beh), Ethiopia (3000/5000/cross country)
Born 6 March 1984, Dendhi, near Ambo, northern Ethiopia (also birthplace of 1992 Olympic 5000m bronze medallist Fita Bayissa)
Lives in Addis Ababa.
Manager: Jos Hermens. Coach: Tolosa Kotu (national) and Hussein Shebo (club)
Club: Prisons Police
Second of three children, parents grain farmers.
Completed 10 years of school; plans to continue studies in near future.
Abebe started running at 13 when his uncle brought him from Dendhi to Ambo to study and work in his shop. In Denhi, Abebe had walked and run 10 km to and from school. After three years, the uncle’s shop failed and Abebe was able to study and train full time. “If the shop hadn’t closed,’ says Abebe, “I wouldn’t have taken up running seriously.” At 17 he won the 5000m and took 5th in the 10,000m in the Ambo Interschool championships.
In July 2001, he made his first visit to Addis Ababa to take part intrials for the World Half Marathon championships. He finished 90th running barefoot, but was happy to have run with his idol Haile Gebrselassie. His uncle, who had accompanied him, was also pleased and gave him his blessing to take up running fulltime. He ran in a fewregional half marathon and cross country races in Ambo before moving to Addis Ababa to join the Ethiopian Electric & Power Corp. (EEPCO) club in September 2001.
In February 2002 he finished 9th in Ethiopia’s World Junior Cross trials, barefooted for the last time. Signed by manager Jos Hermens, he travelled to Holland for five track races and finished the year with an impressive 4th in the Great Ethiopian Run, just yards behind Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam, Sileshi Sihine and Kenenisa Bekele.
In the 2002-03 cross country season, he raced three times in Spain (5th Amorebeita, 2nd Santander, 4th San Sebastian) and was preparing for the Ethiopian trials when he sustained a foot injury. He started the 4 km race at the trials and wound up aggravating a multiple fracture of his toes, curtailing his 2003 season until he returned to action in November, finishing 9th in the Great Ethiopian Run. He then ran two races in the Addis Ababa Municipal cross country championships, winning the 12 km and finishing 3rd in the 4km behind Dejene Berhanu and Maeregu Zewde.
Abebe made a promising return on the 2003-04 international cross country circuit in France and Belgium before going down with flu days before the Ethiopian World Cross trials. He finished 10th in the 4km race and dropped out of the 12km. Turning to the track, he finished 4th at 10,000m in the Ethiopian Championships in May behind Sileshi, Dejene, and Gebre-egziabher and was included in the provisional team for Athens. Unfortunately, a lackluster early track season in Europe (a distant 3rd in the Hengelo 10,000 in 27:23.60 behind the blazing pace of Sileshi and Haile, and modest PBs at 5000m in Spain and Belgium –13:30.92 and 13:23.85) was not enough to lift Abebe into the top three of Ethiopia’s world-leading 5000 and 10,000 ranks. “I was not disappointed,” he says, “because I knew the others were far better than me.”
As a consolation, Abebe was selected to run 10,000 in the African Championsihps in July in Brazzaville, where he finished 2nd (28:10.49) to Kenya’s 2001 World Champ Charles Kamathi. He then won the Ethiopian half marathon championships, but finished a disappointing 10th (64:06) in the World Championships in New Delhi.
He made up for New Delhi by winning the longest (12 km) stage in Japan’s Chiba Ekiden, helping Ethiopia take the team title. He then wrapped up the year with an outstanding turn of speed to win the 2004 Great Ethiopian Run.
Abebe’s current cross country season has been uneven—a win in Brussels in December over European champ Sergey Lebed and Olympic 10,000 bronze medalist Tadesse Zersenay, 2nd to Maeregu Zewde in Seville, then 6th in Elgoibar. But he came up trumps in Ethiopia’s World Cross trials, taking the 12 km title by an 18-second margin over Gebre-egziabher. This World Cross is Abebe’s first, but his coaches are confident that he is ready to medal.
Yearly Progression 5000/10,000: 2002 – 13:42.30/--; 2004 – 13:23:85 / 27:23.60
A note on Ethiopian names: Ethiopians are customarily referred to by first name or first and second name together, the second name being the father’s first name.
Prepared by Elshadai Negash for the IAAF “Focus on Africans” Project © 2005.