General News 22 September 2005 – Monte

Edmonton prepares to welcome a road running legend in the making

Zersenay Tadesse of Eritrea celebrates winning bronze in the men's 10,000m (Getty Images)Zersenay Tadesse of Eritrea celebrates winning bronze in the men's 10,000m (Getty Images) © Copyright

MonteCarloA global championship medallist is always a high profile draw for any competition, and Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadesse, Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist, is certainly one, if not ‘the’ principal entrant for the 14th IAAF World Half Championships in Edmonton, Canada, on Saturday 1 October 2005.

Yet statistically the 23-year-old Tadesse very much lags behind, for instance, the 12 sub-13 (5000m) and 6 sub-27 mins (10,000m) runners possessed by Eritrea’s east African neighbour, Ethiopia which through Kenenisa Bekele owns both track World records too. Tadesse also took the silver medal in the long race at last winter’s World Cross Country Championships and was 6th over 10,000m in Helsinki, but despite his competitiveness at major championships, his PBs of 13:05.57 and 27:04.70 are lowly by comparison to these men.

Well, given the performance Tadesse produced last weekend in Newcastle, England, perhaps, in the realm of road running at the very least, all that is about to change, and that the long distance running statistics will start to reflect Tadesse’s true talent.

While the Eritrean’s entry form for the race in Edmonton on 1 October will still show a half marathon personal best of 61:26, since his win last Sunday at the Great North Run, his absolute fastest at the distance is now 59:02. The time is the world’s fastest ever clocking but is unable to qualify as an official World record because the course from Newcastle to South Shields is overall slightly downhill (30.5m).

But there is no doubting the sensational performance that Tadesse, who is one of a family of seven children, unleashed in Newcastle. Cycling was the young Tadesse’s first love, and he insists that his time riding a bicycle has given him the endurance base from which his dramatic rise to the top of the world’s elite is based. Whatever its source, his strength was self-evident on Sunday when Tadesse “flashed through 15K in 41:27 (quicker than the official World record)….His 10 miles time was a brilliant 44:34…and he reached 20 kilometres in 56:03.” Now for the first time, it was an Ethiopian who was finding the pace too hot to handle! Dejene Berhanu, 24, who had been the delight of the Great North Run just twelve month before, when speeding to the then fastest ever clocking over the distance in Britain of 59:37, could not match Tadesse’s brilliance this year, and was dropped after 8 miles, finishing second in 60:44.

Berhanu will not be in Edmonton on 1 October but the alarm bells will have started ringing in the Ethiopian squad for the World Half Marathon given the magnitude of Tadesse’s victory. Ethiopia will be seeking their first team or individual men’s World Half Marathon title since 2001 when Haile Gebrselassie led them home to victory, will be chiefly represented by Sileshi Shine, 22, the Olympic and World 10,000m silver medallist, and Abebe Dinkessa, 21, who was seventh in the World Championships 10,000m and fourth at this year’s World Cross Country.

Both these Ethiopian talents have track personal bests which put Tadesse’s fastest times in the shade - Sihine 12:47.04/26:39.69 and Dinkessa 12:55.58/26:30.74 - but one senses that, so long as his legs have recovered, Tadesse is the red hot favourite for the Edmonton title, and the world of road running has uncovered another rare gem.

Chris Turner for the IAAF