Sunday, March 29, 2009

With brother and Gebrselassie as inspiration, Abshero rises in the ranks

Amman, Jordan - Young boys tend to look up to their older brothers and Ayele Abshero was no different. Tessema Abshero was born four years before Ayele and was among Ethiopia’s best young Cross Country runners before developing into a 2:08 marathoner.

“I began running because my brother is a runner and I followed his example,” Ayele reflected here last night, sitting patiently on the Ethiopian table, waiting for his dinner, at the Final Banquet for the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

There as a guest of royalty – the invitations had come from His Royal Highness Prince Feisal Al Hussein (LOC Patron) – Ethiopia’s athletics ‘royalty’ was missing. No Haile Gebrselassie – he has long since given up Cross Country – no 2008 World Cross champions Kenenisa Bekele or Tirunesh Dibaba.

But wait. A new generation of Ethiopian athletics ‘royalty’ is on its way. Three of the four individual titles contested here yesterday were won by Ethiopians, 18-year-old Abshero taking the Junior Men’s, 18-year-old Genzebe Dibaba the Junior Women’s and 24-year-old Gebre Gebremariam the Senior Men’s.

Already thinking ahead

After following his individual silver medal at the 2008 World Cross, in Edinburgh, with a clinical victory here – he remained buried in the lead group before pouncing for the prize up the final hill – Abshero was soon thinking ahead. To the short and long-term.

“Next year I will no longer be competing as a junior, so I hope to train well and be able to get gold,” he said.

Bekele accomplished the feat in 2002, taking the Senior title the season after winning Junior gold, but no other athlete has managed it in the history of the championships, which succeeded the traditional ‘International’ event in 1973. In fact Gebremariam’s triumph here made him only the second athlete to have won IAAF Senior Men’s and Junior Men’s individual World Cross titles.

“For the long term I just hope to work hard and to be able to take the place of the famous athletes in whose footsteps I am now following,” Abshero added. For him, the footsteps of Gebrselassie have laid the deepest tracks.

Asked which athletes he admired most, Abshero said: “All of them but especially Gebrselassie because he has been winning for so long. From the beginning it has always been Haile I have admired the most and who has inspired me the most.”

For a journalist, it is always a challenge to sum up Gebrselassie’s achievements in a single sentence so let’s just say here that he has accomplished everything in the sport – except the one thing that Abshero has now. An individual gold medal from the World Cross. Six attempts, no victories.

Gebrselassie’s latest great accomplishment, a World record in the marathon in September, may seems a long way down the path for Abshero but don’t think he hasn’t thought about the distance. “Although I will be running on the track for a while, my long-term goal is to run on the road, and I do hope to be able to follow in his (Gebrselassie’s) footsteps,” Abshero said.

The new World champion was on Gebrselassie’s radar even before yesterday. “Although I know a lot about him, he didn’t really know me, but after I beat Kenenisa he came to know more about me,” Abshero reflected, referring to his 15km victory over the injured third-placed Bekele in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, in November.

Abshero, then only 17, clocked 42:17, a time which survived 2008 as the third quickest in the world. However, lacking in his CV up to now is a big performance on the track.

“It is true I don’t have such good results on the track but I have a best time for 5000m of 13:35,” Abshero said. “I think I have just worked at the cross country more and I need more experience on the track. When it comes to cross country I have been training with some of the top athletes and I think that has helped me do well.”

From an area in southern Ethiopia with little tradition of supplying the country’s top runners, Abshero hopes to become a flagbearer. “Because there have not been other great athletes to come from that area I am happy to be the first,” he said. “But I also believe that there will be many others who will follow in my footsteps as well.”

David Powell for the IAAF

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Genzebe keeps the Dibaba family at the top of the world - Amman 2009

Amman, Jordan - Genzebe Dibaba imposed herself on a tough course and tough opposition to take her second junior women’s World Cross Country title.
With older sisters Tirunesh, three times senior long-course champion, once short-course champion and a former junior champion, and Ejegayehu, second to Benita Johnson in the 2004 long-course race, not here, Genzebe Dibaba made sure the family name stayed on the victory dais by coming out on top after a race long battle with Kenya’s Mercy Cherono.

Not only was her win a personal triumph, but it cemented a team win as both Ethiopia and Kenya tied on 18 points. Had Cherono won, Kenya would have regained the title it lost in Edinburgh last year. As it was, it was the higher place for fourth finisher Emebet Anteneh, seventh one ahead of Kenya’s Hilda Chepkemboi Tanui, which clinched the outcome.

Dibaba thought back to Edinburgh two ways, both for her first win and the absence of her sister, who won the senior race.

“I am extremely happy I won, even though Tirunesh was not here,’’ she said after the race, “I’m happier even than last year, because this year’s race was extremely difficult.”

Dibaba described the hilly Bisharat Golf Club circuit as almost too difficult to handle. Cherono was no easier to combat. After Kenya’s Jackline Chebii injected the first surge early in the second lap, Cherono took over and it was Dibaba v Cherono for the individual title.

Dibaba first made her intent plain when she barged her way out of the pack, clashing arms with both friend and foe, to track Cherono’s initial move. Then she took over up the steep hill midway through the second lap and broke away for a significant lead.

Now it was Cherono’s turn to dig deep. Down the long hill starting each lap and along the one flat section of the loop she narrowed the gap, then took the lead herself on the uphill section.

Now it would be decided on the final climb, a brutal 300 metres in which the course rises almost from its lowest point some 40 metres to its highest. Surely Cherono’s strength would prevail now. But it was Dibaba who first edged back up, then away from the Kenyan runner. At the line, she was 20 metres to the good.

Cherono was followed in by her teammate Jackline Chepngeno, with Frehiwat Goshu (Eth) fourth, Nelly Chebet of Kenya fifth, Sule Utura (Eth) sixth, Anteneh sevent and Chepkemi Tanui eighth. It came down to that fourth place, a true test of team depth.
Japan packed extremely well with Nanaka Izawa (17), Erika Ikeda (18), Asami Kato (20) and Aki Otagiri (21) to take the bronze medal. Great Britain was fourth, the USA fifth, Eritrea sixth, Australia seventh, with Russia rounding out the top eight.

Australia’s Emily Bricachek was the first non-African finisher in 11th place, with Britons Lauren Howarth and Charlotte Purdue 13th and 14th respectively.

Len Johnson for the IAAF

Gebremariam's final burst secures men's senior prize for Ethiopia - Amman 2009

Amman, Jordan - After one of the most thrilling finishes in the history of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Ethiopia’s Gebre Gebremariam took the Senior Men’s 12km title at Bisharat Golf Club here today. It marked a stunning comeback for the 24-year-old father-of-two whose string of World Cross individual medals from 2002 to 2004 had been followed by four fallow years.

Gebremariam, who is married to 2003 women’s World Long Course champion, Worknesh Kidane, outpunched a group of 10 contenders coming to the final climb. With a combination of strength and speed, Gebremariam made his rivals, especially Kenya’s Leonard Komon and Mathew Kisorio, pay the price of their eager front-running.

Calling on his experience, Gebremariam had been content to run a cautious race, keeping towards the back of the lead group for most of the way. But, when the critical moment arrived, he forgot about his results of recent years and kicked away, leaving Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro to take the silver and Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese, the 2007 champion, in bronze medal position.

Although Kenya took their 22nd team title in 24 years, their failure to win an individual podium place will hurt until they have a chance to correct it at the 2010 World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz. Komon led their winning team, taking 4th place, with Kisorio 6th, Mark Kiptoo 7th and Moses Mosop 11th. The key man here was Mosop as, with both Kenya and Ethiopia scoring 28 points, the outcome was decided on the fourth and last scorer and Mosop edged out Feyisa Lilesa (12th).

Gebremariam not only succeeds his compatriot, Kenenisa Bekele, as World champion, he is now right behind him as the second most successful man since the championships began in 1973. Two medals today takes his career total to 15 medals, moving up from third place ahead of Kenya’s Paul Tergat (14 medals). Bekele, who was absent injured, has 27. On number of individual medals won, Gebremariam moves up from seventh to joint third with five, behind Bekele (13) and Tergat (6) but level with John Ngugi and Carlos Lopes.

It took a long time coming. After winning the Junior title in 2002, Gebremariam added to his collection the Senior Long Course bronze in 2003 and double silver – Long Course and Short Course – in 2004. But, in 2005, he failed to finish the Long Course race and was ninth over the Short Course. In 2006 he was 13th (Long) and 30th (Short), he missed 2007 and returned to place 17th in the Long Course in 2008.

So it was a triumph for perseverance for Gebremariam who also becomes only the second athlete after Bekele to have won World Cross individual titles at Junior and Senior level. For Kenya, the wait goes on for a first men’s Senior champion since Tergat in 1999.

Kipsiro came tantalisingly close to giving Uganda its first World Cross champion but instead had to settle for becoming the country’s third medallist – albeit its first at Senior level - after Boniface Kiprop two silvers (2003/2004) and Moses Kibet’s bronze in the Juniors here.

Gebremariam’s victory earned him US $30,000 as the individual champion, Kipsiro picked up US $15,000 for silver and Tadese, the 2007 champion who is preparing to make his marathon debut in the Flora London Marathon next month, US $10,000 for bronze.

David Powell for the IAAF


A sum of US$280,000 in prize money is being paid by the IAAF for the two senior races in Amman.**
A US$30,000 prize is available for each individual winner of the men’s and women’s senior races with money filtering down to 6th position where the reward is US$3000 per athlete. In total US$140,000 is on offer as individual prizes.

In terms of the team contest in both senior events, there is another prize pool of US$140,000. This is distributed with US$20,000 going to the first team home in each race, descending to 6th place where the pay out is US$4000.

Prize Money in US$ – senior men’s and women’s races only

1st – 30,000
2nd – 15,000
3rd – 10,000
4th – 7000
5th – 5000
6th – 3000

1st – 20,000
2nd – 16,000
3rd – 12,000
4th – 10,000
5th – 8000
6th – 4000

Abshero reaches the top step of the podium this time - Amman 2009

Amman, Jordan – Digging deep into his reserves up the final climb towards the finish, Ethiopia’s Ayele Abshero wasn’t going to settle for a second successive silver medal at the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships at the Bisharat Golf Club here today. And Abshero’s strength duly saw him go one better than he had in Edinburgh last year as he took the gold from Titus Mbishei (Kenya) and Moses Kibet (Uganda).

Mbishei had perhaps deserved more for it was he who had pushed the pace along for much of the 8km race. But Abshero lived up to his billing as the pre-race favourite, taking control with a surge up a short hill with some 600m to go and never looking back. Mbishei stuck to Abshero’s heels briefly but fell away to finish 25 metres down.

At least Mbishei had the satisfaction of leading Kenya to team gold, although Ethiopia came mightily close to ending Kenya’s run of 10 successive titles, a figure which now moves onto 11. Backing up Mbishei was Paul Tanui (4th), Japheth Korir (5th) and John Kipkoech (9th) for a total for 20 points. Ethiopia scored 22 with Abshero followed home by Atalay Yirsaw (6th) Gashaw Biftu (7th) and Debebe Woldsenbet (8th).

While Abshero was runner-up last year behind his compatriot, Ibrahim Jeylan, Mbishei was fifth. The Kenyan ran like a young man who knew he had to draw the finish from Abshero and, after the Eritrean squad had made the early running, Mbishei took charge. He led through the second and third laps as Abshero buried himself in the lead group outside the top three.

As the bell for the fourth and final lap sounded, the number of contenders was down to seven: Mbishei, Yirsaw, Biftu, Abshero, Kibet and Korir bunched close together with Tanui five metres back. But, once Abshero had made his surge, taking Mbishei with him, only the bronze was left to fight for and it was Kibet who edged out Tanui to become the first athlete from outside Kenya or Ethiopia to take an individual medal in this event since his fellow Ugandan, Boniface Kiprop, took bronze in 2004.

Abshero had laid down markers which pointed to his victory here with a series of fine performances during the winter. He won the Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza, in Elgoibar, Spain, on 11 January, beating the last two runners-up from the senior World Championship – Moses Mosop and Leonard Komon.

One week later Abshero finished fifth in the IAAF permit series meeting in Seville but only a few strides behind the first two, Moses Kipsiro and Tariku Bekele. In the Ethiopian trial last month, Abshero was as comfortable winner of the Junior race. He should, however, be aware that history is not on his side when it comes to a prospective senior title. In the 36-year history of the World Cross Country Championships (pending today’s Senior Men’s race) only Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele has gone on to win the class Senior Men’s 12km title having triumphed as a junior.

Mbishei now has a pair of individual silver medals at global level, having finished runner-up over 10,000m in the 2008 World Junior Championships, in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He is the latest of a long line of Kenyans to have developed his early fitness by running to and from school, 4.5km each way in his case. On top of that his running would be put to the test herding sheep and hunting rabbits with his father.

Team bronze medals went to Eritrea, their squad led home by Goitom Kifle (14th) and completed by Malue Andom (18th), Nassir Dawud (19th) and Merhawi Tadesse (21st).

Despite his concerns over a recent injury, German Fernandez the world’s fastest ever junior indoor miler was the first non-African across the line in 11th place.

After breaking the record for the second time this season, Fernandez suffered what he described as “a stress reaction” to a foot and had been running for the last two weeks in pain. While he achieved the top 15 place he had been looking for, he leaves without the team medal he had his eye on. The US had to settle for fifth place behind Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda.

With Ethiopia's Kenenisa and Tirunesh missing, field wide open

AMMAN, Jordan — With defending champions Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba out with injuries, the field is wide open for Saturday's World Cross Country Championships.

The Ethiopian pair have dominated the event, with Bekele winning six of the last seven men's championships and Dibaba taking three women's titles in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

The two also completed 5,000-10,000 sweeps at last year's Beijing Olympics.

But Bekele is recovering from an ankle stress fracture, while Dibaba is sidelined with a leg injury.

Despite their absence, Ethiopians and Kenyans are still expected to battle for the medals as the championships take place in the Middle East for the first time.

More than 500 athletes from 63 countries are competing in the $300,000 championships, which feature senior men's and women's races and junior men's and women's events.

The Ethiopian senior team is led by Gebregziabher Gebremariam, who won the junior title in 2002, finished third in the long race in 2003 and took two silvers behind Bekele in 2004.

"We have a very strong and determined team and although Bekele will not be around, we are ready to keep the title another year," Gebremariam said.

Bekele posted a record six victories over the classic 12-kilometer distance since 2001, with his streak interrupted only by Eritrea's Zersenay Tadese in 2007.

Although Kenya has continued to dominate the team event, it has not had a long-course champion since Paul Tergat won the last of his five successive titles in 1999.

Ethiopia swept the individual titles and both women's team titles last year in Scotland, leaving Kenya only the senior and junior men's team gold.

Kenya's Mark Kiptoo, who finished second in 2007, said his country is poised for victory this year.

"We're extremely confident and well prepared for the event and we want to regain what we lost 10 years ago," Kiptoo said. "We have the will to win."

Among the women, Ethiopia is led by world indoor 1,500-meter champion Gelete Burka, a former world junior and world short course champion, and two-time bronze medalist Meselech Melkamu.

Kenya has 19-year-old Linet Masai, who won the junior race in 2007, took bronze in the senior event last year and was fourth in the Olympic 10,000-meter final in Beijing.

Kenyan-born Hilda Kebet, who was fifth last year, is now competing for the Netherlands.

"Last year, I was surprised to be in fifth place, so tomorrow I am very happy to be part of the event and I believe that all the hard work will eventually be rewarded," she said.

The U.S. team includes 18-year-old German Fernandez, who last month set a junior world indoor record for the mile of 3:55.02. Fernandez hopes to help the U.S. improve on its sixth-place team finish from last year. ___

(By Jamal Halaby, Associated Press. Rofan Nahhas contributed to this report.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A runner by default, Kiplagat now targets the ultimate prize - Amman 2009

Embu, Kenya - After a hard day’s speed work training at the Embu Municipal Stadium on a hot Tuesday afternoon under vocal head coach Julius Kirwa, Florence Kiplagat gingerly makes her way to the Kenyan cross country team’s bus and eases into the seat next to Moses Mosop.

Mosop is Kenya’s 12-kilometre national cross country champion and it’s no coincidence that Kiplagat – the senior women’s title holder - goes for the seat next to the 2007 senior men’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships silver medallist.

They are married and both will be travelling to Amman with the unique mission of being Kenya’s first husband-and-wife gold medallists at the World Cross Country Championships.

Uncomfortable when asked about their relationship, the 22-year-old Kiplagat brightens up when prodded on her fledgling career that has taken everyone, including herself, by surprise.

It started off as a singular mission to study in the United States.

“I was looking for a scholarship to travel to the US for studies,” Kiplagat recalls with nostalgia.

“I was then studying at Sirgoech Secondary School in Iten and I was looking to get the scholarship to an American university after my Form Four studies in 2005.

“My father encouraged me to run saying it would be easier to get a track scholarship and that’s how I started running.”

The scholarship was hard to come by for Kiplagat - then largely an 800 metres runner - but all was not lost for this talented athlete.

World junior medals makes up for lost scholarship

She made the Kenya team to the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing where she settled for silver in her new speciality, the 5000 metres.

“I was happy and said to myself that I may not have secured the scholarship, but at least I have discovered that I have the talent and I was determined to go for it.”

Kiplagat tasted global competition at the highest level again in 2007 when she made the Kenyan team to the 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa.

But running before a noisy home crowd, the Kenyan challenge failed to take off the ground on the Mombasa Golf Club course.

Well, not exactly, as Kenya-born Dutchwoman Lornah Kiplagat cruised to victory in 26 minutes and 23 seconds with the Ethiopian trio of Tirunesh Dibaba, Meselech Melkamu and Gelete Burka in tow.

The Dutchwoman’s namesake led the Kenyan team home in fifth place with Pamela Chepchumba, Prisca Jepleting and Vivian Cheruiyot occupying the sixth to eighth slots.

Maternity does not take the toll

After the Mombasa show, Kiplagat competed in a few track races in Europe and then she went into the “off-season” which, in Kenyan athletics parlance, means she took time off to have a baby.

And a baby girl it was, born to Kiplagat and Mosop, and named Asha Chelagat, the couple’s first-born.

With Kiplagat and Mosop away from their Iten home for the mandatory month-long Kenyan cross country team’s camp in Embu on the slopes of Mount Kenya, baby Chelagat is left with Kiplagat’s step-sister Vigoty Chebet.

“It’s always difficult for a mother and father to leave their one-year-old baby alone – I’m really grateful to my sister for taking care of Asha as we prepare to represent the country in Amman,” Kiplagat says.

Again, and just like her very much reserved husband Mosop, she prefers not to be drawn too much into discussions about family.

Training with husband pays off

But adamantly I ask her, just how does Mosop help in her running career, and she, finally, lightens up and opens up to the interview.

“He (Moses Mosop) helps me in the long runs. Usually I have a 45-minute head start and Moses and the other men follow. Sometimes the intervals are down to 15-minute head starts for me,” she says.

“No woman in Kenya can pace me the way Moses and the men do and when they pace me, usually I run faster and it does a lot of good to my training programme.”

Before joining the Kenyan team’s camp in Embu, Kiplagat’s punishing individual training included an hour’s easy morning run on Mondays with a 40-minute easy session in the afternoon; one hour and 10 minutes in the morning and 50 minutes in the afternoon on Wednesdays and Fridays and a one-and-a-half-hours long run on Thursday.

Sunday mornings were reserved for a 50-minute hill work session with Tuesdays and Saturdays set aside for 40 minutes easy runs in the mornings and afternoons, interspersed with intervals training.
Kiplagat’s 2009 cross country season took off to an easy and gradual start.

Success on European circuit

The last born in a family of three children ran in the Tuskys Cross Country in Eldoret last December, finishing second, before travelling to Spain for cross country races winning both.

At the 66th Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza in Elgoibar, Kiplagat floored a strong team that included former Kenya champion Grace Momanyi to win the 6.624km race in 21:39.

She also won the IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting in Seville.

The Spanish sojourn held her in good stead as Kiplagat returned home determined to make the Kenyan team to the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman.

Kenyan champion

She simply obliterated the opposition at February’s Kenyan trials for the Amman championship at Nairobi’s Ngong Racecourse, winning in a brilliant sprint finish that earned her one of the four automatic tickets to the Kenya team.

“The competition at the Ngong trials was fair although I did not face that much of a challenge,” she says, nonchalantly.

“If you are confident with yourself and you have the will, willing comes easily,” she adds, philosophically.

But for Kiplagat, victory at Ngong was more than just about confidence. She had the extra motivation to perform as just three days before the selection meet, she had buried her brother.

“I said to myself I must do well in my athletics career so that I can be able to take care of my late brother’s two children – that gave me the motivation to succeed at the trials and also to go for the podium in Amman.”

Running – a family tradition

Kiplagat comes from a running family with her uncle, William Kiplagat, a 2:06 marathoner who is in the field for next month’s Rotterdam Marathon.

This weekend’s championships in Amman give her an opportunity to cement her place in Kenyan history as only the second Kenyan woman to have won the seniors’ gold medal at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships after Hellen Chepngeno struck gold way back in 1994.

“I have worked on maintaining my shape for Amman, gradually reducing my long runs and concentrating on speed work and my body feels OK.

“We have been working on team tactics and we know how we will play around with the opposition in Amman.”

Besides Kiplagat, other members of Kenya’s eight-kilometre senior women’s team are former junior champion (Fukuoka 2006) Pauline Korikwiang, Innes Chenonge, Linet Chepkurui, Anne Karindi and Linet Masai, the junior champion at the 2007 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa.

With a personal best of 15:32.34 in the 5000 metres, Kiplagat is Kenya’s strongest bet for a gold medal in the senior women’s race in Amman.

And with the huge cash incentives in store, she will have the extra motivation to become Kenya’s only second women’s senior winner since Chepng’eno’s 1994 feat and, most importantly, she will be going for glory to help raise her late sibling’s two children.

Kenya’s head coach Kirwa - in his fifth straight year as national coach - has already said this year’s Kenyan senior women’s team is the most competitive and remains confident of bringing that elusive individual senior women’s gold medal that Kiplagat stands a great chance of winning for Kenya.

Kiplagat says she will dedicate her gold medal to her step-sister, Vigoty Chebet, who is taking care of one-year-old baby Asha in the absence of her running parents.

Elias Makori for the IAAF

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ethiopia bids farewell to its athletes for world cross country championships

Ethiopia on Tuesday bade farewell to its athletes who will take part in the 37 International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) world cross country championship scheduled to be held beginning 28 March in Amman, the Jordanian capital.

The 33 member Ethiopian delegation will leave for Oman on Tuesday evening.

This year’s cross country championship will be held for the first time in the Middle East where over 60 countries and around 700 athletes are expected to attend starting on Saturday.

The head of the Ethiopian athletics team to Jordan Tadele Tola told journalists that the Ethiopian national team, which comprises 24 athletes, is expected to repeat its victory at this year’s cross country championship.

Some of the athletes, Gelete Burka and two-time bronze medallist Meselech Melkamu,Genzebe Dibaba (Tirunesh Dibaba’s youngest sister),Gebregziabher Gebremariam who won two silver medals in the 2004 edition of the championships, Tadesse Tola, seventh in Mombasa two years ago, Feyissa Lelisa, 14th in the junior race last year, and World Indoor 3000m champion Tariku Bekele are among others to represent Ethiopia at the championship.

However, it was reported that Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba, who recently won two gold medals each at the Beijing Olympic will not participate in the race due to injury problems.

Their absence from the championship created confusion among the Ethiopian sports fraternity to repeat their performance as in the previous years.

List of Ethiopian athletes

Women’s Junior 6km: Sule Utura, Genzebe Dibaba, Emebet Anteneh, Meseret Mengistu, Tsega Gelaw, Frehiwot Goshu.

Men’s Junior 8km: Ayele Abshiro; Yetwale Kinde; Dejen Gebremeskel; Atalay Yersaw; Debebe Woldesenbet; Legesse Lemiso

Women’s Senior 8km: Wude Ayalew; Meselech Melkamu; Gelete Burka; Koreni Jelila; Sentayehu Ejigu; Mamitu Deska

Men’s Senior 12km: Gebregziabher Gebremariam; Feyissa Lelisa; Tadesse Tola; Tariku Bekele; Hunegnaw Mesfin; Habtamu Fekadu.

WOMEN’s Races - WXC AMMAN 2009

Amman, Jordan - How refreshing to come to a major championship without a strong presumption as to who the winner will be.

That’s the position as we arrive in Amman for the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships on Saturday 28 March. Four of the six women who have won the senior long course race since 2000 are still active at the highest levels of the sport, Paula Radcliffe (2001-02), Benita Johnson (2004), Tirunesh Dibaba (2005-06 and 2008) and Lornah Kiplagat (2007) but not one is running in Amman.

The only former senior champion entered is Ethiopia’s Gelete Burka, winner in Fukuoka in 2006 of the now defunct short-course title. At the risk of stretching a point to bolster the argument, and not taking anything away from that champions abilities, even that was a race lost as much as a race won as Dibaba pulled out ill at the half-way point.

And, of course, junior competition never stands still so when we turn to the junior women’s race there can be no certainty either, though it would be a foolhardy pundit who suggested the winner would not come from East Africa. Last year’s champion, Genzebe Dibaba, younger sister of Tirunesh, returns to defend her title.

If the champion’s tag means anything in looking for a senior winner, four former junior champions are entered in this year’s senior race. Meselech Melkamu won for Ethiopia in 2004, Burka succeeded her, Pauline Korikwiang won in Fukuoka three years ago and her Kenyan teammate Linet Masai won in Mombasa.

Looking through the Kenyan and Ethiopian teams, Florence Kiplagat won at the IAAF Cross-Country Permit meeting in Seville this year and then took the Kenyan trial in Nairobi a month later. Innes Chenonge was a close-up second with Masai and Linet Chepkurui following. Korikwiang finished only 14th but was drafted into the team as a wild card selection. As ever, the finishing order in Amman will be determined by what has happened in the final team training camp.

Wude Ayalew, bronze medallist at 10,000 metres in the African championships, surprised Melkamu to take the Ethiopian senior trial. Melkamu, twice a bronze medallist in the senior race, must fancy her chances in Amman. Sentayehu Ejigu ran 14:47.62 to win the Boston Indoor Games 5000 at the beginning of February.

The senior women’s title has been shared around of recent times with a Briton (Radcliffe) and an Australian (Johnson) interrupting the East African hegemony. As well, Kenyan-born Lornah Kiplagat won for her adopted Netherlands in Mombasa.

Hilda Kibet, another former Kenyan who has adopted Dutch citizenship, hopes to emulate her friend Kiplagat by winning in Amman. The European Cross Country champion, she could do it, too. Johnson, 11th last year in Edinburgh, is absent from Australia’s team this year which will be led by marathoner Lisa Jane Weightman (20th in Edinburgh) and 20-year-old Zatopek 10,000 metres winner Lara Tamsett. Stephanie Twell of Great Britain will fancy her chances of a high finish.

New Zealand’s Kim Smith ran 14:39.89 in an indoor 5000 last month and is targeting Amman. New Zealand has a great record in the region: the men won the world cross-country in Rabat, Morocco in 1975; the women were second.

But the most intriguing contender for the women’s crown is Maryam Yusuf Jamal, Bahrain’s Ethiopian-born World champion at 1500 metres. Her track credentials are virtually flawless and a win at the Asian championships suggests she is not without claims at cross-country. The World championship is several notches higher, but who knows what Jamal may be capable of? A possible precedent may be Kiwi great John Walker’s fourth place in 1975. He wasn’t a bad 1500 runner, going on to win the Olympic title the following year!

Another 1500m runner who should be in the mix is Britain's Stephanie Twell, the reigning World Junior 1500m champion and multiple European Junior XC champion who having won the IAAF permit meeting race in Antrim on 3 January, now takes on her first senior international championship challenge.

At team level, a reprise of the Ethiopia v Kenya battle seems likely, but seven other countries have taken a bronze medal in the past eight years - France, USA (also a silver in 2002), Great Britain, Portugal, Japan, Morocco and Australia.


East African dominance seems inevitable at the junior level, too, though Japan will push hard for a team medal.

Kenya’s Mercy Cherono has been 3000 metres gold medallist at the World Youth and World Junior Championships in the past two years, Genzebe Dibaba is defending champion and her Ethiopian teammate Sule Utura is World Junior Champion at 5000 (ahead of Dibaba and another contender here in Kenya’s Nelly Chebet).

Asami Kato (15th last year), Chise Shibata and Nanaka Izawa spearhead the Japanese team. Japan’s junior women have medalled in eight of the last 10 world cross-country championships.

PREVIEW - MEN’s Races - WXC AMMAN 2009

Amman, Jordan - There will be a refreshing change in theme to the senior men’s race at the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships on the Bisharat Golf Course in Amman, Jordan, on Saturday (28 March). For the first time since 2001, Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele will not be the centre of attention. Either Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese will win or there will be a new name on the roll of honour.

The greatest pain felt by Bekele’s domination – six wins over the classic 12km distance in seven years, broken only by Tadese’s triumph in 2007 – has been suffered by Kenya. Although this powerhouse nation has continued to hold the upper hand in the team event, it has not celebrated a long-course individual champion since Paul Tergat notched the last of his five successive wins in 1999.

Are the 10 years of hurt about to end?

Tergat’s record five classic titles - a mark he shared with compatriot John Ngugi - was surpassed in Edinburgh last year by Bekele, who became the first man to win six. The Scottish capital proved a rich hunting ground for Ethiopia as they took a sweep of the individual titles for the first time, and both women’s team titles, leaving Kenya only the senior and junior men’s team gold as consolation.

The greater experience in their squad seems likely to deliver Kenya a 22nd team title in 24 years and this time they might be led home by the individual gold medallist. Leonard Komon, runner-up to Bekele last year, and Moses Mosop, silver medallist behind Tadese in 2007, are obvious contenders but, in Mathew Kisorio and Mangata Ndiwa, they have senior debutants either one of whom could spring a shock.

For Komon, Amman represents his fourth World Cross Country appearance since his debut in the juniors in 2006 brought him the silver medal behind Ndiwa and ahead of third-placed Tariku Bekele. The younger Bekele will have to carry much of the burden left by his brother’s absence, being, at 22, the second oldest athlete in the Ethiopian team and one of two squad members most likely to challenge for the podium.

Komon’s consistency at these championships is impressive, having followed his 2006 runner-up place with fourth in the juniors in 2007 and second in his senior debut in 2008. A victory in the IAAF Permit meeting in Soria, Spain, in November augured well but his bubble burst when he was well beaten at the IAAF Permit meeting in Seville, in January, by Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro and Tariku Bekele. Then, at the Kenyan trials last month, suffering a stitch, he finished 20th and had to rely on the selectors giving him a wild card.

After chasing Tadese home in 2007, running without a shoe for the last 2km, Mosop suffered a career-threatening Achilles injury that summer and did not return to training until October 2008. Just four months after his return, he won the Kenyan trial for Amman, a race which formed part of the IAAF Cross Country Permit series. Emphasising the difficulty of picking a champion for Saturday, the 10-race series has produced 10 different winners this season.

There is a comeback thread running through the Kenyan team as Ndiwa appears in his first World Cross since winning the junior title in 2006, his career interrupted by injury, malaria and typhoid. And nobody in the Kenyan squad will be more aware of the country’s history at the championships than Kisorio, the son of the country’s first medallist at the World Cross Country Championships (bronze, 1983), the late Some Muge. Kisorio underlined his potential for Amman by finishing second to Mosop in the trial.

While Kenya’s squad may possess athletes of an age suggesting experience, whereas Ethiopia’s oldest team member is 24-year-old Gebre Gebremariam, don’t be misled. The 32-year-old Mark Kiptoo is making only his second World Cross appearance and Linus Chumba is making his debut at 29. So far as Ethiopia is concerned, so lacking in solid pedigree is the rest of the squad, the team’s prospects depend heavily on Gebremariam and Tariku Bekele.

Gebremariam, though, has failed to impress at the World Cross in the years since he won the junior title (2002) then, in the senior classic race, placed 3rd (2003) and 2nd (2004). He has warmed up well for Amman, though, winning the Ethiopian trial in which Tariku Bekele was fourth behind Feyissa Lelisa and Tadese Tola.

Tariku Bekele steps up for his senior World Cross debut, representing a big test of endurance for the 3000/5000m track runner. In the junior World Cross he was 6th in 2005 and 3rd in 2006. As yet, his cross country record pales compared to his track performances, which include the 2006 World Junior 5000m gold medal, the 2008 World Indoor 3000m title, and sixth place in the Beijing Olympic 5000m.

The war-horse of the field is Tadese, 27, who will be making his eighth successive appearance in the championships. Thirtieth in his debut in 2002, he made the podium for the first time in 2005 and has been consistently among the frontrunners ever since. In a varied career, he was a national road cycling champion in 2001 and, in 2004, became Eritrea’s first Olympic medallist, taking bronze over 10,000m in Athens. He is the reigning three-time World Half Marathon champion.

At the IAAF Permit meeting in Edinburgh in January, Tadese had to settle for a rear view of winner Abebe Dinkesa, from Ethiopia, and Ndiwa. Only Mosop, Komon, Kipsiro and Saif Saaeed Shaheen, from Qatar, are among the 10 winners on the IAAF Permit meeting circuit this season who are entered. Shaheen, the 3000m Steeplechase World record holder and double World champion (2003/05), returns for a fifth attempt at the World Cross, never having won a medal but having been in contention in each of his three short course and one long-course appearances.

Shaheen’s fellow Qatari, Ahmed Hassan Abdullah, is another experienced campaigner who could take advantage of Kenenisa’s absence through injury. He has run in nine World Cross races at eight championships, highlighted by his long-course bronze in 2005. Eighth in the Beijing Olympic 10,000m and third in October’s World Half Marathon Championships, he has a wealth of experience with which to fight the younger brigade.


The junior men’s race appears to have a clear favourite in 18-year-old Ayele Abshero, runner-up last season and comfortable winner of the Ethiopian trial in Addis Ababa last month. However, such is the strength of the Kenyan squad that Abshero faces a stiff challenge and the almost certain knowledge that Kenya will win a 21st team title in 22 years (the exception was 1998).

Trials winner John Cheruiyot, having been training on breaks from school with 2006 senior World Cross runner-up Isaac Songok and Commonweath 5000m champion Augustine Choge, leads the Kenyan charge while 15-year-old Japheth Korir, the World Youth Games 5000m bronze medallist, is the baby of the team. Intriguing, too, is the entry of Alemu Bekele, who was born in Ethiopia just 7km from the birthplace of Kenenisa and Tirunesh Dibaba but who made his debut for Bahrain this month, winning the Asian junior men’s title in Manama.

Only once in the last 24 years has a non-African finished in the top three junior men – Dathan Ritzenhein (US) was third in 2001 – so the inclusion of two hot middle distance runners from outside the continent is especially fascinating. The US lines up with German Fernandez, who has twice set a World junior indoor Mile best since the turn of the year (3:56.50 and 3:55.02), while the Australia team contains Ryan Gregson, who broke the 29-year-old national junior 1500m record last month (3:37.24).

David Powell for the IAAF

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kiptoo Kolum sets race record in Rome Marathon

ROME (AP) — Benjamin Kiptoo Kolum has led a Kenyan sweep of the top 11 places and set a race record in the Rome Marathon on Sunday.

Kiptoo Kolum won in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 17 seconds -- slicing 45 seconds off the previous race record set by Alberico Di Cecco of Italy in 2005.

It was the fastest marathon ever run in Italy, beating Simretu Alemayehu of Ethiopia's mark of 2:07:44 in Turin in 2001.

Paul Kiprop Kirui was second in 2:08:23 and Joseph Ngeny was third in 2:08:41.

Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia won the women's race in 2:27:08, with Tetyana Filonyuk of Ukraine second, 35 seconds back, and Haile Lema Kebebush of Ethiopia third.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ethiopia’s finest races in Manchester

HAILE GEBRSELASSIE is set for a return run in the BUPA Great Manchester Run later this year.
The diminutive Ethiopian, arguably the greatest distance runner of all time, is said to be relishing his return to the north east 10 kilometers road race where the prospect of him running a world record is highly anticipated.

Along with the expected 33,000 entrants Gebrselassie will try and better 27:25 he posted in 2005 which was the fastest time ever on British roads of 27:25.

The world record is currently 27:02 which the 35-year-old posted in Doha. Having won the Dubai Marathon earlier this year Gebrselassie said: "I like Manchester, it is a good fast course and I'm looking forward to returning. It fits perfectly into my programme.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Al Amoudi poised to fund a Football Team in Australia

Ethiopia's Richest man, who has just been named the 43rd richest person in the world by Forbes magazine, is reportedly in discussion to fund Tasmania United FC football club in Australia, Mercury newspaper reports.

Tasmania United chairman John McGirr would not confirm the report, but Mercury newspaper revealed the name of Sheik Mohammed Hussein Ali Al Amoudi, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. McGirr said United's director of football, Ken Morton, first came across the sheik while coaching in Ethiopia, according to Mercury newspaper. "Our director of football, Ken Morton, as we speak is negotiating with a businessman in Dubai who is very keen to come on board," McGirr said. "He already owns a club elsewhere. "He is very, very passionate about the game. "He has had a lot of success and, like business people, he is very egotistical and it would be nice to own another club.", the paper wrote.

Al Amoudi who owns Saint George FC, Ethiopia's most celebrated football club, is a big fan of football.

Al Amoudi who was born and raised in Ethiopia is a self-made billionaire with an estimated net worth of $9 Billion. He immigrated to Saudi Arabia in 1965 and became a Saudi citizen.
Al Amoudi made his fortune in construction and real estate before branching out to buy oil refineries in Sweden and Morocco. He started investing in Sweden in 1974. He owns Svenska Petroleum and Swedish refinery Preem. Al Amoudi operates several businesses in Ethiopia including the gold mine in Ethiopia's richest and largest state of Oromia.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Arusei takes first major win in 2:07:54; Tola upsets Chinese favourites in 2:25:37 - Seoul Int. Marathon

25-year-old Kenyan Moses Arusei who had a fast 2:06:50 personal best from Paris last season, but wasn’t considered as the only pre-race favourite on today’s 2009 Seoul International Marathon, Seoul, Korea in 2:07:54 in cool weather with a temperature below three degrees Celsius welcoming the runners in the morning.

Ethiopian Robe Tola won the women’s race in 2:25:37.

The Seoul International Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.


The men’s race started with a big leading pack which included 15 runners who reached the 10km mark in a fast 30:04 whilst looking for a sub 2:07 time for the marathon.

The next 5km was the slowest of the race for the leaders, 15:34, and therefore not much happened before 20km which was passed in 60:46 so promising a finishing time of a bit over 2:08. 11 athletes had stayed in the lead group at this stage with eight of these Kenyans.

The pace slowed a bit again from 20-25km which took 15:21 and although the next 5km was slightly faster at 15:10 it was clear someone would have to make a move soon as there still were seven runners together with couple of Kenyans Robert Cheboror and Geoffrey Mutai dropped way back with both unable to finish the race.

After 30km Moses Arusei made his move and the changes down the field were dramatic. The next 5km from 30km to 35km saw Arusei in a comfortable 15 second lead ahead of Dejene Yirdawe (ETH) and a massive 49 seconds to fellow Kenyan Sylvester Teimet in third place. All others including former winner Jason Mbote, also from Kenya, had been dropped back by more than a minute.

With the race decided Arusei continued to open more space between him and the others finally winning in a fine result of 2:07:54, the second best mark of his career. This also marked the first major win for the Kenyan the first in any marathon since 2006 when he won the Thessaloniki marathon. It was also only the second time for Arusei under 2:10.

The real surprise of the competition, Dejene Yirdawe, continued well until the finish line setting a big personal best 2:08:30 for the second place snapping a massive three minutes and 21 seconds off his previous best in 2008.

Sylvester Teimet (KEN) was third in 2:10:11 just missing his PB 2:09:53 from Gongju marathon in 2008.

Jason Mbote was fourth this time in 2:10:38 just beating the best Korean Ji Young-Jun who was fifth in 2:10:41, his best time since 2004. Another Korean favourite 38-year-old 1996 Olympic silver medalist Lee Bong-Ju was 14th this time clocking 2:16:46. Lee has finished the last four Olympic marathons in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.


In the women’s race the Chinese favourites were well beaten and their four-year winning streak came easily to an end. Clearly the rest of the Chinese marathon stars are not in the same form they were last year and so Zhou Chunxiu can rest assured of her position as the Chinese number one marathon runner is not in jeopardy.

In today’s Seoul race, 22-year-old Ethiopian Robe Tola finally came close to her 2:24:35 personal best which she set winning the 2006 Hamburg marathon. The young Ethiopian easily handled the other runners in the race winning in a fast 2:25:37.

The women’s race started with the leaders breaking away early. Already the second 5km of the race from 5km to 10km which the three leading ladies covered in 16:29 was enough to drop most of the contenders.

The same pack of Robe Tola and Chinese Wei Yanan and Zhang Yingying were still together at 15km passing that distance in 50:52, but the 19-year-old star Zhang was dropped easily after this and the runner thought to be the next superstar in Chinese running is far from her previous form in 2007 and 2008.

Robe and Wei passed 20km in 68:14 with Zhang now in the chase group with two Koreans Lee Sun-Young and Park Ho-Sun some 80 seconds behind.

The leading duo reached 25km in 1:25:46 with Lee and Park in the chase almost two minutes behind and Zhang already almost two minutes behind them.

The Ethiopian then made a successful move dropping Wei quickly and was leading by more than a minute passing the 35km in 2:00:45 with Lee now in second and Wei two seconds behind her.

Tola continued for the win in 2:25:37 with 24-year-old Lee Sun-Young taking the second place with a 2:27:48 personal best, more than two minutes faster than 2:29:58 which she ran in November 2008.

Wei Yanan took the third place to China in 2:29:00 with Park Ho-Sun in fourth place with a big personal best 2:32:21, almost nine minutes faster than her earlier PB 2:41:01 from 2007. 19-year-old Zhang Yingying was fifth in 2:33:38, even slower than the 2:32:57 season’s best she ran in January.

Defending champion from 2008, Zhang Shujjing, also from China, finished back in seventh place in 2:38:48.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ejigu targets Amman World XC, leaving difficult years behind

When Sentayehu Ejigu of Ethiopia ran 14:47.62 to win the Boston Indoor Games 5000m on 7 February, only three women in history had ever run faster over the distance. Although some fast times have since bumped Ejigu down, she remains in the all-time top ten at number six.

A 2001 World Youth medallist who made Ethiopia’s team for several global championships in subsequent years -- finishing just out of the medals at the 2006 World Indoors – Ejigu saw her career sidelined by injury and bereavement the last several seasons. But she was finally able to resume intensive preparation last year, and her primary goal in what she expects will be her comeback year is the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Amman, Jordan, on Saturday 28 March 2009.

Running without Dibaba or Defar, and re-establishing herself

Her triumphant Boston clocking, in which she surpassed times posted by illustrious countrywomen Gete Wami and Derartu Tulu on the all-time list, was a major step toward that goal, but Ejigu had come to Boston with her confidence already boosted.

“Just before I came here, I won the 8K at the Jan Meda cross country clubs competition,” Ejigu, who beat 2006 national 3000m champion Koreni Jelila there, told the IAAF in an exclusive interview in Boston.

She had previously run in the American city in the shadow of World and Olympic champion compatriots Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba, and often finished 2nd, but Dibaba had pulled out of the 2009 meet.

“That’s when you know the pressure is on you,” said Ejigu. “When they are here, we know we have first place locked up.”

So she followed Shalane Flanagan, who was chasing the American record, and pounced on the final lap.

“I thought about passing her with about four or five laps remaining but I realized I had to wait a while,” said Ejigu. “She’s someone who’s in good shape at this time. She’s run a fast time, so you have to bide your time, and I proceeded cautiously.”

When she did kick, Ejigu was encouraged by the roar of approval from the Ethiopian fans who frequent the meet. “I could hear them,” she said. “It was wonderful.”

Although new 14:24.37 World record holder Defar and New Zealander Kim Smith have since run faster, Ejigu’s and Flanagan’s close 14:47.613 and 14:47.618 finishes were, at the time, the fourth- and fifth-fastest times ever, behind only Dibaba, Berhane Adere and Romanian Gabriela Szabo.

“Oh, I’m so happy,” said a beaming Ejigu, who commented on the absence of meet regulars Dibaba and Defar: “If they had been here, we would have run an even faster time. It would have been good for my time … but I’m very happy about the victory!”

The achievement came after a prolonged lull in Ejigu’s career, and she is eager to get back on track – starting on the grass in Amman. “As a result of the family problems I had and everything, I haven’t been in good shape,” she said. “But now I’m re-establishing myself.”

“Send Mimi!”

Sentayehu Ejigu’s running career was first conceived in the town of Debre Markos, where her parents were clothing merchants. Unlike the vast majority of her running peers in Ethiopia, hers was not a rural upbringing, but Ejigu, whose nickname at home is Mimi, ran plenty as a child. “I loved to run errands,” she said. “I loved the appreciation you got too.” So whenever sugar, or some other item was needed from the store, she’d be there and back in a flash, and “Send Mimi!” became the family mantra.

At school, a sports teacher noticed her speed and urged her to run. She won her way through school and regional competitions over 1500 and 3000m, and when she excelled on the national stage, her performance compelled team selectors to also ‘send Mimi,’ along with Mestawot Tufa and others, to the 2001 World Youth Championships in Debrecen.

“They were timid little girls,” recalls her Debrecen teammate Markos Geneti, whose 3000m gold medal there inspired his compatriots, with Ejigu earning 1500m bronze. “It was my first international track race,” said Ejigu, who had previously contested a road relay race in China. “I was so happy I won a medal.”

She had run in China along with Defar, Werknesh Kidane, Adere and others. “Meseret and I were the newcomers, and the others were already strong,” said Ejigu, who went on to take second place over 3000m behind Dorcus Inzikuru at the African Championships in Nairobi, and behind Defar in Linz, Austria, in 2002. “In those days, I always ran with Meseret. Tirunesh, Meseret and I used to place first through third often.”

Ejigu was a reserve on the Paris World Championships team and had perhaps her best year in 2004, beginning with a 14:58.85 indoor 5000m behind Defar, Dibaba and Tulu, and a 14:35.18 outdoor 5000m personal best behind Ethiopian-born Turk Elvan Abeylegesse’s then World record 14:24.68 in Bergen, Norway. Ejigu placed 4th there following Tirunesh and Ejegayehu Dibaba, but ahead of Tulu and Defar. “I was very well prepared then,” said Ejigu. “Other times, you prepare, but something gets in the way, but that was a time I prepared well, and got the results I deserved.”

Referring to her manager Mark Wetmore, and to Abeylegesse by her original first name Hewan, Ejigu continued, “Hewan was first, but the rest of us finished within 100m, and when Mark told me the time ‘14:35!’ I knew an Olympic spot was likely.”

Injuries and ordeals

She was again a reserve for the 2004 Olympics where Defar and Dibaba medalled over 5000m, but shortly afterwards, Ejigu’s troubles began. “I had problems with my right heel and calf, beginning after the Athens Olympics,” she said. “Over time, it improved, but I still feel it sometimes when I run on the track.” She nevertheless made more World Championship teams. “I was there in Helsinki as well as in Paris, as a reserve both times,” said Ejigu, who in 2006 placed fourth over 3000m in 8:43.38 at the World Indoors in Moscow, and 3rd in 15:13 at the Carlsbad 5000 road race, both behind winner Defar.

During the years in which she was recovering, Ejigu was also taking care of an ailing sister who lived with her, and she was heartbroken when she lost her sister in late 2007. Devastated, she took much of the next ten months to recover from the blow, taking solace in the comfort offered by her husband and fellow athlete Berhanu Alemu, who was himself dealing with injury-related woes. “When things pile up on you, it’s very difficult, but you make an effort to cope,” she said.

Hoping to medal in Amman

Ejigu resumed training in earnest last European summer, near the end of the Ethiopian calendar year. “It was after the rainy season, in Nehasie (August) or thereabouts,” she said. “I’ve been preparing for the last four months for cross country. I only ran four days on the track.”

She realized the first hurdle to World Cross Country success was making the competitive Ethiopian team, and that among the well-established names, Wude Ayalew would pose a major threat; and Ayalew did indeed win the national trials, with Meselech Melkamu, Gelete Burka, and Jelila qualifying ahead of Ejigu, but she secured her place on the team as well.

“You want to medal, but all of them are strong and it’s also a team competition as well as an individual competition, so you want to run well for yourself and your team,” said Ejigu, who was 6th at the 2003 Lausanne World Cross as a junior.

Her Boston finish has helped her rediscover her potential and the excitement of success, and reinvigorated her drive. “God willed for this to happen at this time,” she said. “It’s as if I’ve never run before. I have a 14:35 time, but I learned that I could run like this. It’s something you can’t articulate -- the time, the victory, the support of the fans, it all feels new.”

Coming seven weeks before her season target in Amman, her fast time served as a good indicator. “At this time, to run a good time is a significant accomplishment,” she said. “I prepared well, I won the 8K in Addis Ababa, and now I’ve run this time. I believe that now I can return to my previous form.”

Gebrselassie returns to run 10km in Manchester

Manchester, UK - Haile Gebrselassie, arguably the world's greatest-ever distance runner having set a remarkable total of 26 World records/bests in his career will bid to win a second BUPA Great Manchester Run title on 17 May.

The BUPA Great Manchester Run is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

Gebrselassie is relishing returning to contest one of the world's leading 10 kilometres road races which attracts 33,000 entrants, as on his Manchester debut in 2005 he ran the fastest time ever on British roads of 27:25.

The 35-year-old Ethiopian, who in December 2002 posted his still standing World record for the distance of 27:02 in Doha, will be bidding to regain his UK All-Comers' mark. Kenya's 20-year-old Micah Kogo set a time of 27:21 with his victory two years ago.

"I like Manchester, it is a good fast course and I'm looking forward to returning," said Gebrselassie after winning the Dubai Marathon in mid January. "It fits perfectly into my programme.”

Kogo's mark should be well within his capabilities given his recent form, indeed there are suggestions over the quick terrain he might even better his world record and possibly become the first man to run under 27 minutes for the distance.

Gebrselassie after his last appearance, said: "The course was great and it is possible to break the world record here - had there been pacemakers I probably could have gone quicker."

Nicola Hedley (Nova International) for the IA

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gebrselassie to attack his own World record for One Hour in Hengelo - IAAF World Athletics Tour

Hengelo, The Netherlands - The organisers of the Fanny Blankers Koen Games announced yesterday that Haile Gebrselassie will attack his own World record for the One Hour in Hengelo on 1 June 2009.

The Fanny Blankers-Koen Games is an Grand Prix status meeting as part of the IAAF World Athletics Tour 2009.

Gebrselassie nicknamed ‘Mister Hengelo’ will start for the 11th time in Hengelo, where he broke his first World record in the 5000 metres in 1994.

He first attempted the One Hour run in hengelo in 2002 but had to pull out of the race partway through with an injury.

But last year Running before a near capacity crowd at the Mestsky Stadium at Ostrava’s Golden Spike meeting on 27 June, covered 21,285 metres over the course of 60 minutes to break the previous best, 21,101 metres, set by Mexican Arturo Barrios in La Fléche, France, on 30 March 1991. En route, he also broke the World record for 20,000 metres, covering 50 laps in 56:25.98, well within the previous 56:55.6 also set by Barrios.

Haile Gebrselassie will be guided by his friend and manager Jos Hermens who himself is a former two-time World record holder for the Hour. Hermens clocked-up 20.90765 metres on 28 September 1975 on the track of Papendal near Arnhem, bettering Gaston Roelants 20.784 metres from Brussels, 20 Sept 1972.

The second time Hermens broke the World record was on 1 May 1976 also on the Papendal track with a distance of 20.944,40 metres. With this distance Hermens remains the best European athlete ever over the hour.

Half Marathon attempt in The Hague

Gebrselassie will start coming Saturday (14 March) in the 35 edition of the Fortis City-Pier-City Half Marathon in The Hague. The Ethiopian is going for a World record at the half marathon, which is held by Samuel Wanjiru, who clocked 58:33 on the fast Hague course two years ago. Gebrselassie is trying to run the 27th world record in his career!

Wim van Hemert for the IAAF

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ethiopia’s Bekele, Dibaba to miss world cross country

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Ethiopia’s world cross country champions Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba will miss this month’s championships in Jordan, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said.

Both were missing from Ethiopia’s provisional team of 24 runners posted on the IAAF Web site.

“It is now pretty certain that a slow recovery from a leg injury will rule out reigning men’s champion Kenenisa Bekele, while women’s champion Tirunesh Dibaba has confirmed 100 percent she will miss Amman also due to injury,” the IAAF report said.

The absence of Bekele is aa massive blow to the Ethiopians as they will compete without the 26-year-old in their squad for the first time in nine years.

The Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion has not raced since November after he bruised his ankles while attempting the World 15km record at the 2008 Seven Hills road race in Njimegen, the Netherlands.

The world cross country championships take place in Amman, Jordan on March 28.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ethiopia selects strong team of 24 for Amman

The Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) this week named its provisional squad of twenty-four athletes for the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan on Saturday 28 March 2009.

While the squad list is provisional with an actual starting line-up still to be decided closer to the championships it is now pretty certain that a slow recovery from a leg injury will rule out reigning men’s champion Kenenisa Bekele, while women’s champion Tirunesh Dibaba in an exclusive interview with the IAAF website has confirmed 100% she will miss Amman also due to injury.

But with the likes of 2006 short course champion Gelete Burka and two-time bronze medallist Meselech Melkamu picked by selectors, Ethiopia’s chances of taking honours remain good.

MEN - Could Gebremariam deliver?

The likely absence of Bekele, who has won twelve individual titles including a record six 12km victories, will be a massive blow to the Ethiopians as they will compete without the 26-year old in their squad for the first time in nine years.

The Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion has not raced his November after he bruised his ankles while attempting the World 15km record at the 2008 Seven Hills road race in Njimegen, the Netherlands.

With Olympic silver medallist Sileshi Sihine also missing after failing to recover from training fatigue, Ethiopia’s hopes lie on trials winner Gebregziabher Gebremariam who won two silver medals in the 2004 edition of the championships. He will be joined by Tadesse Tola, seventh in Mombasa two years ago, Feyissa Lelisa, 14th in the junior race last year, and World Indoor 3000m champion Tariku Bekele.

Trials winner Ayele Abshiro, who finished in Edinburgh, leads the junior team this year hoping to make it better. Abshiro has already shown good form in cross country races this year with victory in Elgoibar, while beating Bekele in his failed World record attempt in Njimegen. Yetwale Kinde (21st) and Dejen Gebremeskel (18th) rejoin Abshiro in this year’s squad.

WOMEN - Genzebe takes the Dibaba name to Amman

Like Bekele, Dibaba’s absence is a major blow to Ethiopian medal hopes this year.

In an exclusive interview she has given to the IAAF website, Dibaba, who has competed in the last eight editions of the World Cross Country Championships, has confirmed that she will be out of action for two months and will only make a return to competition in the outdoor track season.

“I am not going to compete at the World Cross because of the injury,” she said. “It will be the first time in a long while that I won’t be running there, but it is for the better because I am injured at the moment.”
“After the wedding, I had gained a lot of weight and put pressure in my training in order to return back to shape,” she says. “The strain was maybe too much on my body and I started to feel pain in both legs at the beginning of January.”

Dibaba sought medical help in Germany, but was ruled out of her eagerly-anticipated 2009 debut in Boston where she was scheduled to run the 3000m.

“I skipped Boston as a precaution, but the pain started again whenever I trained,” she says. “I talked to the doctor if I should race in Birmingham and was advised not to take part in that race and also told to cancel my competition plans.”

“I think it is for the better that I am not running the World cross this year. I will miss running for my country, but I think it is better for me to recover from the injury. I know Genzebe (Dibaba) will miss me as she will have to look for a new roommate in the Ethiopian team.”

Without Tirunesh, junior champion Genzebe Dibaba will shoulder the expectation coming from the Dibaba family as she leads a strong junior team that also includes trials winner and World junior 5000m champion Sule Utura. Fifteen year-old Emebet Anteneh, who does not even have a club in Ethiopia, will compete outside Ethiopia for the first time.

The senior women’s team will be led by 2006 short course champion Gelete Burka and two-time bronze medalist Meselech Melkamu. Trials winner Wude Ayalew should also push for the medal positions after an impressive 2008/9 road and cross country season, while Sentayehu Ejigu, ninth in the 2004 Olympics 5000m race, is hoping for a comeback after spending the last two years out-and-form and injured.

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF

Provisional Squad Lists

Women’s Junior 6km: Sule Utura, Genzebe Dibaba, Emebet Anteneh, Meseret Mengistu, Tsega Gelaw, Frehiwot Goshu

Men’s Junior 8km: Ayele Abshiro; Yetwale Kinde; Dejen Gebremeskel; Atalay Yersaw; Debebe Woldesenbet; Legesse Lemiso

Women’s Senior 8km: Wude Ayalew; Meselech Melkamu; Gelete Burka; Koreni Jelila; Sentayehu Ejigu; Mamitu Deska

Men’s Senior 12km: Gebregziabher Gebremariam; Feyissa Lelisa; Tadesse Tola; Tariku Bekele; Hunegnaw Mesfin; Habtamu Fekadu