25 MAR 2004 General News Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Elated Ethiopians welcome back World Cross Country team

Kenenisa Bekele shows off his four Brussels' golds (two individual and two team) (Victah Sailer)Kenenisa Bekele shows off his four Brussels' golds (two individual and two team) (Victah Sailer) © Copyright

Thousands crowded the main streets of Addis Ababa and National stadium yesterday to welcome Ethiopia's team from a most successful campaign at the 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Brussels, Belgium.

The Ethiopian team, topped by Kenenisa Bekele's inspired third double triumph, took five of the six team titles in the two days of competition and in total swept fourteen out of the eighteen medals on offer. The East African Nation also broke Kenya's stronghold over the championships by winning the men's team title for the first time in eighteen years.

At a welcoming ceremony held at the Addis Ababa Stadium, the Athletes, coaches, and the rest of the delegation were handed flowers by  Bisrat Tena-Gashaw, President of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation. A band sang famous Ethiopian victory tunes and the athletes took a lap of honour around the stadium. 

Ethiopians have a long standing tradition of welcoming back their Athletes after triumphs in the Olympic Games and other major sporting events.

Nearly two-million people took to the main Meskel Square four years ago when the team returned from the Sydney Olympics. And most recently, a similar ceremony was held in September last year to welcome the Ethiopian team from a successful outing at the 9th IAAF World Championships in Paris, where the country finished third in medals table with eight medals- three gold, three silver, and two bronze.

Ethiopia's stars will now focus on qualifying for the Olympics as we head into the track season. Success in the Belgian capital has given the major stakeholders in Athletics across the country the push to prepare more diligently for Athens.