When the finalists of the men’s 3000m lined up for their race in Sherbrooke, there was one name that stood out from the rest.
Tariku Bekele, 16 years of age, the brother of the famous Kenenisa was to follow precisely in his older sibling’s footsteps.
Four years ago in Bydgoszcz’s inaugural edition of the IAAF World Youth Championships, a still unknown Kenenisa Bekele finished second in the 3000m in 8:09.89. That year, a Kenyan won the race sprinting away from Bekele.
Turn the clock forward and Tariku Bekele today finished second in a personal best of 7:54.71. A Kenyan, Augustine Choge, won the race sprinting away from Bekele.
If history was to repeat itself, we could possibly see Tariku winning the Junior race of the World Cross Country Championships in two years time, a feat Kenenisa achieved in 2001. And then maybe two world cross titles in two consecutive years, outstanding performances which Kenenisa has achieved in the past two years.
But that is another story. Today Tariku is a happy man even if, as he admits it, “I wanted victory.”
“I wanted to try and quicken the pace and drop the Kenyan off but that didn’t work out."
Having never run in wet conditions, Bekele didn’t seem to struggle with the heavy rain that started pouring down on Sherbrooke stadium just minutes before his race. He followed the pace set by Choge and William Tarus of Kenya trying now and then to take over the lead.
When Choge kicked for the finish Bekele responded but that was enough only for silver.
“This proves that with hard work and dedication one can succeed in his dreams.”
Communication is not as easy and Bekele, like his brother, is no expert in English. Helped by his team leader the inevitable question is asked. Is older Bekele the biggest source of inspiration?
“I am very happy to see my brother winning races. His advice is precious and I always listen to what he says. He is my role model and hopefully, with the help of God, I will be able to be just as good a runner as him.”
While Kenenisa was getting ready to compete in Rome Golden League meeting he had warm words for his brother.
“It is difficult to say whether Tariku will get a good result in Canada,” he said. “He is a student and has been doing Athletics along with his education. I just want him to get some experience and lift up his hopes for the future. It means a world to me that he is involved in running and that he has stayed away from any bad things.”
When Kenenisa learns about his younger brother’s result here in Sherbrooke he will certainly be all the more proud. The Bekele family might well become a regular feature of the World Youth Championships as Gemechu, 10 years of age, and the youngest of the five Bekele siblings, hopes to maintain the successful athletic tradition.
A doubt arises. Does Tariku mind that we speak more about Kenenisa than him?
“I could never be tired of talking about my brother. I am so proud of him. He’s such a great champion and such a great person!”