Unheralded Azmeraw Bekele takes a surprise victory at the Ethiopian World XC trials (Bizuayew Wagaw) © Copyright
In the junior ranks, Afera Gedefe grabbed a shock victory in the women’s race, while Berhanu Delele was a comfortable winner of the corresponding men’s race.
Melkamu dominates, Deskas improvement continues
With Cross Country specialists Tirunesh Dibaba and Gelete Burka competing indoors in Birmingham a day earlier and thus absent from the trials, Melkamu, a three-time senior 8km bronze medallist, was the prohibitive favorite going into the contest. She duly proved her billing sprinting ahead of marathon runner Mamitu Deska to take her fourth national title in the event.
After a nervy start, five athletes including Melkamu, Deska, reigning World junior champion Genzebe Dibaba, World junior 5000m champion Sule Utura, and 2003 World Cross Country long course champion Werknesh Kidane formed a leading pack at the half way point.
Dibaba, who was struggling with pain throughout the initial stages, then dropped out of the contest leaving the four athletes to battle it out for victory. Utura and then Kidane also dropped back as Melkamu and Deska pushed the pace from the front.
Deska, winner of the Dubai Marathon in January, had skipped Friday’s Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon deliberately to make the Ethiopian team for the World Cross Country championships in Bydgoscz, Poland. But Melkamu’s finishing speed was too much for the road runner who had to settle for second place, 42 seconds ahead of Kidane, who continued her return from a two-year maternity leave with a podium finish.
“It was a tough race,” Melkamu said of the four-lap contest. “After this year, the world cross will be staged every two years and the competition to make the team will be stronger than before. I thought everyone in the race was hoping to make the team this year because there will be no world cross country next year.”
A. Bekele grabs shock victory in men’s senior race
With defending champion Gebregziabher Gebremariam skipping the trials due to illness and other top runners also unavailable, last year´s World junior champion Ayele Abshiro was expected to make the step up to senior ranks with victory here.
And after a slow start and very few indications about the outcome of the race early on, the 20-year-old looked comfortable at the start of the sixth and final lap where he led five runners in the chase for the finishing line. But he was unceremoniously caught by unknown Asmeraw Bekele, who clocked 37:23 to take a five-second victory over Abshiro, with African junior 5000m champion Abera Kuma coming home in third.
“I was new to this kind of race,” said Bekele. “The Defense club runners in the race tried to unsettle me by changing the pace, but I managed to hold on. I hope to do well in Poland and finish in the top three.”
Delele and Gedefe take junior victories
As is the tradition of these championships, the two junior races again produced cutthroat competition in the battle to make Ethiopia’s team for Bydgoszcz. In the men’s race, it was Berhanu Delele, who overcame the challenge of Yekeber Bayabel and Gebretsadik Abraha to take victory in 24:57.
But there was a shock in the women’s race as little-known Afera Gedefe beat World youth 3000m bronze medallist Genet Yalew and Emebet Anteneh, seventh in the World junior race last year, to take a two second victory.
Elshadai Negash (with assistance by Bizuayehu Wagaw) for the IAAF
Leading results -
12km Senior Men
1. Azmeraw Bekele (Federal Prisons) 37.23
2. Ayele Abshiro (Ethiopian Banks) 37.28
3. Abera Kuma (Ethiopian Banks) 37.29
8km Senior Women
1. Meselech Melkamu (EEPCO) 27.36
2. Mamitu Deska (Oromiya Police) 27.39
3. Werknesh Kidane (Ethiopian Banks) 28.20
8km Junior Men
1. Berhanu Delele (Ethiopian Banks) 24.57
2. Yekeber Bayabel (Amhara region) 24.58
3. Gebretsadik Abraha (Tigray region) 25.00
6km Junior Women
1. Aferaw Gedefe (Tigray region) 21.27
2. Genet Yalew (Defence) 21.30
3. Emebet Anteneh (Defence) 21.36