Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dibaba and Defar to duel over 5000m on their World record track in Bislett - ÅF Golden League

Oslo, Norway - The world’s greatest women’s distance runners Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar, the ‘Duelling D’s’ of Ethiopia will clash over 5000m at the ExxonMobil Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway, on Friday 3 July, the second leg of the six meeting ÅF Golden League.

These two great Ethiopians rivals have agreed to compete against each other in the stadium where both have tasted victory and broken the World record for 5000m.

Bislett Backdrop

15 June 2007: Meseret Defar demolishes the previous World record by nearly 8 seconds with a time of 14.16.63

6 June 2008: Tirunesh Dibaba destroys Defar’s World record by 5 seconds with a time of 14.11.15, a time which stands as the existing World standard.

In the meantime Defar has lowered her personal best to 14.12.88 (22 July 2008 Stockholm).

Defar holds the 5000m ‘head to head’ edge

Over 5000m these two athletes have raced 23 times (finals only) since their first meeting in the World Junior Championships of 2002 when Defar became champion ahead of Dibaba. Defar holds the edge over Dibaba finishing ahead on 12 occasions to her compatriots 11 successes.

In the 2004 Olympic 5000m final, Defar won the title with Dibaba in bronze, but these positions were reversed in Beijing last summer when Dibaba completed an historic Olympic distance running double by also taking the 10,000m title. Dibaba took the World 5000m title in 2003 and 2005 on the latter occasion with Defar in silver medal position, who in turn took the gold in Osaka.

Cheruiyot and Melkamu to challenge

This year’s Bislett 5000m could be the best women’s 5000m race ever assembled with a new World record again a possibility as Defar and Dibaba will not be racing alone.

A huge challenge will be offered by Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot, the World silver medallist and the third fastest 5000m runner in history behind these two Ethiopians. Incidentally her national record of 14:22.51 was set when she finished second behind Defar in Oslo in 2007.

Meselech Melkamu of Ethiopia, who set the African record over 10,000m on 27 May this year in Utrecht, will also offer the highest calibre of opposition. Melkamu’s time of 29:53.80 now makes her the second quickest over 10,000m in history, and on this form her 5000m PB of 14:33.83 (2007) is certainly set for revision in Bislett.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kipchoge charges to 12:56.46 world lead in Milan

Milan, Italy - Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, 2003 World champion and 2008 Olympic silver medallist, improved world seasonal best for 5000m with a 12:56.46 run last night at the Notturna di Milano, an EA Permit meeting (25).

Kipchoge, who ran 13:00.91 in Hengelo, came to Milan with the goal to dip under 13 minutes. Pacemaker Benson Esho set a fast pace going through in 2:31 at 1km and 5:07.35 at 2km. Kipchoge broke away from the rest of the field at 3 km which he passed in 7:45.59. From this point Kipchoge ran alone against the clock passing the 4km in 10:19.76. Thanks to a strong final kilometre Kipchoge crossed the finish-line in 12:56.46 to improve the previous 2009 world best time run by Ethiopian Ali Abdosh (12:59.56 in Hengelo). So far only Kipchoge and Abdosh have managed to dip under the 13 minutes barrier in the 5000m in 2009.

Ethiopian Deresse Mekonnen, World Indoor 1500m champion, finished runner-up in 13:07.76.

Cusma is back in good shape

While Italian Daniele Meucci ran his PB of 13:26.09 for seventh place, setting the B-qualifying standard for the World Championships, the true national highlight of the meeting was produced by Elisa Cusma who won the women’s 800m in 1:59.53, improving her previous seasonal best of 1:59.83 set when she won in Thessaloniki on 10 June.

Cusma held off Olympic bronze medallist Hasna Benhassi (2:00.17), 2005 World champion Zulya Calatayud (2:00.70) and Yuliya Krevsun, this year’s European Team Championships winner who leads the world lists with 1:58.62.

The victory for the European Indoor 800m bronze medallist marked her bounce back from her seventh place in the 800 metres at the European Team Championships in Leiria last weekend marked (also finished third in the 1500m in PB of 4:08.72).

“I had a bad day last Saturday because I was too tired but the following day I ran my PB in the 1500 metres. Today I faced strong rivals. I felt again in very good shape and I ran my seasonal best. My next race is at the Mediterrenean Games in Pescara next week”, said Cusma.

Olympic finalist Yeimer Lopez of Cuba, who ran 1:43.07 last year, dominated the men’s 800m in 1:45.27. Italian Lukas Riffeser finished in second place in 1:46.77 beating Goran Nava (1:47.07), an Italian-born athlete who opted to compete for Serbia (the country of his mother) in order to take part in the Olympic Games in Beijing. Mario Scapini, European Junior 1500m champion finished fourth setting his PB of 1:47.32.

Cuban Alexis Copello, who jumped 17.65 this year, won the men’s Triple Jump with 17.12m with a very strong headwind of -3.9 m/s. Momchil Karailiev (17.22 this year) produced 16.96 but the headwind was even stronger (-4.7 m/s). Fabrizio Schembri, who jumped 17.27 in Turin on 4 June and finished third in Leiria, finished third with 16.83 (headwind -1.5 m/s).

Russian Olympic bronze medallist Svetlana Feofanova vaulted 4.61m on her second attempt to win the women’s Pole Vault over this year’s European Indoor champion Yulia Golubchikova, who was second with 4.51. Feofanova tried two unsuccessful attempts at 4.71.

A strong headwind of – 1.7 m/s slowed the men’s 100 metres where Briton Craig Pickering cruised to 10.32 sec. “The time was slow but I am happy with my race. It was promising for the rest of the season”, said Pickering, who clocked a wind-assisted 10.08 in Ostrava last week.

Italian race walking strength on show

The men’s 5km Race Walk featured reigning Olympic 50km champion Alex Schwazer, 2004 Olympic champion Ivano Brugnetti and this year’s 20 km European Cup winner Giorgio Rubino. These three, the best Italian walkers who are training at altitude to prepare the World Championships in Berlin, chose Milan as a competitive test in the build-up to Berlin.

Brugnetti took the lead from 2km breaking away from Schwazer. Brugnetti clocked an impresive 18:38.45, missing the Italian record held by Maurizio Damilano by eight seconds. “I did not expect to walk so fast considering that I am working very hard to be ready for Berlin. This means that the hard work will bear its fruits in August,” said Brugnetti.

Schwazer, who is training in Livigno with Rubino and Olympic bronze medallist Elisa Rigaudo and will compete in his first 50km race on 28 June in Dublin, clocked 19:51.68. “I am happy with the work I have done in training in the last three months. I am confident that I will be in top shape in Berlin,” said Schwazer.

2001 World champion Amy Mbacke Thiam of Senegal took the women’s 400m beating Italian record holder and last weekend’s European Team Championships winner Libania Grenot, 50.86 to 51.22sec.

Russian Alexander Shustov, who cleared 2.31 this year, won the men’s High Jump with 2.28m. Italian Alessandro Talotti equalled his seasonal best finishing in second place with 2.25.

Anca Heltne from Romania, this year’s European Indoor bronze medallist, was the best in the women’s Shot Put with 18.94m. Chiara Rosa, who equalled her own Italian record with 19.15 at the Berlin Golden League meeting on 14 June, finished second with 18.18.

Ireland’s David Gillick won the men’s 400m in 45.51sec, Guzel Khubbieva from Kazhakistan took the women’s 100m in 11.51, while the women’s 100m Hurdles went to Irina Lenskay from Israel in 13.01.

The Notturna di Milano commemorated Candido Cannavò, the former Editor in Chef of the famous sport daily Gazzetta dello Sport who died at the age of 78 last February. Cannavò, a keen lover of athletics in Milano, strongly supported the return of the Notturna di Milano meeting in 1998. The proceeds of ticket sales of this year’s Notturna were allocated to help the victims of the tragic earthquake which struck the Central italian region of Abruzzo in April.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Meselech Melkamu’s stunning momentum continues

While the sold out Mestsky stadium crowd packed every nook and cranny of the facility to catch a fleeting glimpse of the world’s fastest man, the 20,000-plus were treated by several solid performances and entertaining head-to-head battles. And all things considered, it was Meselech Melkamu who arguably produced the strongest performance of the Wednesday evening.

After her stunning run in Utrecht on Sunday, where she became the second fastest woman ever in the 10,000m clocking 29:53.80, Melkamu could have been forgiven for not having the freshest of legs in 5000m field. But the Ethiopian clearly illustrated that her better known compatriots, Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar, now have some very serious company on the track.

As expected, it was Melkamu, along with Kenyans Linet Masai and Vivian Cheruiyot who were the key players, but the Ethiopian didn’t hide behind her apparently tired legs. Continually pushing the pace, she and Masai exchanged the lead several times, keeping the pace honest, with Cheruiyot trailing just a few metres back.

When Cheruiyot dropped out of contention with three laps to go, the two forged on continuing to exchange the lead. Masai led at the bell, but Melkamu carried the lead off the final bend and held on to win with a world-leading 14:34.17. Masai, who finished fourth in the 10,000m in Beijing last summer, was just a few ticks back in 14:34.36, a personal best for the 19-year-old.

“It was a very hard race,” said Melkamu, the reigning World indoor silver medallist at 3000m. “I had a very fast run in the 10,000m three days ago. And I’m very tired. But I’ve had really good training and I’m very well prepared.” In recent memory, no remotely similar performances have been produced just days apart. Dibaba and Defar, take note.

Living up to the promise he made this week, Usain Bolt delivered a “good time” in his third 100m outing of the season to cap a thoroughly entertaining 48th edition of the Golden Spike Ostrava – IAAF World Athletics Tour.

While his 9.77 (wind + 2.1) performance was more than a quarter of a second ahead of his closest pursuer, Bolt had to work particularly hard to overcome a sluggish start, and the effort he produced clearly showed on his face as he accelerated towards the finish.

“That’s probably the second worst start I ever had,” he said of his 0.206 reaction time, the slowest of the field by far. Approaching midway, he was in third or fourth position, before finally shifting gears in his typically stronger second half

“I saw that I was behind and I really wanted to run a fast time here, so I really pushed hard to get back. That’s why you saw me really dipping at the line. I’m always good in the second half and that was when I got back into the race.”

Bolt confirmed that his sub-9.8 dash, under all conditions equal to his fourth fastest clocking ever, was a nice confidence booster after his last outing in Toronto, where he ran 10.00 in wet conditions. “Now I’m really looking forward to the (Jamaican) trials.”

Craig Pickering, last year’s winner here, was second in 10.08, and Ronald Pognon third in 10.15.
A year ago, Dayron Robles broke the World record in the high hurdles here in just his third race of the season with a sensational 12.87 performance. In his encore this year, he produced a world-leading 13.04 in his second outing of the year.

But the 22-year-old Cuban wasn’t necessarily content.

“Even if it was a world leading time, I didn’t feel well today,” Robles said, reeling of a short list of reasons why he wasn’t quite on his game. “I think I need another week of training and it will improve.”

Despite that self-critique, Robles was cool and relaxed from the gun, and was already in control of the race by the third hurdle. But he did have American Dexter Faulk for company, who continues to impress. Unaffected, Robles powered on before simply coasting over the final barrier through the finish.

Faulk, who false-started in the first go, produced his fifth PB of the season to finish second in 13.13. Further back, Bahamian Shamar Sands was third with a national record 13.38.

In the women’s race, Two-time World champion Michelle Perry held a narrow lead from hurdles two through nine, but faltered noticeably over the penultimate barrier, an opportunity that Delloreen Ennis-London took full advantage of. The Jamaican pulled away to take her second victory of the season in 12.79. Perry, who false-started out of this race two years ago, was second in 12.86 with American compatriot Danielle Carruthers third in 12.90.

In a contest as packed as the men’s 800m, it literally could have been anyone’s contest. Alfred Yego, World champion and Olympic silver medallist, was the first to take command, making his move as the field reached the bell. His lead was short-lived, as he was soon overtaken by Ahmed Ismael, the Olympic silver medallist. The Sudanese padded his lead to carry a strong advantage off the final bend. Yego began to fade at this point, leaving David Rudisha to pick up the challenge. Slowly closing the gap, Rudisha ate up the difference before pulling away for the 1:44.09 victory less than three strides from the finish.

“It’s not a bad time,” said Rudisha, who clocked a 1:43.53 career best in Hengelo two weeks ago. “I didn’t start very fast and wanted to run from behind.

Closing strongly as well, Olympic 1500m silver medallist Asbel Kiprop was third (1:44.54) and Berlin 1500m winner Augustine Choge fourth with a 1:44.86 PB.

The B race was fairly swift as well, With South African Samson Ngoepe kicking past Kenyan Jackson Kivuna, 1:45.17 to 1:45.29, both personal bests.

In the women’s 800m Briton Marilyn Okoro nabbed a strong victory running from the front. The only woman to follow the quick pacesetter, Okoro was challenged in the home straight but hung on to take her first win of the season in 2:00.21. Frenchwoman Elodie Guegan was a surprise second (2:00.44) and another Briton, Jenny Meadows, third (2:00.48). Olympic Steeplechase champion Gulnara Galkina-Samitova was never a factor, finishing well back in 10th (2:01.98.) (IAAF)

Book Review: Bikila – Ethiopia's Barefoot Olympian

Considering the well-known achievements of the Ethiopian distance runners over the past fifty years or so, one is perhaps entitled to lament the lack of interest in the history of Ethiopian athletics.

While scholars have tackled innumerable Ethiopian issues in their sophisticated monographs, not a single learned paper has been dedicated to the athletes and their impact on the surrounding society.

In fact, the story of Ethiopian running is so poorly understood that the following claim can be found on the Ethiopian Athletics Federation website: “Although the exact roots of Ethiopian athletics cannot be retraced accurately, it is widely believed that the sport was widely practiced in schools and the military before 1897.”

Across the border in Kenya, the colonialists did not manage to create any support for modern sports until well into the 20th century. Yet we are to believe that Ethiopians happily adopted and mastered the jumping, throwing and running events during Emperor Menelik’s reign!

Thanks to an English journalist, the historiography of Ethiopian athletics can finally be taken seriously. Tim Judah’s Bikila – Ethiopia’s Barefoot Olympian (2008) is nominally a biography of Abebe Bikila, the 1960 and 1964 Olympic marathon champion. At the same time it is the most reliable account ever published on the origins of athletics in this country.

As a Finnish historian with a long-standing interest in Ethiopian running, I have been privileged to meet and interview many first-generation athletes, such as Mamo Wolde and Said Mussa, both of them deceased by now, and, of course, Wami Biratu, the ninety-year-old monument of Ethiopian sports. Not surprisingly, they all feature in Tim Judah’s text, but what is most striking about the book is the extent to which it succeeds in reconstructing the life of the founding father of Ethiopian athletics.

Although he was born in Finland, Onni Niskanen carried a Swedish passport when he arrived in Addis Ababa with hundreds of other civilian and military experts in the late 1940s. Unlike most expatriates, he devoted the rest of his life to Ethiopia, and while he busied himself with a number of humanitarian projects, he is best known as the coach of Abebe Bikila.

In 1950, Niskanen was put in charge of the Ministry of Education’s physical education department. Gradually, modern sports took root in the peasant society that Ethiopia was; and simultaneously, as the Imperial Bodyguard’s sports instructor, Niskanen cultivated the raw talent of Abebe, Wami and others.

The romantic notion of Ethiopians as natural runners will probably never die. Judging by Tim Judah’s book, however, it can surely be termed as a myth. “When I started training him, he ran like a drilling soldier,” Niskanen wrote about Abebe. Apart from disciplining their bodies, Niskanen subjected his athletes to thoroughly modern training regimes. The elite runners of this country were professional sportsmen in all but name.

Ironically, some of their rivals in the West were handicapped by the amateur ethos which still prevailed in the 1950s.

In that sense there was nothing accidental about Abebe Bikila’s first Olympic triumph in 1960. On the other hand, what may well have been accidental about Abebe was the fact that he won any gold medals at all.

Wami Biratu was generally considered as the leading Ethiopian runner in 1960, but due to an illness, he could not participate in the Rome games. Four years later Mamo Wolde was expected to challenge Abebe in Tokyo, but a leg injury forced him to pull out of the marathon. Mamo had to wait for his golden moment until 1968.

What actually counts in sport is, of course, the result sheet, and that is why Abebe Bikila will always be remembered as the greatest marathon runner of his generation. Accordingly, Onni Niskanen deserves to be acknowledged as the architect of his success, or, to quote Tim Judah’s solemn turn of phrase, as “a man who changed the history of sport”.

The author has carried out extensive interviews in Ethiopia, Sweden and many other countries. Niskanen “cared for Abebe like a baby, taking care of his massage, food, sleep,” an informant of Judah’s explains the two men’s relationship.

After the 1964 games, however, Abebe started frequenting bars and behaving more like a serial lover than a purposeful athlete. One of his girlfriends owned a restaurant. She also “had a record player and they would play the music of Tilahun Gessesse”.

Tilahun had served as a guardsman, too, and one is tempted to imagine him running alongside Abebe, sharing a joke with Mamo, and trying his hand at tennis with Wami. Sadly, Tilahun is no longer with us, but as was said at his funeral, his songs will reverberate in every Ethiopian’s heart.

Unlike singers, athletes need eloquent scribes to reach immortality, and Tim Judah has done more than that. His portrait of Abebe is alluring yet unflattering, and it provides a consistently informative history of the formative years of Ethiopian athletics.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ethiopia Takes Home Two Wins In 30th Running Of Shelter Island 10K

Shelter Island - Although the forecast threatened to rain on the annual celebration of Shelter Island - the Shelter Island 10K and 5K Run/Walk - devoted participants ferried in for the early evening start nevertheless. Conveniently, the more than 1,500 runners and walkers couldn't stay away yet the rains that have drenched the northeast in the month of June magically did.

Ketema Nigusse hits the finish line in just over 29 minutes to take home first prize in the Shelter Island 10K.

With the cool but dry conditions - ideal running weather by most accounts - came quick times. Nobody was faster than Ethiopian Ketema Nigusse, who broke away from a pack consisting largely of his countrymen and rolled to his first victory at Shelter Island, posting a time of 29:23, 13 seconds faster than his nearest competitor. Nigusse's charge led a parade of nearly 1,000 runners who got the quick tour of the island and crossed the finish line to much fanfare. The same could be said for another Ethiopian, Buzunesh Deba, who took home top prize in the women's division (33:52).

Race Director Mary Ellen Adipietro, who rescued the 10K five years ago, said the enrollment will only grow with their new partnership with the New York Road Runners Club. She indicated they'd like to eventually bring in 2,500 racers for the weekend, only adding to the funds they can distribute to charity organizations including the Timothy Hill Children's Ranch, East End Hospice and Shelter Island community charities.

“I'm just proud that the numbers are back up and so is the spirit," Adipietro said. “We're so happy to have the New York Road Runners now. Everything is about the run and running. It makes the race so special now."

Read full story: http://www.hamptons.com/news/sports/7951/ethiopia-takes-home-two-wins-in-30th-running-of.html

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Melkamu stuns with 29:53.80 run in Utrecht

Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu, 24, became only the fourth woman in history to break the 30-minute barrier for 10,000m, clocking 29:53.80 in Utrecht, Netherlands, on Sunday (14).

Her mark was the second fastest of all-time and broke Tirunesh Dibaba's African record of 29:54.66 achieved at the Beijing Olympics last August.

Melkamu, who's collected four World championship bronze medals - three in Cross Country and one indoors at 3000m in Valencia in 2008 - had a previous personal best of 31:04.93 from Ostrava in 2008, where she finished third.

The women's 10,000m world record remains 29:31.78 by China's Wang Junxia set in Beijing in 1993.

Kenya's Florence Kiplagat finished second in the race in 30:11.53 to become the ninth fastest in history. Her mark is a new Kenyan record for the distance, displacing Linet Masai who ran 30:26.50 at last August's Olympic Games.

Wude Ayelew of Ethiopia finished third in 30:11.87 to become the tenth fastest all-time.

David Monti and Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

Results -
1. Meselech Melkamu, ETH 29:53.80
2. Florence Jebet Kiplagat, KEN 30:11.53
3. Wude Ayalew, ETH 30:11.87
4. Sylvia Jebiwott Kibet, KEN 30:47.20
5. Aberu Kebede, ETH 30:48.26
6. Hilda Kibet, NED 30:51.92

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bolt: ‘I’m trying to be a legend’

Ostrava, Czech Republic – Usain Bolt didn’t mince words when he was asked what he hoped to accomplish before his career on the track concluded.

“I’m trying to be a legend,” he said plainly. “So I’m working on being the greatest athlete ever.”

It wasn’t a boastful or off the cuff remark by the Jamaican, who at just 22 is already a triple Olympic champion and the world’s fastest man. Rather, it was a goal expressed by a man who doesn’t at all take the term “legend” lightly, and who knows that he has quite a few things left to accomplish before that superlative becomes attached to his name.

“Just being on top every year, and just doing great things,” he said, speaking with the media on the eve of his third appearance at the Golden Spike Grand Prix in this sprawling eastern Czech city.

“To break the world record in the 400 would help,” he added with a smile. “I’m not sure about that one yet, tough. Just staying on top, staying number one, and doing great things.”

His 100m outing on Wednesday (17) will be his third of the season, and his last before the upcoming Jamaican championships and selection trials for the 12th IAAF World Championships the weekend after next. He said he’s eager for a solid follow-up to his 10.00 performance from Toronto five days ago.

“I wouldn’t say ‘disappointed’,” he said of his race assessment. “It was really, really wet. And we had two false starts so it kind of threw me off a little bit. But as I said, we have good days and we have bad days. So I guess that’s down for one of my bad days.”

He conceded that he’s not nearly in the same shape as he was 12 months ago, when he ended the month of May as the 100m World record holder. His commitments to sponsors along with a slew of public appearances post-Beijing have had an effect on his preparations. But he’s not worried that his ultimate aims for the season won’t be achieved.

“I’m not in the same shape as I was this time last year, but I have more time,” he said. “My main aim is always the championships, so that’s what I’m working towards. So it’s going to take a bit of time.”

“As the Olympic champion I’ve been busy with sponsor commitments,” he said. “Then I had my (automobile) accident. It kind of threw me off in training, but I’m really focused and working hard to get where I was last season.”

“I have the trials coming up and a few more races before Berlin, so I should be in great shape by the world championships.”

More immediately, he’s aiming for “a good time” on the fast Ostrava track. When pressed to be more specific, “9.8 would be good, definitely,” he said.

Looking ahead to Berlin where he plans to double in the 100 and 200m, Bolt said he doesn’t necessarily anticipate a rerun of his Beijing World record runs.

“The Olympics was just something special,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll need to break any world records to win.”

But he doesn’t - and won’t – take any of his competitors for granted. “Like I said, we all have good days and bad days, and I take everyone seriously. I don’t look at myself as a superior athlete. I take even the slowest guy in my race very seriously because you never know if that day just may be his day.”


Today marked a crucial step for the sport of Squash in its bid for inclusion in the Olympic Games from 2016. A team of six Squash representatives made their most important presentation so far to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board in Lausanne, Switzerland.

But it was the youngest member of the group, 13-year-old Hanna Fekede Balcha, who was the star of the show.

Hanna is Ethiopian, but her family moved to San Diego, USA, when she was nine years old to build a new life for themselves. Hanna was accepted to the Surf City Squash program in San Diego which enables students to play Squash alongside their studies. Through a structured programme which promotes hard work, both academically and physically, Hanna has progressed to being a Grade A student as well as Under 15 Urban Squash Champion. Her aspirations are now to push boundaries even further in becoming the first member of her family to go to university but also, at 20 years old, her dream is to represent Ethiopia at the Olympic Games in 2016.

Hanna said: "I was really nervous but enjoyed doing the presentation today. It has been amazing to travel to Switzerland and meet my hero, Nicol (David – world number one squash player). I feel like squash has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise that when I was asked to take part in this presentation I jumped at the chance. I would be so happy to compete at the Olympic Games."

Hanna joined the team consisting of IOC Member and World Squash Federation (WSF) Patron, HRH Prince Imran of Malaysia; President of the WSF, N Ramachandran; women’s world No1, Nicol David of Malaysia; former world champion, Frenchman Thierry Lincou; and the up-and-coming South African, Siyoli Lusaseni.

Prince Imran introduced the team, and the Executive Board was then shown a spectacular video, highlighting a number of the key areas that squash believe make them a worthy candidate for inclusion. Among these were the progression the sport has made to be easier and more enjoyable to watch on television; the pledge that the top athletes would compete; the range of nationalities that would be represented (current rankings show there would be 30 different countries involved); and the low cost and accessibility of the sport around the world.

President Ramachandran went on to explain how the WSF has improved the infrastructure of the game, and the way in which the professional organisations work to ensure that Squash is totally ready to be easily incorporated into the Olympic Games. He also talked about the ease and low cost addition of Squash as well as how the sport can easily be hosted in any of the four 2016 bid cities.

The players each outlined why, as athletes, the Olympic Games are so important to them personally, and the many benefits which Squash can bring to people’s lives, and to the Olympics.

The full Squash 2016 bid video can be seen here at: http://www.squash2016.info/video/squash.mov

Ramachandran said: "I am very proud of the presentation we have put together and what we have achieved in getting this far. I believe that we have showed squash to its full potential. I know that we have much to offer the Olympic community, and I hope that the IOC will see the merits of our inclusion.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Kenenisa wins men’s ISTAF golden league 5,000m in Berlin

Kenenisa Bekele (2nd R) of Ethiopia crosses the finish line to win the men’s 5,000m race at the ISTAF golden league athletics competition in Berlin, June 14, 2009.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Soccer Saves doing first project in Ethiopia

Soccer Saves, the Seattle non-profit affiliated with Seattle Sounders FC and Save the Children, is starting its first program targeting kids in Ethiopia. I profiled the organization here.

Using the magnet of soccer, the group aims to teach disadvantaged youth about healthy lifestyles by partnering with humanitarian organizations promoting HIV/AIDS education, nutrition, gender equity and reproductive health.

This week co-founder Cliff McCrath is blogging from Ethiopia, where he says Africa's second most populous country now has 5.5 million orphans and vulnerable children. Most have been orphaned because one of both of their parents had HIV/AIDS and died.

Closer to home, the second annual Puget Sound Soccer Challenge kicks off at Qwest Field on Saturday. Employees from Boeing and Microsoft have been competing since 1997, but last year they expanded the event to include more teams and raise money for philanthropy. At 11 a.m. team Boeing plays against Microsoft, followed by Starbucks vs. Expedia at 1 p.m.

On Thursday evening, organizers are throwing a pre-match auction and dance party at the Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle, with Sounders FC player appearances. All proceeds from both public events will go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Washington & Alaska.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

EFF warns football clubs on weak performance

(The Reporter) —The Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) disclosed that is probing some Premier League clubs that staged below-par performance during the matches that took place last weekend.

EFF said that it is now investigating the games between Adama City and Trans-Ethiopia, St. George and Sebeta City as well as Insurance and Electric Power, to allow it to take the necessary measures against those that had violated the rules of the sport.

The match between St. George and Sebeta City was considered to be outrageous by many sport fans and some clubs. St. George which had already won the season’s title, was blamed for its defeat by Sebeta 1-0, and also accused of playing below strength.

Sebeta, Metehar and Trans-Ethiopia are in the relegation zone ahead of the end of the season’s tournament this weekend. If the federation fails to take action against below strength performance from the clubs that are already far from the relegation zone, some clubs would be punished.

In a bid to avoid problems related to below-par performances, the federation said it had established a body to oversee any under performance during this week’s matches between Metehara Sugar and Mugher Cement, Ethiopia Coffee and Sebeta City, and Defense and Trans-Ethiopia.

The federation warned that all clubs should conduct their competitions seriously. It added if that any of the clubs under-perform it will take severe measures against them.

EFF also called upon competition discipline and arbiter committees to give due attentions to the competitions to be held this weekend.

Ethiopian test for U-17s

in Pretoria, SA

Uganda 0 South Africa 2
Group A
Malawi 5 Ethiopia 0
Kenya 1 Tanzania 1
Namibia 1 African Invite 2
Group B
Nigeria 4 Zimbabwe 0

Today, play-off
Uganda v Africa Invitational
Semi-final fixtures
Tanzania v Nigeria
Malawi v South Africa

SO how will Uganda’s appearance in the first COPA Coca Cola U-17 youth championship here be remembered?

Of course there have been a series of painful defeats for Mike Mutebi’s teenagers, a majority for whom this has been a learning process.

Uganda’s 2-0 defeat to South Africa yesterday ended Uganda’s interests in the competition and all that is left is a place play-off fixture against Ethiopia.

Yesterday’s game was one in which Mutebi’s youngsters had all the possession, and the hosts, the vital two goals that helped them to the semi-final stages alongside Nigeria, Tanzania and Malawi.

Results aside, the trip has shown their is so much potential in Ugandan youth football.

There have not been many industrious and intelligent players in this COPA Africa youth championship better than the likes of Willy Nakibinge (Kibuli), Dan Birikwalira (Kitende), Peter Akatukunda (Makobore High), Ibrahim Kirigambakwe (St. Leo’s College), Mathew Odong (Bukoyo), Geoffrey Ochan (Bishop Angelo College) and Isaac Owor (Kibuli).

Uganda paid the price for assembling an attack-minded team without natural defenders.

“It has been about exposure. The main problem in Ugandan football is scoring which is why I decided to bring strikers for this event, and try to make them dynamic,” coach Mike Mutebi reasoned.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gebrselassie Going for It Again in Berlin

This upcoming September, one of the greatest distance runners in history, a man who has set 19 official and seven unofficial world records, Haile Gebrselassie, will return to run the real,- Berlin Marathon.

And for good reason: Berlin has been very good to the 36-year-old Ethiopian.

Last year, he won the race, setting a new world record. His time, 2:03:59 hours, was the first time anyone has dipped under 2:04 hours. And the year before, he ran it in 2:04:26—then a world record as well.

Can Gebrselassie break his own world record yet again? After his 2008 victory, he hinted it may be possible. “I can still run a little faster. I know that I can run 2:03:30, perhaps even 2:02:59 when everything is right on the day,” he said.

Should Gebrselassie succeed in breaking his own world record for the third time in a row at the Berlin Marathon, it will be an unprecedented achievement since no runner has done that in the same race on consecutive occasions. In addition, Gebrselassie could become the first athlete to win Berlin four times—and in succession as well. Apart from him, German runners Ingo Sensburg and Take The Magic Step’s own Uta Pippig as well as Renata Kokowska of Poland have won it on three occasions.

After winning the Dubai Marathon earlier this year in 2:05:29, Gebrselassie indicated that he will definitely not be running the World Championship marathon in Berlin in August. Since then, however, the Kenyan, Duncan Kibet, has improved the world leading time this year with 2:04:27 in Rotterdam. Never before has anyone come so close to Gebrselassie’s world record—a big reason why the Ethiopian is coming back to Berlin to try and distance himself from the competition.

The real,- Berlin Marathon is Germany’s largest marathon and the second largest marathon in the world. A record 40,000 runners registered for the race in record time. Entries have long since been sold out.

Kosgei dominates field to win New York Mini 10K

NEW YORK (AP) — Rose Kosgei of Kenya won the 38th New York Mini 10K in Central Park on Sunday, finishing in 32 minutes, 43 seconds to beat Serena Burla of Ellisville, Mo., by 21 seconds.

Hirut Mandefro of Ethiopia was third (33:13) in the women's-only race, which had 6,100 runners for its biggest field since 1999.

Kosgei pulled away from a three-woman pack in the second mile of the 6.2-mile race, building a 30-second lead at one point. Burla closed the gap in the final two miles, but was unable to catch Kosgei.

"I just kept going, going, and no one was coming," Kosgei said. "The pace felt OK, so I just kept pushing. To win this 10K is my biggest victory."

American Olympian Deena Kastor, a pre-race favorite to win her second Mini title, did not race due to inflammation in her big toe. She jogged the course with New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg.

"I'm just being super cautious," said Kastor, who will see a foot specialist in Toronto on Monday. "I don't want to do anything stupid to jeopardize the rest of the year."

Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, silver medalist in the Beijing Olympic marathon, was again denied a victory in the race, finishing fourth in her fourth appearance.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Kenya may not host Africa Athletics meet

Kenya may not host the 17th Africa Senior Athletics Championships in 2010 after the government and Athletics Kenya failed to agree on logistics.

AK chairman Isaiah Kiplagat on Wednesday pointed an accusing finger at the government, accusing it of failure to give the green light and fund the event scheduled to be staged in Nairobi in April.

Sports Commissioner Gordon Oluoch however said that, in their last meeting, it was agreed that AK would first review the prospect of hosting the event successfully as well as meeting the deadline.

Signs of the event not being hosted here appeared last week when AK failed to secure an initial Sh30 million – part of the total Sh200 million the government had pledged – for the event’s secretariat.

Even a visit by Africa Athletics Confederation president Hamad Kalkaba Malboum to Kenya in February to drum up support for the event fell on deaf ears. “There is a major problem in the Ministry of Sports. No one is talking straight. Today we meet, they make demands over certain documents like budget; tomorrow you meet another senior officer in the ministry who complains of you not having issued the document,” said Kiplagat.

Kiplagat said sourcing of equipment and other tenders will not be met in time due to the strict procurement procedure involving spending of government funds. “But all is not lost. The issue need to be discussed at cabinet level,” said Kiplagat.

If Kenya fails to host the event, it will be second time in as many years that the Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) will be forced to seek an alternative host. The Africa Junior Athletics Championship has been taken to Mauritius after Equatorial Guinea pulled out of the deal.

Streamline ministry

Kiplagat accused top ministry official of not working as a team but on individual basis and said it was time a major review was done to streamline the ministry’s operations.

“Look at how they exchanged words in Parliament over Coca-Cola National Stadium and its sponsorship. The minister and her deputies don’t read from the same script. It is the same with senior officials; they keep on making demands or feign lack of knowledge whenever we confront them,” the AK boss lamented.

Kenya beat Benin 10-9 to bag the hosting rights for the championships which will be used to select Africa’s team to the 2010 World Cup in Split, Croatia. With just nine months left, there is little indication that the event will be staged here.