whether Haile is fit to compete in the marathon event in Beijing's Olympics or not."

Doctors and officials will decide whether Gebrselassie is fit to compete, Dube said.



CARDIFF -- Wales produced a display of tenacious defence to beat France

29-12 Saturday to claim their second Six Nations Grand Slam in four years.

The Welsh completed their remarkable transformation from a team that crashed out of last year's World Cup in the group stages to conceding only two tries and finishing unbeaten after five games of European rugby's showcase tournament.



LAS VEGAS -- Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines defeated Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez by split decision Saturday to win the WBC super featherweight championship.

The scores were 114-112 and 114-113 for Pacquiao, while one judge gave it 115-112 for Marquez.

On another note, former world champions Zab Judah and Shane Mosley, both trying to bounce back from title-bout losses to unbeaten world champion Miguel Cotto, will meet May 31 in a welterweight showdown.



LOS ANGELES -- UCLA won the Pac-10 men's basketball title Saturday, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The tournament field will be selected today (3 p.m., The Score) for the Final Four, April 5, 7 in San Antonio.

Ethiopian women best bets to win

By Jennifer Lade
Standard-Times staff writer
March 16, 2008 6:00 AM

After becoming accustomed to training in warm, dry conditions, the cold and the wind could be the only thing slowing down Meseret Kotu and Abeba Tola, two elite female athletes from Ethiopia who are likely contenders for winning the New Bedford Half Marathon.

Neither has been in the country long; Tola arrived in January in time to win the 2008 Bermuda marathon in 2:51:34. She placed third in the 2007 Los Angeles marathon, running a 2:45:16.
Kotu arrived just a few weeks ago to compete in New Bedford and is setting her sights on possibly running in the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 miler in Washington, D.C. or the Atlanta Marathon before returning to Ethiopia, hopefully with money to show for it. A few thousand dollars is a hefty sum in Ethiopia, which can be used to buy a farm or other property and affords them a better lifestyle.

Kotu sat down at the 99 Restaurant on Faunce Corner Road with several other elite Ethiopian runners, although Tola was out running and did not come. Catering to the runners' pre-race needs, the restaurant provided family-style food platters of pasta, rice and steak tips to the runners, who spoke in a mix of English and Amharic, their native language. Kitchen manager Luis Gomez also brought out a plate of Buffalo chicken, which some of the runners had never tasted. It was promptly devoured.

The runners — Kotu, Tola, probable frontrunner Demesse Tefera, Firehiwat Tesfaye and Derese Deniboba — are all managed by Alem Kahsay, an Ethiopian runner with connections to the Westchester, NY track club.

It was in the 1960s when Abebe Bekela launched Ethiopia onto the world running scene, Kahsay said. Bekela won the 1960 Olympic marathon in Rome while running barefoot, then won in Tokyo in 1964 with shoes. Women's running in the country has had a slower start, but has taken off in the past 10 years, Kahsay said.

For women, competitive running generally starts in their late teen years, though an active running culture has usually prepared children for the rigors of the sport from a young age.

Especially in rural areas, running is a way of life and a primary source of transportation.

"Most of the athletes in Ethiopia come from the countryside," Kahsay said.

Kotu started the sport in earnest in high school and began competing seriously at the age of 20. Now 26, she can boast a marathon personal best of around 2:30. She ran in the politically-charged Lahore marathon in Pakistan in January 2006, when Muslim extremists, opposed to men and women mingling publicly, posed a possible danger to runners. She said she wasn't scared.

"Our culture is not that way," she said. Her country has a mix of Christians, Muslims and other religions.

The cold could be the biggest problem for Kotu, who has not yet adapted to the temperature change. She wore a red winter hat in the restaurant to keep warm.

She said the cold is frustrating, but "there's nothing I can do."

Contact Jennifer Lade at

Saturday, March 15, 2008

New course, new bonus and amazing fields for EDP Lisbon Half Marathon - PREVIEW

Lisbon – The EDP Lisbon Half Marathon, one of the IAAF Gold Label Road Races of 2008, will face important changes when the 18th edition will be held this Sunday.

To give the athletes the opportunity perform well and achieve world class times, the organization provided a change in the start of the race. The elite athletes will therefore start from the north side of the Tagus River, at sea level, which makes the course totally flat.

As in previous years, the mass race of almost 30,000 runners will start from the south side, crossing the river by April Bridge and then join the rest of the course of elite runners at the end of the bridge.

The race, who counts 23 performances under the one hour time, also improved the motivation of elite runners offering a prize of 50,000 euros for breaking the World Half-Marathon record.

And in order to attain the highest standards, the organization has put together a very strong field led by his majesty “king” Haile Gebrselassie. The Ethiopian, World Marathon record holder (2.04.26), who ran (and won) this year’s Dubai Marathon (2.04.53), has a personal best of 58:55 at Half Marathon and is able to run close to his best time in Lisbon.

To strengthen the field race organizers can count on Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (Half Marathon personal best of 59.21), who won the 2007 Chicago and Boston Marathons. An experienced athlete in Lisbon, Cheruiyot was five times on the podium, 2nd in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and 3rd in 2003 and 2004, but he never did win the race!

Moroccan Jaouad Gharib (pb: 59.56), the World Marathon champion in 2003 and 2005, 3rd in last year EDP Lisbon Half Marathon is also likely to be a tough challenger.

The African challenge will be completed by Kenyans Luke Kibet (pb: 60.43), Osaka’s World marathon champion; Charles Kamathi (pb: 60.22), the 2001 World 10,000 m champion; William Kiplagat (59.50), winner of 2005 Seoul marathon; Jonathan Maiyo (60.10), first in last year Breda half marathon; Silas Sang (60.20), first in 2007 Seville and Torremolinos half-marathons; and the Tanzanian Fabiano Joseph (59.56), 2005 world Half Marathon champion (silver medallist in 2003 and 2004).

Salina Kosgei back to winning ways?

In the women’s event the front lead is Salina Kosgei (personal best in half-marathon: 67.52). The Kenyan returns to Lisbon trying to repeat her victories from 2005 and 2006, something she couldn’t achieve last year when she was third.

This year she will face American Deena Kastor (67.34), the Athens Olympic Games Marathon bronze medallist, and Ethiopian Berhane Adere (67.32), the winner of this year’s Dubai Marathon (and winner of Boston marathon in 2006 and 2007).

But there are other strong athletes like Pamela Chepchumba (68.06), last year’s World Half-Marathon Championships bronze medallist, winner in Lisbon in 2006; Margaret Okayo (67.23), winner of New York and Milan Marathons in 2003; the Ethiopian Magarsa Askale (75.55), winner of the 2002 Paris and Dubai Marathons and the American Kate O’Neill (71.47), USA half marathon champion.

Portuguese runners

In the Portuguese pack, a special mention goes to Eduardo Henriques (61.41), the winner of last year’s European Clubs Cup Road Race, and this year’s Portuguese cross country champion, at the age of 39 (40 on 24 March), who will face other Portuguese great athletes such as Luís Jesus (60.56), Paulo Guerra (61.53), or Luis Feiteira (63.55), in men field, and Fernanda Ribeiro (68.23), the European, World and Olympic 10,000m champion.

António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bekele and Dibaba lead Ethiopia’s strong team of 27 for Edinburgh

Five-time double World cross country champion Kenenisa Bekele and two-time female long course champion Tirunesh Dibaba will lead Ethiopia’s strong team for the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland (30 March 2008).

But Bekele and Dibaba are not the only strong favourites in this team hoping to heal the wounds of a disastrous outing last year in Mombasa where the country was reduced to two individual medals and a single team title, its worst showing in its twenty-seven-year competition history.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tadese is the biggest ‘pin-up’ for Edinburgh school kids

Edinburgh, Scotland - Tomorrow at 11.30hrs GMT, at the Omni leisure complex on Edinburgh’s Greenside Place, the latest promotion for the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships (30 March) will take place.

Zersenay Tadese, the 2007 IAAF World Cross Country champion who has a national standing in Eritrea in excess of David Beckham’s in the UK, will be unveiled as the 12m high centrepiece of the 68m x 18m promotional advert, which sits above one of Europe’s busiest roundabouts, in a powerful, bright and high impact visual.

Students from Erskine Stewarts Melville Junior School in Edinburgh, who will be carrying the national team name plates in the Opening Ceremony, will be on hand to represent the Championships Adopt-a-Nation project, reflecting the youth orientation for the event. They will be joined by a contingent of Eritrean ‘Superfans’ from around Scotland.

The Eritreans are the loudest, most colourful and enthusiastic fans in world athletics and are expected to bring more than 400 ex-pat supporters to Edinburgh to see Tadese defend his crown.

Gordon Hood, Scottishathletics and Local Organising Committee Marketing Manager said: “He’s (Tadese) always been big in Eritrea but at the Omni Centre he is humungous.”

Tadese, the Olympic bronze medallist at 10,000m, is also the reigning double World Road Running champion. In 2006, he became first Eritrean to win a global title in any major sport, when he won he took his first World Road Running title in Debrecen, Hungary.

Hengelo path to Beijing for Gebrselasssie – IAAF World Athletics Tour

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – World marathon record holder and two-time Olympic and four-time World 10,000m champion Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia today (12) announced that he intends to compete in the 2008 FBK Thales Games - IAAF World Athletics Tour - in Hengelo, the Netherlands on 24 May in his bid to make Ethiopia’s 10,000m team for the Beijing Olympics in China.

The FBK Thales Games is an IAAF Grand Prix status meeting as part of the 2008 IAAF World Athletics Tour.

The 34-year-old, who on Monday announced that he will step down from the road distance to return to the track over the 10,000m, will face a strong challenge to earn one of three qualification spots on his country’s Olympic team.

“I would not have made the decision if I was not confident of my ability… I am going to compete in Beijing,” confirmed Gebrselassie who has recently increased his track preparations to his road regimen.

In addition to reigning Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele and silver medallist Sileshi Sihine, Gebrselassie will be facing a battle against a host of up and coming young runners including All-African Games 10,000m silver medallist Tadesse Tola and Abebe Dinkessa, a runner with a 10,000m personal best of 26:30.

Unlike his early track days, Gebrselassie has no record plans in Hengelo, but says he has ambitions for a fast time. “I want to run as fast as possible. I want to compete in Beijing. That is very important to me.”

Gebrselassie’s manager Jos Hermens reiterated the reasons for Haile opting for the 10,000m in Beijing rather than the marathon:

“The decision was taken due to a combination of factors including heat and humidity. With the exception of Sydney 2000 there has not been an Olympic Games since Moscow 1980 when conditions have not been extreme for distance runners.”

“Look at the medallists from all those Games and you’ll see maost never came back again to their top level.”

“Haile has two goals. He wants to be Olympic marathon champion but he also wants to be the first man to run 2hrs and 3 minutes for the distance, and if he ran the marathon in Beijing he might never come back to the same level like so many other runners from past Games.”

"Carlos Lopes was 37 when he won the Olympic title, so why couldn’t Haile realistically also be able to win in London when he will have just turned 39,” concluded Hermens.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

‘NEW EFF’ snubs FIFA’s decision

Addis Ababa (JT) The newly appointed Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) committee rejected FIFA’s decision to place the former EFF body back to its position.

The former EFF, led by Dr Asheber W/Giorgis, was expelled by the general assembly of EFF last February. However, disagreeing with this decision, Dr Asheber took the case to FIFA. Dr Asheber labeled the general assembly ‘illegal’.

FIFA invited both parties to Zurich, and heard the respective reports; where FIFA found a serious government intervention in the process.

FIFA finally decided that it doesn’t recognize ‘the so called EFF general assembly’ and ordered the immediate placement of EFF body lead by Dr Asheber W/Giorgis. On the other hand, rejecting FIFA’S decision ‘the new EFF’ warned Dr Asheber and three other former EFF members not to involve in any activities in the name of EFF. New EFF said that it will appeal to the superior court if FIFA doesn’t revert its decision.

The international governing body of soccer, FIFA, strictly prohibits any government’s intervention in soccer affairs. The alleged Ethiopian government intervention in the soccer will lead to ban from international soccer competition if the new EFF body won’t quit.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Kenya plays second fiddle to Ethiopia

The fitness levels of Kenyan athletes came into sharp focus during the IAAF World Indoor Championships that ended on Sunday in Valencia, Spain.

Elijah Muturi on his way to victory during the Nyahururu 15km road race at the weekend. The race was sponsored by Post Bank. Samwel Mwangi and Gordon Mugi finished second and third. Photo/JOSEPH KANYI
Kenya, former giants in athletics, finished 18th with a paltry two medals, both of them silver.

Ethiopian runners dominated the African medal haul with three gold medals as Kenyans failed to offer any real challenge to their northern neighbours, who seem to be growing from strength to strength in middle and long distance races.

Other African countries with gold medals included South Africa and Nigeria, with Sudan also coming into the picture and grabbing the men’s 800 metres gold.

Ethiopia position

Kenya team captain Paul Kipsiele Koech and Daniel Kipchirchir Komen lost out to stronger Ethiopian rivals.

Ethiopia finished third overall behind United States of America and Russia.

Koech, the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist, was beaten to the finish line by Tereku Bekele of Ethiopia, a younger brother of long distance legend, Kenenisa Bekele.

Kenenisa skipped the Venice championships to prepare for the World Cross Country Championships that will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 30.

Tariku won the race in 7:48.23 with Koech finishing a distant second in 7:49.05.

“I’m happy because I won a medal,” said Koech. “I expected to at least get something.”

Ethiopia’s Abraham Cherkos, 18, followed Koech across the line to take bronze (7:49.96) in his first indoor championships appearance, followed by World Athletics Finals 5,000m champion Edwin Soi (7:51.60).

On Saturday, Kenyans thought they had won their first gold medal, for an hour, before the medal was handed over to Ethiopia, who had appealed against their athlete being disqualified in the men’s 1,500m.

Deresse Mekkonen captured the surprise victory in the men’s 1,500m.

Improbable win

As the pack came off the final turn, Mekonnen held off Daniel Kipchirchir Komen to take what would be an improbable win for the 20-year-old who failed to go past the heats at the World Championships in Osaka last year.

Komen (3:38.54) was next across the line with Juan Carlos Higuero of Spain (3:38.82) third.

Soon after the entertaining contest was concluded, Mekkonen was disqualified for a lane violation, giving Komen gold, and a two-three finish for Spain with Arturo Casado gaining the bronze.

The switch was short-lived as an appeal lodged by the Ethiopian federation succeeded, reversing the initial disqualification and giving Mekkonen the victory.

Bahraini Rashid Ramzi, silver medallist in the 1500m in Osaka, was a distant fifth (3:40.26).

In the men’s 800m race, 18-year-old Abubaker Kaki Khamis of Sudan became the youngest World Indoor champion ever.

Dashed hopes

The young African champion clocked 1:44.81, just one tenth of a second off Joseph Mutua’s African Indoor record.

Olympic silver medallist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi was second at 1:44.91 ahead of Asian record holder Yusuf Saad Kamel of Bahrain (1:45.26).

In the women’s 3,000m, Kenya’s medal hopes were dashed with Sylvia Kibet finishing fourth behind Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar.

After third consecutive gold in Valencia, 5000 will be the distance for Defar in Beijing

“That was a nice race for me, because it was easy. I was fully in control throughout the final and really only had to race properly for the final two laps,” said Meseret Defar after taking the 3000 m gold in style in Valencia.

Clocking 8:38.79, she was well clear of Meselech Melkamu, who made it an Ethiopian double with 8:41.50. It was Meseret Defar’s third consecutive gold medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.

And that at just 24 years of age.

Only one other woman has ever achieved a hat trick at this distance in these championships: Romania’s Gabriela Szabo had won this title between 1995 and 1999. Additionally Szabo was second in 2001. So there is one more to go to another unique achievement for Meseret Defar.

African Championships focus

But first there are other priorities for this year. And it is not only Beijing that is on the list. At the end of April the African Championships will be a home game for Defar as they will be held in Addis Ababa.

“It is the first time that this event is staged in Ethiopia. So that is very important for me as well,” said Meseret Defar.

She has already decided which distance she will run: the 5000 metres. “When I will come back from Valencia I will start preparing for the African Championships.”

Defar also said that she has decided that 5000m will also be the distance she will contest in Beijing. This is the distance at which she had won the Olympic gold in Athens in 2004. “I will definitely not double this season – neither in Addis Ababa nor in Beijing.”

Asked about her fiercest rival in recent years, Tirunesh Dibaba, Meseret Defar said: “I don’t know about her plans regarding Beijing. If she should go for the double and run the 5000 metres I will have no problem with that.”

Asked if she would need even more speed on the last lap to win in Beijing, Defar said: “Naturally I want to run very fast in Beijing and will train hard for that. But on the other hand you never know what will happen on the final lap.”

Golden League also on programme

“Of course Beijing is the big one this year. But I will also run races of the AF Golden League this summer as part of the built up to the Olympic Games.”

In Valencia Defar wore a white bracelet which she showed after the press conference. “This is in support of Ethiopian children,” she said.

Having broken one World record in 2006 and another four in 2007 (among them two World bests at two miles) Defar continued with this collection this winter. She ran 9:10.50 at the Boston indoor meeting, setting yet another two miles World best.

She then missed improving her own 3000m World record in Stuttgart, but hoped to attack it again in Brimingham.

“But I could not run there because of food poisoning,” Defar revealed in Valencia. ”I normally eat only fresh food at home. But one day I went to a restaurant in Addis Ababa. It was similar to Chinese style. Then I became ill. I tried to train but I could not run for eight days.”

Last summer Defar had also talked about a possible chase for the 10,000m World record this summer. But she was much more reserved on that project after her Valencia win.

“I cannot say at the moment if that will become a goal during the summer. I will decide with my coach some time after I am back from Valencia.”

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF

Ethiopia’s Gebrselassie misses marathon due to pollution

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie said on Monday he would not compete in the Olympic marathon because of fears that Beijing’s air pollution would damage his health.

The Ethiopian runner, who suffers from asthma, said he would still compete in the shorter 10,000 metres event in the August Games.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Ethiopia in 3rd place in Medal Table in World Indoor Championships

Ethiopia is in third place after USA and Russia, in the medal tables in the 12th IAAF World Indoor Championships taking place in Valencia, Spain with three gold medals, one silver and two bronze.

Ethiopia's Meseret Defar won the gold medal in the 3000 meters and Tariku Bekele, younger brother of Kenenisa Bekele wins the Gold medal in the 3000 indoor meters. Deresse Mekonnen is the gold medal winner in the 1500 meter event.

Meselech Melkamu of Ethiopia finished second in the 3000 Metres.

Gelete Burka and Abreham Cherkos finished third in the 1500 meters Women event and the 3000 meters Men event respectively.
Ethiopia's Deresse Mekonnen crosses the finish line of the Men's 1500m final ahead of Daniel Kipchirchir Komen from Kenya, 2nd right, Spain's Juan Carlos Higuero, left, and Spain's Arturo Casado, right, during the Athletics World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain, Saturday, March 8, 2008. (AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle)

Ethiopia's Meseret Defar displays her gold medal during the medal ceremony for the Women's 3000m during the Athletics World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain, Saturday, March 8, 2008.

Soboleva breaks record to take 1,500m gold

Yelena Soboleva smashed her own indoor world record to take gold in the 1,500 metres at the world indoor championships in Valencia.

The 25-year-old Russian crossed the line in a time of three minutes 57.71 seconds, 0.34 quicker than the record she set in Moscow last month.

Fellow Russian Yuliya Fomenko was second in 3:59.41, while Gelete Burka of Ethiopia grabbed the bronze.

Soboleva, the world indoor silver medallist in 2006, has been in stunning form this season, also setting national records in the 800 metres and the mile.

United States heptathlete Bryan Clay and Australian 800 metre runner Tamsyn Lewis also emerged triumphant on the final day.

Clay, world decathlon champion in 2005 and twice runner-up in the world indoors, claimed gold in the multi-event competition with an outstanding set of performances over the two days.

The American amassed a personal best total of 6371 points, just 105 short of Dan O'Brien's 1993 world record, as he won four of the seven events to finish ahead of Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus and Kazakhstan's Dmitriy Karpov.

Lewis spoiled Maria Mutola's hopes of winning an eighth indoor world title when she produced an impressive last-lap burst to hurtle past the 35-year-old Mozambiquan and Tetiana Petlyuk and take gold.

Lewis crossed the line in two minutes 2.57, with Petlyuk taking the silver and Mutola the bronze.

Canada's Tyler Christopher, third in the world outdoors in Osaka last year, also found an extra a gear in the final straight of the men's 400m to snatch the gold from Johan Wissman of Sweden in a time of 45.67,

Chris Brown of the Bahamas picked up the bronze.

As expected the women's 400m was an all-Russian affair with Olesya Zykina equalling her world leading time of the year of 51.09 as she managed to hold off Natalya Nazarova by one hundredth of a second in the lunge for the finishing line.

Portugal's Naide Gomes, the world pentathlon champion in 2004, took the honours in the long jump with a leap of seven metres exactly, with Brazilian Maurren Maggi taking silver ahead of Russian favourite Irina Simagina.

Phillips Idowu smashed the British triple jump record to win gold.

Idowu leapt a huge world-leading mark for the year of 17.75 metres in the second round, which was never approached by David Giralt and Nelson Evora, the silver and bronze medallists.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Kagame Cup Shifted to Tanzania

Bonnie Mugabe

This year's Kagame/Cecafa Club championship has been shifted from Sudan to Tanzania and July has been set as the date for the two-week long tournament, Cecafa secretariat has confirmed the development.

The Cecafa secretary General Nicholas Musonye told Times Sport that Sudan pulled out of hosting the event due to reasons that are yet to be known but Tanzania came on as an immediate replacement.

"Tanzania has been chosen to host the Kagame Cup in July and this is a period that all our regional clubs will be out of continental engagements," Musonye said.

Musonye further added that 13 clubs will take part in this year's edition of the Kagame Cup. They include; defending champion APR and Rayon Sport from Rwanda, Simba and Yanga from Tanzania, Harar Beer (Ethiopia), URA(Uganda), Vital'O (Burundi), Tusker FC (Kenya), Al Tahrir (Eritrea), Miembeni SC (Zanzibar), EPS(Djibouti), Elman FC(Somalia) and Al Hilal(Sudan).

Meanwhile, the East and central Africa football governing body, Cecafa is assured of President Paul Kagame's annual sponsorship package despite being in search for other potential sponsors.

"We want to start searching for other sponsors so as to foot the clubs' on and off the pitch requirements during the two week tournament.

"The Championship was renamed Kagame six years ago in appreciation for his support to the development of football in the region through sponsoring the annual club championship.

The perennially under-funded East and Central African club championship was rescued with a $60,000 donation from President Paul Kagame in 2002.

Run by the regional body, Cecafa, the tournament, was in danger of collapse.

The winners are be paid 30,000 dollars, runners-up 20,000 dollars and the team which finishes third 10,000 dollars.

For many years the regional body has operated on a shoe-string, and its once prestigious tournaments was overshadowed by once lucrative but now defunct tournaments, such as the Castle Lager Cup and the Hedex Super Cup.

President Kagame became the first President to sponsor a big regional football event and was followed by Abeid Karume of Zanzibar who sponsors the Under-19 Challenge Cup.

The now lucrative tournament had been perennially on the death bed due to lack of money until President Kagame's sponsorship amounting to US$60,000.

Before, Rwanda's national team (Amavubi Stars) and clubs used to be the underdogs of football in the region but the now a near-mention of clubs like APR is good enough to sending chilling fears among the more seasoned regional and continental teams.

It was not surprising when Rwanda's Amavubi Stars qualified for the Nations' Cup finals in Tunisia. In the run-up to historic feat, the government of Rwanda had fully taken responsibility by sponsoring the Amavubi's qualifying campaign in which the national team had training stints in Germany.

President Kagame's involvement and love for the game has largely helped Rwanda remain rich and shinning in football.

Past winners of the CECAFA title

1974 Simba - Tanzania

1975 Yanga - Tanzania

1976 Luo Union- Kenya

1977 Luo Union - Kenya

1978 KCC - Uganda

1979 AFC Leopards- Kenya

1980 AFC Leopards - Kenya

1981 Gor Mahia - Kenya

1982 AFC Leopards - Kenya

1983 AFC Leopards - Kenya

1984 AFC Leopards - Kenya

1985 Gor Mahia - Kenya

1986 El Merreikh - Sudan

1987 SC Villa - Uganda
1988 Breweries - Kenya

1989 Tusker - Kenya

1990 Not held

1991 Simba SC - Tanzania

1992 Simba SC - Tanzania

1993 Yanga - Tanzania

1994 El Merreikh - Sudan

1995 Simba SC - Tanzania

1996 Simba SC - Tanzania

1997 AFC Leopards - Kenya

1998 Rayon Sport - Rwanda

1999 Yanga FC - Tanzania

2000 Tusker FC - Kenya

2001 Tusker FC - Kenya

2002 Simba SC - Tanzania

2003 SC Villa - Uganda

2004 APR FC - Rwanda

2005 SC Villa - Uganda

2006 Police - Uganda

2007 APR FC - Rwanda

Ethiopia to get a kick out of football

YOUNG football fans across Bolton are being asked to help design a new school team kit which will be exchanged with one designed by schoolchildren in Ethiopia.

The competition is part of "Score Ethiopia", a football- based fundraiser aimed at providing everything from a pitch to showers to the Gondar region of Ethiopia. The campaign is being spearheaded by ex-England footballer John Barnes.

"Score Ethiopia" has been launched by Wash & Go shampoo which has teamed up with education charity, Link Ethiopia.

It all kicks off with an awareness raising initiative, with primary schools taking part in a kit exchange. Wash & Go's Helen Austin explains: "Ethiopia is still one of the world's five poorest countries. Yet even in the face of adversity, one passion that its people share is football.

"So, we're asking children across England to combine their love of the beautiful game with a splash of flair and imagination by designing a football kit for a school in Ethiopia. In the meantime, children of the same age in Ethiopia will be doing exactly the same thing."

Winning schools will be treated to a visit by their Ethiopian counterparts and John Barnes to exchange the two kits.

Schools can get involved with a host of fun and quirky fundraising ideas. Any schools which have not been contacted but wish to take part in the scheme should contact the Score Ethiopia hotline on 0161 828 5400 or visit

Shami wins Lake Biwa Marathon

Mubarak Shami winning the Lake Biwa Marathon (Victah Sailer)

relnews Surging away from Eritrean Yared Asmeron at 36Km, Mubarak Shami of Qatar won yesterday’s 63rd annual Lake Biwa Marathon in 2:08:23, eleven seconds ahead of Asmeron.

The event is an IAAF Silver Label Road race.

“All my trainings are very hard. That is why I am very strong,” said Shami (formerly Richard Yatich of Kenya), the 2007 World Championships silver medallist.

Asmeron, who was fourth in Osaka last August, also ran well. He improved his personal best from 2:15:14, recorded in the 2007 Hamburg marathon, to 2:08:34, a whopping six minutes plus improvement. Finishing third with 2:08:36, a PB by ten seconds, was Japan’s Satoshi Osaki, who is likely to have booked his berth to Beijing with the run.

How the race unfolded:

Two sets of pace makers were employed to lead the race. Two Japanese runners, Takashi Matsuyama and Koji Inagaki, did a beautiful job of leading the first part of the race with a steady pace. Each of the first 5Km was passed in 2:59, 2:59, 3:01, 3:00, and 3:01.

A huge pack of 56 runners passed the 5Km check point in 15:00, which was slightly faster than the original plan, but it was partially explained by the tail wind in the early part of the race.

Mitsuru Kubota was the first casualty among invited runners; he lost contact before 5Km. Kensuke Takahashi fell behind next, apparently suffering from side stitch. Perhaps because of the swirling wind, after 6th Km, the pace became somewhat erratic. The 6Km to 7Km was covered in 2:56, while 9Km to 10Km took 3:03. The pack was reduced to 44 runners by 10Km (30:02). At 13.5Km Japanese pace makers left the race leaving three Kenyans – Isaac Macharia, Julius Maina and Solomon Bushendich - in front.

Around 14Km Pablo Olmedo dropped out. As the pace picked up after 15Km (15 to 16Km was covered in 2:59), Lee Troop also fell off the pack. The race really began to take shape after passing half way point in 1:03:22, five seconds slower than the record pace. At 21.5Km Dmytro Baranovsky along with 2:08 runner Masakazu Fujiwara and 28 minutes 10,000m runner Tomohiro Seto all fell behind.

Eleven runners – Isaac Macharia, Julius Maina, Yared Asmeron, Mubarak Shami, Jose Rios, Tomoyuki Sato, Satoshi Osaki, Yuki Abe, Takehisa Okino, Koji Watanabe and Yuzo Onishi – passed 25Km in 1:15:01, faster than the record pace. By 28Km the lead pack was reduced to Macharia, Shami, Asmeron, Rios, Sato, Osaki and Abe.

After 28.5Km, Sato and then Abe started to fall behind the leaders. While Abe quickly went out of the picture, Sato was persistent. He stayed close to the leaders - Asmeron, Rios, Osaki and Shami and the pace setter Macharia.

At 30Km, after Macharia dropped out of the race, the lead pack of four runners was split into two – Shami and Asmeron in front and Osaki and Rios in rear. Sato was still keeping close. At 30.4Km Asmeron surged in his attempt to shake off Shami. It was as if a rubber band connected the two. The gap stretched and contracted and then stretched again, but always stayed between 5 to 10m. At 31Km Sato was only 6-7m behind Osaki, who in turn was nine seconds behind Asmeron. But Sato was unable to close the gap, which started to increase after 32Km. At 33Km Shami caught Asmeron, and they run together for the next 3Km.

Then Shami took an intiative and started to pull away. By 37Km the gap had grown to more than 20m, and by 40Km, Shami was 23 seconds ahead of Asmeron, but this shortened to 11 seconds by the finish, the final result being 2:08:23 to Shami and 2:08:34 for second placed Asmeron.

Race for Japanese Olympic berth

The race to the top of the podium was finished, but the race for the first Japanese and the Olympic team continued.

First, at 36Km, Yuzo Onishi caught and passed Sato to move into fifth. Meanwhile, Osaki was slowing down. After 35Km, he was taking more than 3 minutes and 10 seconds for each Km. In order for Osaki to be considered for the team, he needed to run faster than 2:08:40, the time recorded by Arata Fujiwara in the Tokyo Marathon. With 5Km to go, Osaki realised that he had to run the final 5Km in 15:36. At 38Km, he started to pull away from Rios, with a knowledge that he have to run the final Km faster than 3minutes and 10 second to finish, he pushed hard, and in the end almost caught Asmeron, finishing in 2:08:36, thus fulfilling the time goal

At 39Km, Onishi caught and also passed Rios to move into fourth, but he was unable to close in on Osaki.

“At the end I was thinking about the Beijing (Olympics) and kept on pushing. I was not going to give up,” said Osaki.

Since he was the first Japanese home in the race and was faster than Arata Fujiwara’s time of 2:08:40, recorded in the Tokyo Marathon three weeks ago, Osaki is likely to be selected for the Olympic marathon team. The fact that he was sixth in the World Championships should further strengthen his bid for the team.

Yuzo Onishi finished fourth with a huge personal best of 2:08:54. “I am frustrated that the first Japanese was less than 20 seconds away,” said Onishi, whose previous personal best was only 2:12:53. Tomoya Shimizu, in his first completed marathon, was fifth in 2:09:23. He was followed by Jose Rios in 2:09:38 and Tomoyuki Sato in 2:09:59. Sato ran close to his personal best, 2:09:43, but has no chance to make the Olympic team.

In all, seven runners broke 2:10 barrier, tying the record number of sub-2:10 marathon finishers in the Lake Biwa marathon, which was recorded in 2003 and 2004.

The Olympic team will be announced on March 10. “I will wait for the good news,” concluded Osaki.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Weather: partly cloudy; temperature 9.7C; humidity: 51%

Results: JPN unless otherwise noted.

1. Mubarak Shami (QAT) 2:08:23
2. Yared Asmeron (ERI) 2:08:34 PB
3. Satoshi Osaki 2:08:36 PB
4. Yuzo Onishi 2:08:54 PB
5. Tomoya Shimizu 2:09:23 PB
6. Jose Rios 2:09:38
7. Tomoyuki Sato 2:09:59
8. Kazuki Ikenaga 2:10:44 Debut
9. Masakazu Fujiwara 2:12:07
10. Toshiya Katayama 2:12:30
11. Toyoshi Ishige 2:12:45
12. Hironori Arai 2:13:04 Debut
13. Peter Kariuki (KEN) 2:13:38

17) Dmytro Baranovsky (UKR) 2:16:17

5Km 15:00 Takashi Matsuyama
10Km 30:02 (15:02) Takashi Matsuyama
15Km 45:09 (15:07) Isaac Macharia
20Km 1:00:07 (14;58) Isaac Macharia
Half 1:03:22 Isaac Macharia
25Km 1:15:01 (14:54) Isaac Macharia
30Km 1:30:16(15:15) Isaac Macharia
35Km 1:45:30 (15:14) Mubarak Shami
1:45:30 Yared Asmeron
1:45:57 Satoshi Osaki
1:45:57 Jose Rios
40Km 2:01:16 (15:46) Mubarak Shami
2:01:39 Yared Asmeron
2:01:53 Satoshi Osaki
2:02:06 Yuzo Onishi
Finish 2:08:23 (7:07) Mubarak Shami

Ethiopia - Kenenisa stars in controversial documentary film

By Abiy Demilew

Source: Capital

One of the leading athletes of the world, and a multi-record holder, Kenenisa Bekele, has fallen into controversy over a documentary, 'Love…keeps me running,' revolving around the athlete's life.

Abiy Fekyebelu, managing director of Abiy International Film, screenplay writer and co-director of the documentary, told Capital that Kenenisa has stopped the film's premiere, which was scheduled to be screened at the launch of the Ethiopian millennium in September 2007.

According to Abiy, differences started to rise between him and the athlete after the finalization of the documentary a year ago as they couldn't come to common understanding and agreement on how to proceed with the issue of screening the documentary.

"I've only received ETB 150,000 from Kenenisa for production costs including actors' fees," says Abiy. "The film is now in the hands of the athlete for the last year, without any action and us failing to benefit from the work."

According Abiy, production took two years with around 100 actors and others involved including leading athlete Major Haile Gebresellasie, athlete Tariku Bekele, former athlete and currently coach Tolossa Kotu, singer Habtemichael Demisse, actor Yinebeb Tamiru.

Capital's repeated attempts to contact Kenenisa were unsuccessful. However, on February 27, Kenenisa told Amharic weekly The Reporter that the film 'encroaches on his current private life' and that he is dissatisfied with the production quality of the film.

Abiy disclosed to Capital, that the central theme of the movie circles around the athlete and his late wife, Alem Techale
and that everything was done in full agreement with Kenenisa.
"There was no point in Kenenisa's complaint about the quality standard of the film since the entire production was made by a team of professionals from the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) at the Sheraton Hotel," says Abiy.

"After the finalization, we have both invited guests to critique the story and production quality, and we received appreciation for the quality of work we created," Abiy recalled.

"Love…keeps me running", a two hour work, is directed by Lebanese Elie Abi AAD, with Abiy involved as assistant director.
Asked about efforts to solve the dispute through negotiation, Abiy told Capital that he was forced to address the issue in the media after negotiations failed and the athlete resorted to 'verbally threatening me.'

In a letter sealed and signed by Kenenisa and headlined Kenenisa Bekele Trading, Kenenisa solicits the support and cooperation of all concerned bodies to Abiy International Films.

"I've made this movie only out of love and respect of the athlete, not for profit," says Abiy, "But still, I need my rights respected as per the agreement."

Various attempts made to contact Kenenissa remained unsuccessful all through the week.

Capital learned a negotiation effort has been started by unmentioned artists on Saturday, before Capital went for print.