Monday, February 23, 2009

Ayalew's surprise, Gebremariam's comeback highlight Ethiopia’s World Cross Country trials

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - African 10,000m bronze medallist Wude Ayalew’s shock defeat of cross country specialists Gelete Burka and Meselech Melkamu in the senior women’s 8km was the highlight of the 26th Jan Meda International Cross Country- Ethiopia’s trials for the World Cross Country Championships- held at the Jan Meda race course in Addis Ababa this morning (22).

Gebregziabher Gebremariam produced a trademark sprint finish to take victory in the men’s 12km race. Ayele Abshiro and Sule Utura were comfortable winners of the men’s and women’s junior races respectively.

Ayalew stuns Melkamu for 8km victory

After a series of domestic cross country races throughout Ethiopia, the meeting at the Jan Meda brought together the finest Ethiopian hopes in this cross country season. With Ethiopia’s golden trio Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba, and Sileshi Sihine all missing the race due to injury, it gave the chance to the country’s upcoming and established runners to push for places in Ethiopia’s World Cross Country Championships squad.

Perhaps the biggest winner of the day was the 20-year old Ayalew who has looked impressive on the road in the 2008/09 season with victories in the Great Ethiopian Run (10km) and Sao Silvestre 15km road race in Brazil.

In her debut cross country race in 2009, Ayalew proved that she can not only compete against the so-called cross country specialists, but also beat them.

After a frenetic start to the race, a group of ten runners initially led by Burka started to push on the pace after the first lap (2km). But with the warm and windy conditions affecting the field, the runners were forced to slow down to a virtually walking pace that allowed lagging runners to catch up on the field.

Melkamu, Burka, Ayalew, and Koreni Jelila all exchanged leads at the head of the pack before Burka at the start of the final lap and looked comfortable for her second ever 8km victory at the Jan Meda race course.

With 200m of the race left, Melkamu was the first run to inject a serious pace at the head of the pack. But Ayalew covered that superbly and launched her own kick to take victory in front of an appreciative crowd.

Melkamu beat Burka for second place with Jelila, Sentayehu Ejigu (winner of the Boston indoor 5000m two weeks ago), and Mamitu Deska occupying the top six places.

The biggest disappointment of the race was defending world cross country silver medallist Mestawet Tufa, who aggravated a leg injury and dropped out of the content with laps of the race left.

“It was a very tough race and I am happy with the victory,” says Ayalew. “I am hoping for a medal in Amman. Although I have not run much recently, cross country is quite important for me. I want to win something this year and hopefully make the Ethiopian 10,000m team for the world championships in Berlin.”

Gebremariam outsprints young field in men’s 12km

In contrast, the men’s 12km had a great element of predictability with African 10,000m champion Gebregziabher Gebremariam taking a sprint victory over upcoming runner Feyissa Lelisa.

A thoroughbred of the course since he made his debut running for his Tigray regional team in 2001, Gebremariam has now won the senior men’s 12km race a whooping three times.

Gebremariam’s Yuriy Borzakovsky-esque-come-from-the-back is often a risk he happily takes. And in a course like Jan Meda where heavy winds prevent any emotional front running, such tactics do not have such pronounced effects always giving him the edge.

The only runner who tried to apply pressure to the field at various intervals was All-African Games 10,000m silver medallist Tadesse Tola, but with the likes of World indoor 3000m champion Tariku Bekele and Abebe Dinkessa following suit, his moves were always covered.

At the bell, Tola led the quartet in a scramble for positions at the head of the pack. Young runners Hunegnaw Mesfin and Habtamu Fekadu also tried their hand at the lead, but Gebremariam, who at this point was the back of the pack, made his move with 150m left. At the end, his burst of acceleration had taken a full 20m ahead of the chasing pack before he started celebrations way ahead of the finishing tape.

Lelisa, who has been the top domestic performer in the Ethiopian cross country circuit this season, beat Tola for second place, while Tariku Bekele, Mesfin, and Fekadu made up the other qualifying positions for Amman.

Utura beats Genzebe Dibaba in the battle of the future

Much like their older compatriots Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar, youngsters Sule Utura and Genzebe Dibaba who are widely hailed as the future of Ethiopia’s women distance running are developing into fierce rivals each time they come up against each other.

After Genzebe, youngster sister to Tirunesh Dibaba, defeated Utura in last year’s race, Utura gained revenge at the World junior championships last year when taking the 5000m title.

The outcome of the latest instalment of the Dibaba v Utura went the way of Utura who powered ahead of her archrival with 200m of the race left for victory. It was Utura’s second junior race title in three years, the last race she will compete as a junior before moving up the ranks in 2010.

Unlike Dibaba, Utura has never won a medal at the World cross and victory in Amman looks more likely following her impressive performance here.

In the men’s junior race, world junior cross country silver medallist Ayele Abshiro lived up to his pre-race billing taking a comfortable victory ahead of Yetwale Kinde and Dejen Gebremeskel.

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF

Leading Results -

Women’s Junior 6km
1. Sule Utura (Defence)
2. Genzebe Dibaba (Muger Cement)
3. Emebet Anteneh (Amhara region)
4. Meseret Mengistu (Oromiya Police)
5. Tsega Gelaw (Defence)
6. Frehiwot Goshu (Prisons Police)

Men’s Junior 8km
1. Ayele Abshiro (Unattached )
2. Yetwale Kinde (Unattached)
3. Dejen Gebremeskel (Ethiopian Banks)
4. Atalay Yersaw (Defence)
5. Debebe Woldesenbet (Omedla)
6. Legesse Lemiso (Defence)

Women’s Senior 8km
1. Wude Ayalew (EEPCO)
2. Meselech Melkamu (EEPCO)
3. Gelete Burka (Unattached)
4. Koreni Jelila (Defence)
5. Sentayehu Ejigu (Ethiopian Banks)
6. Mamitu Deska (Oromiya Police)

Men’s Senior 12km
1. Gebregziabher Gebremariam (Ethiopian Banks)
2. Feyissa Lelisa (Defence)
3. Tadesse Tola (Prisons Police)
4. Tariku Bekele (Muger Cement)
5. Hunegnaw Mesfin (Ethiopian Banks)
6. Habtamu Fekadu (Defence)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Defar’s World record helps atone for Olympic disappointment

When Meseret Defar smashed the World indoor 5000m record* on Wednesday, running 14:24.37 in Stockholm, it confirmed a stellar start to the year after a 2008 that saw her lose both her outdoor World record and 2004 Olympic gold medal over the distance to fellow Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba.

“It was great,” a high-spirited Defar told the IAAF in an exclusive interview on Wednesday night after her record run. “Today I was in excellent shape. From the beginning til the end, I felt very good. After I passed the first two kilometres, I was certain I was going to break the record and I began to speed up. I ran the last kilometre very fast and that’s why I broke the record.”

Defar smashed more than three seconds off Dibaba’s two-year-old 14:27.42 mark, running a last kilometer of 2:46.6, after being led through 3000m by three pace-setters. “The pace they ran for me was perfect,” said the World 5000m champion Defar.

Redemption for both Beijing and a near-miss in Stuttgart

“When I ran the 3000m in Stuttgart last week, I missed the mark by three seconds,” said the world indoor 3000m champion Defar, who on 7 February targeted the 8:23.72 world indoor record she had set in 2007 but clocked 8:26.99. “It was my own mistake, so today I was determined to make up for that.”

In Stuttgart, Defar was chased by Anna Alminova who finished second in 8:28.49. “A Russian was close behind me and I was of two minds, thinking, ‘What if I lose?’ So (in Stockholm ) I was determined to run a fast time.”

For the Athens Olympic 5000m champion who in 2008 took bronze behind Dibaba, Wednesday’s indoor 5000m World record even helped make up for her crushing disappointment in Beijing.

“Yes, very much so,” said Defar. “This year has been providing redemption for me from the start of the year.”

“Although the Olympics caused me pain because I came away with a result I never expected, since then I’ve had good races, especially in Stuttgart and here,” said Defar, whose Olympic defeat had at first been followed by another 5000m loss, at the Memorial Van Damme Golden League meet. “In Brussels, the weather conditions were wet. I was not in a good place because of the Olympics, and in the final metres I was beaten by Vivian Cheruiyot and was second.”

But she returned to her winning ways in a busy September that included a London road race and the Stuttgart World Athletics Final 3000m and 5000m. “In Stuttgart, I was able to win both races, and in Hyde Park, I ran 5K on the road in 15:01,” she said. “I ran a good time.”

“After the Stuttgart final, I took a one-month break,” said Defar. “I began training on the 5th of Tikimt, according to the Ethiopian calendar [15 October]. I competed after about three and a half months of intense training.” The fruits of that preparation include a huge improvement on her own best time in the indoor 5000, which she had only run a couple of times previously, clocking 15:53.14 in 2004.

Vacations and wedding wishes for Dibaba

Defar spent much of her 2008 month off traveling with her husband. “I was abroad on vacation,” she said. “I went to Spain and Greece.”

She was back home just in time for teammate and track arch-rival Dibaba’s wedding to Olympic silver-medallist Sileshi Sihine. “It was a beautiful wedding,” said Defar, who sent the happy couple a warm letter from abroad before the wedding.

“It was broadcast on the radio,” said Defar, who recalled the gist of some of the words she had written the pair: “I wish you a happy wedding. Sileshi, take care of Tirunesh. As I have entered into matrimony ahead of the two of you, I also want to tell you how wonderful it is.”

Defar’s husband, Tewodros Hailu, is her partner in her career as well and was with her in Stockholm when she broke the record. “I ran the exact time he predicted,” said Defar. “He had said, ‘I’m sure you will run 14:24.’ He was very happy.”

Destination: Berlin

An equally-elated Defar looks ahead to another indoor appearance in Prague and beyond to the outdoor season.

“So far, I’m just running indoor track and haven’t decided what I’ll run after that,” she said, but one thing is certain for the defending World champion: the 15-23 August IAAF World Championships. “My major goal is Berlin, the 5000,” she said.

Sabrina Yohannes for the IAAF

Friday, February 20, 2009

Makau produces second fastest time ever, Dire Tune clocks national record at RAK Half Marathon

Ras Al Khaimah, UAE - Kenya's Patrick Makau and Ethiopia's Dire Tune nearly wrote themselves into the record books with superb runs of 58:52 and 1:07:18 at the RAK Half Marathon on Friday (20).

Makau's time was the second fastest ever while only five women have ever gone faster than 2008 Boston Marathon winner Tune.

The RAK Half Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label road race.

Makau is the Half Marathon's Mr. Consistent

Pacesetter Matthew Koech quickly ensured that Sammy Wanjiru's World Record of 58:33 was a possibility from the outset by towing the leading pack of eight runners through the opening 5km in 13:40, exactly the same split time that the 2008 Olympic Marathon champion had recorded en-route to his record run in The Hague two years ago.

Despite the super-fast pace being set by Koech, who stopped the clock at 10km in 27:42 for a deficit of 15 seconds on Wanjiru's world record schedule, alongside and just behind him were still five of the main protagonists: the Kenyan quartet of Makau, Wilson Chebet, Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, Joseph Maregu and the lone Ethiopian Deriba Merga.

Shortly afterwards, Merga decided it was time to make his move and his surge split up the leading pack with only Makau prepared to follow him. The Ethiopian passed 15km in 41:29 with his main Kenyan rival two seconds in arrears and Kipsang Kiprotich a further four seconds in arrears in third place.

Merga's 5km split of 13:47 put the World Record right back on the agenda as he was one second inside Wanjiru's intermediate time but his effort soon started to take its toll and Makau overhauled him in the 18th kilometre and quickly put daylight between themselves, passing 20km in 55:38 with Merga four seconds adrift.

Makau's 20km time was just seven seconds off Wanjiru's 20km World Record of 55:31 but despite the incentive of a $100,000 World Record bonus the two-time IAAF World Half Marathon Champion couldn't quite raise his tempo over the final kilometre to put his name in the record books although he still finished in the superb time of 58:52 to take the first prize of $28,000, the second fastest time in history and the seventh occasion he has gone under the world-class benchmark of one hour.

"I think the wind today cost me the World Record," Makau said. "It was quite a strong breeze and there was not much shelter. It was particularly bad when I was chasing Merga and trying to catch him between 16 and 18 kilometres. I used up a lot of my energy at that point and didn't have anything extra in the final kilometre or so, which would perhaps have made the difference."

Kipsang Kiprotich came through strongly in the final kilometre to overtake the flagging Merga and come home in a personal best 58:59 while Merga, perhaps still not quite fully recovered from his Houston Marathon win just over a month ago had to be content with third place in 59:18.

Chebet was fourth in 59:32, taking one second off his best while Koech finished fifth in 59:54, more than a minute faster than he had ever run before.

Tune hits all the right notes

Compared to the men's race, the women started more modestly with a big pack of 14 runners going through the first 5km in 16:12, compared to the 15:38 of The Netherlands' Lornah Kiplagat when she set the current World Record of 66:25 in the Italian city of Udine in October 2007. One women surprisingly struggling despite her veteran status was 1992 and 2000 Olympic 10,000m champion Derartu Tulu, who was 35 seconds in arrears of the leaders at this stage.

Ethiopia's Teyiba Erkesso and Kenya's Philes Ongari, the fastest woman in the world over this distance last year, who had been sharing the majority of the work at the front of the pack, increased the pace slightly over the next stretch of the course to pass 10km in 32:13 - more than a minute outside Kiplagat's split of 31:10 - but there were still eight other women in contention at the front.

In mirror image to the demography of the men's race, five Ethiopian women: Erkesso, Dire Tune, Aselefech Mergia, Abebu Gelan, Amane Gobena, started to work together to increase the tempo, with only the lone Kenyan Ongari representing the rest of the world.

The six women went through 15km together in 47:53 but Tune then accelerated hard and nobody else could stay with her. She had put 31 seconds between herself and second-placed Ongari by the time she reached 20km in 1:03:42 and kept the same rhythm going all the way to the line.

Tune finished in 1:07:18 to take nearly three minutes off her previous best of 1:11: 11, set when finishing fourth at the inaugural edition of the RAK Half Marathon two years ago. Her run was also a national record, eclipsing Bezunesh Bekele's 1:08:07 set in Udine in 2007. Mergia won the battle over the final kilometre for second place in a personal best of 1:07:48 with Ongari finishing two seconds behind, with the first six all coming home in under 69 minutes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

14:24.37 World 5000m record by Defar in Stockholm

Stockholm, Sweden - In a stunning performance, Meseret Defar set a new World record in the 5000m, clocking 14:24.37* at the GE Galan Meeting tonight (18) in Stockholm.

The performance by the 25-year-old Ethiopian knocked more than three seconds from the previous mark of 14:27.42 set by her compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba in Boston in 2007.

Defar’s was the seventh World record set at the GE Galan meeting. Previously, Haile Gebrselassie and Daniel Komen set records in the men’s 5000m, Maria Mutola twice broke the 1000m record, and Germany’s Nicole Humbert and Svetlana Feofanova of Russia each set records in the women’s Pole Vault.

Defar’s unofficial kilometre splits:

1000m - 2:52.1
2000m - 5:47.8 (2:55.7)
3000m - 8:42.5 (2:54.7)
4000m - 11:37.8 (2:55.3)
5000m - 14:24.37 (2.46.6)

Last lap - 30.3sec

Wednesday, 18 February 2009 Beijing distance races analysed at 100m intervals

The Beijing Olympics threw up a huge amount of statistics, too much in fact to take in at the time of the Games. Now we have had a chance to disseminate a unique set of readings taken during virtually all of the distance races.

For a decade we have seen distance runners register times from transponder mats at strategic lap and kilometre points in road and cross country races. In Beijing, a new system developed yielded times for every distance runner at every 100m.

Transponder antennae were laid under the track at 0m, 100m, 200m and 300m. Athlete wore chips on the inside of their front bib numbers, and when they crossed the transponder threshold, a time was registered.

So for instance we can now see 100 different times for Kenenisa Bekele during his 10,000m triumph. From his 14.1 opening 100m to his blistering final lap including 13.0 down the final back straight. Arguably more impressive was the 14.0 timing by Tirunesh Dibaba during the bell lap of her 10,000m. For that section she was moving faster than any women in Beijing at any distance above 800m.

Of course these figures cannot tell the whole story of the race. We can’t tell for instance how wide an athlete was running around a bend between the transponder points. But they do help to show how the race was won.

For example Rashid Ramzi seems to have clinched the 1500m gold on the last bend which he covered in 12.2 in his heat and 12.6 in the final. Asbel Kiprop was quicker than Ramzi in the homestraight, but he appeared to lose too much ground in the previous 100.

Sadly, there was no study of the Beijing sprints, so hopefully Usain Bolt can do it all again once the next level of timing analysis is available.

Split times were also provided for the Olympic 4x400m relays where much the fastest times came from athletes who did not win individual golds in Beijing – Jeremy Wariner and Allyson Felix.

Mark Butler for the IAAF

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kebede tunes up for London with domestic 15km victory

Harar, Ethiopia- Ethiopia’s Olympic marathon bronze medallist Tsegaye Kebede fine-tuned his preparations for April’s Flora London Marathon with a comfortable victory on Sunday (16) in the Major General Hayelom Araya Memorial, an annual 15km race that serves as the Ethiopian national championships, in Harar, east of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

In the women’s race, little-known runner Roman Gebru took a closely-fought contest from Terfe Tsegaye with race favourite Atsede Bayissa forced to settle for fifth.

MEN - Kebede dominates

As part of its efforts to promote athletics across all regions of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) organized this race for the first time in the Harari region which is one of Ethiopia’s iconic cultural and religious centres.

The race was an early chance for selectors to assess the prospects of up and coming runners, but it was also an opportunity for full marathon runners to test their speed ahead of big city marathons in March and April.

There was no doubt who the favourite in the men’s race was even before the onset. An Olympic bronze has transformed Kebede from a regular marathon runner to a public figure over the last six months since his Beijing success.

The 21-year-old, who improved his full marathon personal best to 2:06:10 in Fukuoka late last year, was in commanding form throughout the race and won by nearly thirteen seconds from fellow Defence Club runner Dereje Debele. Tariku Jufar, the other high-profile marathon runner in the field, had to settle for sixth.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Kiprop and Belete are the Eurocross winners in Diekirch

Diekirch, Luxemburg - Wilson Kiprop emerged as a winner at the Diekirch Eurocross on Sunday (15) after beating down fellow Kenyan Titus Masai in a breathtaking duel. The women’s race turned out to be a family affair with Mimi Belete finishing 7 seconds ahead of her younger sister Almensh. Pre-race favourite Annemari Sandell-Hyvärinen from Finland withdrew from the race due to illness.

Eurocross is an IAAF Cross Country permit meeting.

MEN - Wilson Kiprop the strongest in a thrilling race

A leading group of seven athletes was soon formed in the men’s race, including four Kenyans and three Moroccans. Moroccan Hamid El Mouaziz led the pack from the second through to the fourth lap and that caused the leading group to crumble. But the leaders regrouped until Wilson Kiprop and Titus Masai eventually took command of the race.

The two Kenyans gradually opened up a gap with the following group and it was clear that the race would be decided between them. Kiprop accelerated and it looked as if he would finish alone but Masai struggled and worked his way back. In the ultimate stages Kiprop had the strongest legs to out-sprint his compatriot. Robert Sigei completed the Kenyan podium and Moroccan Ahmed Baday finished fourth.

Kiprop and Masai only confirmed their participation this Saturday (14) after having competed successfully at 5000m at the Düsseldorf indoor meeting last Friday (13). The 22-year old Kiprop finished fourth in Germany in 13:30 while his two year younger mate Masai set 13:44 there. A truly an impressive introduction on the European scene for Kenyans Wilson Kiprop and Titus Masai !

WOMEN – A confident demonstration of form by Mimi Belete

Mimi Belete is showing consistent form this winter in cross country running, and so her run today in Diekirch was hardly a surprise. Already before the end of the first lap Almensh Belete, the younger sister of Mimi went into the lead and tried to spread the pack apart. Hanane Ouhaddou from Morocco was able to stay with the pace for some time but soon both Ethiopians were in the lead together. Mimi Belete attacked in the last lap and crossed the line comfortably ahead.

Mimi and Almensh Belete have lived in Belgium for several years now as political refugees. They are in a process of obtaining Belgian nationality. Coached by Henri Salavarda, they set PB’s at 1500m of 4:06.48 and 4:10.86 respectively in 2008. Their progress has been remarkable and they are hoping to compete at international championships soon, should they be eligible to compete for their new country. Belgian track and field is truly excited about their talent and about the inspiration that they add to distance running in Belgium.

Ouhaddou came in a third and was followed by that other steeplechaser Habiba Ghribi from Tunisia. The women’s race was slightly devalued by the absence of Sandell-Hyvärinen who had to withdraw due to illness. Still, the organisers were satisfied with both the level and the conditions at this year Eurocross. “The course was not muddy at all and the weather conditions were even sunny,” said Antoine Moureaud. “The men’s race was absolutely exciting and seeing two young Kenyans battle and beating down the reputed Robert Sigei was a highlight. The Belete sisters have shown their huge potential for the future. I’m sure that their win today in Diekirch will give a boost to their athletics career.”

Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF


Men – 10.2km
1. Wilson Kiprop (KEN) 30:27
2. Titus Masai (KEN 30:30
3. Robert Sigei (KEN) 30:49
4. Ahmed Baday (MOR) 30:58
5. James Cheptuiyon (KEN) 31:04

Women – 5.35km
1. Mimi Belete (ETH) 18:23
2. Almensh Belete (ETH) 18:30
3. Hanane Ouhaddou (MOR) 18:35
4. Habiba Ghribi (TUN) 18:44
5. Maryline Pellen (FRA) 18:48

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cherkos edges Choge in 3,000 at Valencia

VALENCIA, Spain (AP) — Abraham Cherkos of Ethiopia ran the season's fastest time in the 3,000 meters to edge Augustine Choge of Kenya at the Valencia Indoors meet on Saturday.

Cherkos held off Choge over the final lap to shave nearly one second off of Bernard Legat's previous time, finishing in 7 minutes, 34.05 seconds.

Choge also bested Legat's previous best by finishing in 7:34.47, with fellow Kenyan Shedrack Korir finishing third.

Spain's Nuria Fernandez set a season's best time to take the women's 1,500, crossing in 4:01.77 to finish ahead of fellow Spaniard Natalia Rodriguez and Meskerem Assefa of Ethiopia.

Haron Keitany of Kenya, already with the men's fastest 1,500 this season, edged Mekonnen Gebremedhin of Ethiopia.

Poland's Dariusz Kuc took the men's 60 over Rae Edwards of the United States on a photo-finish after both crossed the line in 6.59.

In other men's events, Spain's Santiago Ezquerro won the 400, Abraham Chepkirwok of Uguanda took the 800 and Jackson Quinonez of Spain won the 60-meter hurdles.

Jesse Williams of the United States won the high jump, Poland's Marcin Starzak took the long jump and American Christian Cantwell won the shot put.

Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya pulled away for a victory in the women's 3,000, finishing over 11 seconds ahead of Sara Moreira of Portugal.

In the women's other track events, Laia Forcadell of Spain won the 400, countrywoman Elian Periz took the 800 and Danielle Carruthers of the United States triumphed in the 60 hurdles. Anna Battke of Germany won the pole vault.

Daba shines in 5,000m at Tyson indoor meeting

FAYETTEVILLE: Ethiopia’s Bekana Daba notched a world-leading time of 13min 17.89sec to win the 5,000m at the Tyson Invitational indoor athletics meeting Friday, becoming the ninth-fastest performer of all-time.

Galen Rupp finished second in an American record 13:18.12. Rupp became the 10th-fastest performer ever, and broke the previous American record of 13:20.55, which was was set by Doug Padilla in 1982, four years before Rupp was born. The American had taken the lead with two and a half laps left, but couldn’t hold it as Daba moved to the front with one lap remaining. Bianca Knight, the 2008 US collegiate indoor champion, won the women’s 200m in a world-leading time of 22.88sec.

Jamaica’s Nickeshsa Anderson was second in 23.60 and 2008 Olympic 4x400m gold medalist Natasha Hastings was third in 23.70. American Jennifer Stuczynski won the women’s pole vault with a clearance of 4.63m, but was unable to improve on the 4.82m American record she notched at the Boston Indoor Games last weekend. “I was hoping to build off last week’s record mark and set another one here in Arkansas, but it just didn’t happen,” she said. afp

Ethiopia to construct $22 million international sports stadium

Ethiopia on Sunday launched laid the foundation stone for the construction of a $22 million new international stadium, the Co-ordination Committee of the stadium said.

The international stadium, which is said to be the first of its kind in Ethiopia, will be built in Tigray regional state in the town of Mekelle, located some 700 kilometres north of Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopian Minister of Trade and Industry, Tadese Haile, who is also the chairman of the coordination committee of the stadium, said that the $22 million required for the construction of the stadium will be mobilized from the sports fraternity in the country.

“As part of this program, a fund raising event will be organized next Sunday to raise money for the construction of this stadium, which will contribute a meaningful input for the country’s football development,” said Haile.

The coordination committee said the stadium will accommodate around 30,000 spectators and will contain many modern facilities.

Ethiopia, a country with 77 million people and with millions of sports fans, has very few modern stadiums, and hardly any international standard stadiums.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

FIFA, CAF officials to visit Ethiopia to discuss suspension

Officials of FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) are due to make a visit to Ethiopia next week despite Ethiopia’s current suspension from international football competitions since July 2008, APA learns here on Thursday.

Sources at the Ethiopian Ministry of Youth and Sports told APA that the delegation from FIFA and CAF will visit the country to discuss on a roadmap, which was tabled for discussions last week to solve Ethiopia’s football problems.

It is to be recalled that FIFA suspended Ethiopia after 56 years of membership in July 2008 following the dispute inside the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF).

The disagreement between the EFF and FIFA started last year when EFF appointed Ahmed Yassin as new president after sacking the former president Dr Ashebir Woldegiorgis.

Since then FIFA has asked that the EFF reinstates the former president together with other committee members who were sacked with him.

However, EFF decided to continue with its appointment of a new president, which forced FIFA to take the decision to suspend Ethiopia from all international competitions.

“The FIFA and CAF officials are expected to hold talks with officials of the Ethiopian Ministry of Youth and Sports about FIFA’s roadmap, which is expected to solve the problems,” said the source.

However, the current management of the EFF does not seem to have an idead as to who is coming to Ethiopia and what and to whom they are going to discuss.

Ethiopia joined FIFA in 1952 and CAF in 1957, and this is the first time in the country’s 56 years membership that it has been suspended from international competition.

Defar confirms Prague appearance but still undecided which record to go for...

Prague – Ethiopia’s 2007 World Athlete of the Year Meseret Defar travelled from Stuttgart on Sunday to Prague to be the guest of honour at Monday’s press briefing connected to the new Indoor Meet to be held on 26 February.

Defar is the latest star signed to the inaugural edition of the Czech meeting after the likes of Yelena Isinbayeva, Blanka Vlasic and Dayron Robles.

But the set-up was very special. Defar met with the press on the brand new 200m track in the 02 arena just installed since Friday. It was the first and last instalment of the track before the meet itself.

Now in 48 hours it will be removed into 1200 pieces and then repositioned in just 48 hours on 23 February!

Defar was also the first runner on the track as she jogged two laps in front of the media. Her starter was also prominent, in the person of meet director Jan Zelezny.

“It is a beautiful hall, I never saw such a big hall,” said Defar.

Defar is scheduled to run a 5000m in Stockholm on 18 February and then in Prague. Her event is not decided yet.

“I want to break a World record in Prague and will see the distance after Stockholm, but maybe also earlier. It will be either two miles or 2000m,” she was quoted.

Alfons Juck for the IAAF

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday, 10 February 2009 Berlin and World records, Abeylegesse has big ambitions for 2009

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Turkey’s Olympic 5000m and 10,000m silver medallist Elvan Abeylegesse is an enigma of sorts to millions of athletics viewers around the world.

The 26-year-old has barely competed in the big-money one-day athletics meeting around the world over the last three years. Yet, and when it really matters, she has come up with medals in the major championships and the Olympic Games.

“It is not really my own choice,” she says. “At the end of 2005, I had kidney stones and could not race properly. I have also been suffering an Achilles heel injury in the last two years and my coach has advised me from racing frequently to prevent further injuries.”

When she is not troubled by injury, however, Abeylegesse has managed to produce truly world class performance in her limited major championship appearances. In fact, the only runner to have got the better of the Turk is former compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba, who has picked up two Olympic gold medals, one World championship title, and a world 5000m record in the last two outdoor track seasons not forgetting her many global triumphs indoors and in cross country running.

As well as her two silvers behind Dibaba in Beijing, Abeylegesse was runner-up to her former compatriot in the World Championships 10,000m in Osaka, and her time at 10,000m at the Olympics was the third fastest time ever run in the history of the event.

“I was really delighted by the outcome of Beijing,” she says. “The event was memorable in that it had great organiaation and it was the dream Olympics. No athlete goes into competition expecting defeat, but I am happy with my two silver medals.”

Turkish victory

Although Esret Apak won Turkey’s first ever Olympic athletics medal in the men’s Hammer Throw in 2004, Abeylegesse’s successes in recent years have transformed a country, which was previously unknown for its athletics performance.

Abeylegesse has also been rewarded for her performances with a lucrative bonus by the Turkish Federation and her government reportedly earning USD 500,000 for her two Beijing silver medals.

“I am really grateful for the support Turkey provides me,” she says. “Always when I step on the track, I want to make Turkey’s people happy. This country has done a lot for me. I can only do so much.”

Humble beginnings

Abeylegesse has come a long way since her early running days in the country of her birth Ethiopia. Born with the name Hewan Abeye to her factory-employed father and her housewife mother in a family of seven, Abeylegesse started running in school and even recalls her first ever competition, a 100m sprint race.

“I did not know anything about athletics or running in lanes,” she recalls. “I started in lane one and ended up in lane 3 at the end of the race. I finished third, but was disqualified. I will never forget that race.”

Abeylegesse quickly learnt to adapt to the rigours of training and competition joining the Prisons sports club, which has produced Ethiopian running champions like two-time Olympic 10000m champion Derartu Tulu and Atlanta Olympics marathon champion Fatuma Roba, in 1996 at a tender age of just 14.

It was not long before she made her international debut in an EOC solidarity race in Moscow where she finished third over 3000m, in 1998. A year later, she represented Ethiopia at the World Cross Country Championships finishing ninth in the junior race.

A year later, with Abeylegesse feeling that her chances of representing Ethiopia in major competitions and earning a living from big-money races outside the country were limited given the large talent pool that exists in the country, she gladly accepted an offer from Turkey.

“I went there to compete for the Enka club,” she says. “The club was quite good with the way they dealt with talent. I was only 16 years old and they were careful to provide training according to my age. We also had one coach for every athlete which was very different from Ethiopia where one coach trains twenty or thirty athletes. In Ethiopia, we also trained with the seniors at a very young age and were always fighting to keep our place in the club team. I did not have that threat here. Therefore, I thrived.”

Paris emergence

It took another four years before her big break came at the 2003 World Championships in Paris. A 21-year old Abeylegesse finished fifth in a highly tactical battle that saw Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba win a surprise 5000m title before turning 18.

“I was not surprised that she won because this is sport,” says Abeylegesse. “But I was happy that I managed to compete against top runners like Gabriela Szabo and Berhane Adere and finish fifth. It gave me confidence.”

World record performance in Oslo

A year later, she emerged with an even bigger impact smashing the seven-year old world 5000m record by nearly four seconds in Bergen, the makeshift venue for the Bislett Games- IAAF Golden League meeting- in Norway, while the usual stadium was being rebuilt in Oslo. Her winning time, 14:24.68, was the first sub 14.25 performance by a woman over the distance and Abeylegesse admits she opened the door to possibilities.

“I feel that I dared something no had done before,” she says of her performance that took women’s 5000m into a new level. “I think it is because I broke the World record that other runners in the event gained confidence that the record was possible.”

Her record made her the odds-on favourite for the Olympic title in Athens, but she shocked many by finishing twelfth in the final after putting on a gallant effort in the middle of the race to unsettle the main challengers.

“Before Athens, I trained at high altitude in Turkey in a place which completely different weather,” she explains of her sudden demise. “My body did not adapt well to the surroundings and that is why I struggled.”

She also vehemently denies reports claiming that possible threats to her family members in Addis Ababa might have unsettled her bid to become the first Turk to win an Olympic gold. “This is completely untrue,” she says. “My reason for not achieving the result everyone expected is lack of acclimatisation.”

Yet, she relied back to form late that season dipping under 15 minutes to win the World Athletics Final 5000m race in 14:59.19.

Injuries and illness

Injury problems and kidney stones nearly wiped out her entire 2005 season and even limited her 2006 appearance to just the 5000m race the European Championships in Gothenburg where she finished third. But silver medal performances in Osaka and Beijing have helped her emerge as one of the major contenders in women’s distance running.

Despite her change of allegiance, Abeylegesse continues to enjoy strong home ties with Ethiopia, her country of birth. She trains in the outskirts of Addis Ababa with her younger brother Dereje, who has so far taken part in some road races in Turkey, and is engaged to Semeneh Debele, an Ethiopian she has been seeing for nearly eight years.

However, she has also continued her assimilation in her adopted country. In addition to fluently speaking Turkish, Abeylegesse’s favourite movies are Turkish television dramas including Noor, a romantic soap opera whose Arabic version is providing quite a hit throughout the Middle East and Arab-speaking countries.

Abeylegesse maintains a strictly professional relationship with her former compatriots and claims they are big rivals on the track, but “exchange greetings” off it.

“All of them are like athletes I meet when I train and compete around the world,” she says. “I really do not know them much as a person. We do say hello to each other when we meet, but that is it.”

Ambitions for 2009: Berlin and records

“The new year always brings new hopes and ambitions for me,” says Abeylegesse. ”This year, I have many hopes and ambitions.”

Her main target this year is to win gold at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Berlin, Germany (15 – 23 August 2009), but she also has other ambitions including possible World record attempts at 10,000m and 10km road.

“I always think about World records,” she says. “It is not difficult to break a World record as long as I have good weather, good pacemakers, and perfect preparation.”

She will have to do without long-time Russian coach Anatoliy Bychkov who parted with her club and the Federation after the Olympics. But Abeylegesse is optimistic anything is possible if she can stay healthy and injury free.

“Anything is possible including a World record at 10,000m,” she says. “If I am healthy and not injured, there are many dreams I want to pursue.”

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF