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Olympian Merga leads Ethiopia's World Half Marathon squad for Rio

Deriba Merga wins the 2008 edition of the World's best 10km (Denni Lozza - Island Photography)Deriba Merga wins the 2008 edition of the World's best 10km (Denni Lozza - Island Photography) © Copyright

Deriba Merga, fourth in the Beijing Olympics marathon, leads a strong squad of Ethiopians for the IAAF/Caixa World Half Marathon Championships in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, 12 October 2008. 
 
Atsede Habtamu, who finished fifth in last year's edition of the world half, is the leading athlete in the women's squad which is looking for its individual title since Berhane Adere's win in 2002.

MEN- Merga hopes to shrug off Olympics disappointment

Ethiopia held its World Half Marathon Championship trials during the Beijing Olympics, but include only two of the top five finishers from that race in their squad for Rio.

Instead they have revamped their chances of winning their first individual medal in these championships since Bristol 2001 when Haile Gebrselassie the title in a close fought duel with compatriot Tesfaye Jifar.

Their chances will be helped this year by the inclusion of Deriba Merga, fourth in Udine last year, and the second fastest ever Ethiopian over the distance in their Rio squad.

Merga has been one of Ethiopia's most consistent road racers over the last year. In addition to his fourth place finish in Beijing, he is also an All-African Games champion and has a personal best of 59:16 over the distance.

But how well Merga can do in Rio will also depend on whether he has sufficiently recovered from stomach interception problems in Beijing.

Also included in the team is Abebe Dinkessa (60:03) who is attempting a comeback over the event after starting his career at the distance. Dinkessa had taken part twice in the World Half Marathon Championships (Edmonton and New Delhi). He has since gone on to compete over the track and cross country, albeit with little major championship success.

Eshetu Wondimu (60:01), Gudisa Shentema (61:09), and Rajj Assefa (60:07) are the other runners in the team.

WOMEN- Habtamu brings medal credentials to Rio

The women's squad is missing national record holder Bezunesh Bekele who instead chose to compete in the Chicago Marathon following her controversial illumination from the Ethiopian marathon squad in Beijing.

In her absence, the squad will be led by Atsede Habtamu (68:29), who finished behind Bekele last year's race in Udine and also went under the previous national half marathon record held by Berhane Adere. Habtamu has since competed in half marathon races in New Delhi and Lisbon to enhance her international experience.

Accomplished road runners Genet Getaneh (two-time winner of the Great Ethiopian Run 10km in Addis Ababa), Asselefech Mergia (3rd, 2008 Great Ethiopian Run), and national half marathon champion Abebu Gelan make up the rest of the squad, while Meseret Mengistu will run her first race in Ethiopian colours.

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF