19 AUG 2007 General News Sululta, Ethiopia

Gezhagne and B. Bekele take Ethiopian 20km titles

Bezunesh Bekele in triumphant mood in Seville (Juan Rodelas Diaz)Bezunesh Bekele in triumphant mood in Seville (Juan Rodelas Diaz) © Copyright

Former national short course bronze medallist Eshetu Gezhagne and Addis Ababa stadium 10,000m track record holder Bezunesh Bekele were the men’s and women’s 20km winners of the 2nd Ethiopian Road Running Championships (20km road race) held in Sululta, 25kms outside Addis Ababa, on Sunday .

Tremendous front running gives Gezhagne victory

In the men’s race, it was an unexpected, but dominating performance by Muger Cement club runner Eshetu Gezhagne, who announced his return from a career-threatening leg injury, which secured victory.

After a frantic start where the field of 255 runners from Ethiopia’s clubs and regions scrambled to hit the front, St. George club runner and the 2005 Toyota Great Ethiopian Run 10km runner up Zenbaba Yegezu tried to take the early initiative in the first kilometre.

But his repeated attempts to hit the front were futile and it was when eventual winner Gezhagne took the lead at the 3.5km mark that the large pack really started to disintegrate.

At the 4km, Gezhagne was away from the rest of the field and had taken Yenegew Sew club runner Tesfaye Sendeku with him as the pair passed the 5km point in 14.45.

Gezhagne took sole control of the race just past the 6km mark and from then on upped the pace which the chasing pack failed to handle.

At the half way point, he was already 300m ahead of the chasing pack led by Omedla’s Kidane Gemechu. Gemechu did his best to close the gap with Gezhagne, but the former cross country and track runner looked comfortable on the roads eventually crossing the line in 1:01.00 with Gemechu in second twenty-four seconds.

“I had planned to hit the front from the outset,” said the race winner in his post-race comments. “I used to run cross country and track before, but I had repeated injury problems. I am happy to return back to winning again.”

Gezhagne, a member of the senior men’s 12km long course team title winning squad at the 33rd IAAF World Cross Country Championships in St. Etienne/St. Galmier, France, had been out of action for the best part of the last two years due to a bone dislocation in his foot. His injury, deemed career-threatening by doctors, had at one point ruled him out of competition and a place in his former club Oromiya Police’s squad, but the 25-year-old dedicated his victory to Ethiopia’s double World and one-time Olympic 10,000m champion Kenenisa Bekele and his wife Amelework Teklu.

“When I was fired from my club because of underperformance, it was Kenenisa who took care of me,” he said. “I had no salary for almost one year and he supported me in this time. He also helped me purchase a house. I am sure that he will be delighted when he hears about this. I would also like to thank my wife Amelework who was patient enough to take of me through my injury.”

B. Bekele kicks to perfection

The women’s race also followed a similar pattern with Bezunesh Bekele, sixth in the 2003 World Cross Country Championships long race, dictating the pace for much of the race before making her ultimate break at the 11km point to take victory.

The strong field of athletes included former two-time Great Ethiopian Run 10km champion Genet Getaneh among other established road runners, but it was the diminutive Bekele who demonstrated her improved form on the roads with a commanding victory.

Having trailed the early leaders for the opening half of the contest, Bekele then assumed control of the race just past the half point to eventually finish more than 90 seconds behind second-placed Atsede Habtamu.

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF


Results

MEN

1. Eshetu Gezhagne (Muger) 1:01.00
2. Kidane Gemechu (Omedla) 1:01.24
3. Rajj Assefa (St. George) 1:01.31
4. Tesfaye Sendeku (Yenegew Tesfa) 1:01.33
5. Yemane Tsegaye (Geta Zeru) 1:01.40
6. Alemayehu Shumeye (Unity University) 1:01.41

WOMEN

1. Bezunesh Bekele (Ethiopian Banks) 1:09.36
2. Atsede Habtamu (Omedla) 1:11.06
3. Genet Getaneh (Prisons Police) 1:11.29
4. Tirunesh Mekonnen (Defence) 1:11.46
5. Amelework Fekadu (Defence) 1:12.06
6. Mare Dibaba (Oromiya Police) 1:12.21