Kenenisa Bekele and Werknesh Kidane have been named in both the short and long course distance teams as the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) announced its preliminary squad of thirty-two runners for the 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Brussels, Belgium (20/21 March).
The squad, which consists of fifteen women and seventeen men, have been called to a ten-day training camp by the Federation, as Ethiopia look to extend their recent impressive showing at the world cross country championships. The final squad will be decided a week before the start of the championships.
Announcing the preliminary squad, Endalk Kelemwork the Technical Director of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation said he expects the Ethiopians to compete well in Brussels.
"Our preparations have not gone according to plan," he said. "Some selected Athletes have not joined the camp in time and we were forced to move our deadlines for two more days."
However, Kelemwork was more cautious about the possible double attempt of Bekele and Kidane in Brussels saying that this will be decided in the coming week after they have been through a series of training regimes in camp.
"Personally, I think Kenenisa (Bekele) and Werknesh (Kidane) are capable of running and winning in Brussels," he said. "But we will have to see how they handle the training. I also think it is very premature to definitely say that they will run both races."
Bekele and Kidane are ready
Both runners confirmed that they are ready for the challenge.
"With the help of God, I will run in both the short and long course races," Kidane had said after winning the double (women's 4km short and 8km long courses) just over a week ago in the 21st East African Cross Country Championships in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. "If the Federation gives the go-ahead, I am ready to run and win the races in Brussels," Bekele said.
Apart from Bekele and Kidane, four other Athletes have been selected in two distances. Last year's long course bronze medalist Gebregziabher Gebremariam and Ethiopian Half Marathon women's champion Teyiba Erkesso are included in both the short and long course teams.
Two-time Ethiopian cross country junior champion Meselech Melkamu has been selected to run in the juniors and women short course race.
However, Kelemwork was also cautious about them actually competing in two distances in Brussels. "It is difficult to say at this point, "he said. "We need to have a good look at them in training before making any decisions."
Lausanne 2003 was a happy hunting round for the Ethiopians after they were able to pick up four of the six individual titles and three of the team titles.
Kelemwork thought it might be difficult this time to repeat the feat. "There will be many challengers this time," he said. "Although it may be difficult to repeat the feat, I think our athletes will fight for the honours."
Despite wins in the men's junior races in Ostend 2001 and Dublin 2002 where Kenenisa Bekele and Gebregziabher Gebremariam took the honours, the Ethiopian juniors came away empty handed last year. But according to Kelemwork, the Federation expects medals from the juniors this time around despite selecting virtually the same team again this year.
"Last year, we had problems sending our junior Athletes," he recalled. "After visa problems, the Athletes arrived at midnight before their next day and did not even have dinner. After the problems they had, we did not expect much last year and were not disappointed when they did not get results."
"This year, however, we have started the visa process early to avoid any problems and the athletes are more prepared. We expect better results this year especially from athletes like Meba Taddesse and Mulugeta Wondimu."
When asked how close this preliminary squad resembles their final selection, Kelemwork said, "We believe that seventy-percent of the athletes will go to Brussels. Over the coming days, some might be added and some others might be omitted the team if they fail to handle the training load."
Preliminary Ethiopian Team for the 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Brussels, Belgium
8km Junior Men
4km Senior Men
12km Senior Men
6km Junior Women
4km Senior Women
8km Senior Women