Addis AbabaEthiopia’s double World Cross Country champion Kenenisa Bekele, has suffered a sudden blow to his hopes of defending his crown(s) in Lausanne next month, because of a medical condition that has just been diagnosed.
National team Coach Dr. Woldemeskel Kostre told a news conference today (Thursday 27 Feb) that the 20-year old has suffered a major reduction in his hemoglobin and red blood cell count, and therefore is a doubtful starter for Saturday’s national cross country championships due to be held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Only athletes finishing in the top six at the championships are guaranteed a place in the squad of 36 athletes, who will travel to compete in the 31st IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland (29 – 30 March 2003). So failure to participate would at least technically rule Bekele out of the World Championships in Lausanne.
In a telephone interview Bekele confirmed -
“I am definitely out of Saturday’s race. I do not know what will happen later, but I am definitely out of the Ethiopian Cross Country Championships.”
Asked about the cause of his illness, he further said, “It is (caused by) food poisoning. I am currently taking medicine and I am feeling much better.”
Bekele surpassed all expectations last year in Dublin when he became the first man ever to win both the World short and long course cross country races. However, he spent the next four months recuperating from knee and Achilles injuries before making a devastating comeback with a string of wins on the European cross country circuit last autumn.
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF