19 MAR 2009 General News

World 1500m champion Jamal heads Bahrain’s Amman squad

Maryam Yusuf Jamal holds off the much-improved Shannon Rowbury in the women's 1500m (Getty Images)Maryam Yusuf Jamal holds off the much-improved Shannon Rowbury in the women's 1500m (Getty Images) © Copyright

The Bahrain Athletics Association (BAA) have announced a strong team of eight athletes who will compete at the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan.

SENIORS- Asian champion Jamal tops the bill

The pick of the selection is without doubt the inclusion of World 1500m champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal who will return to the World Cross Country Championships for the first time since 2006.

The 24-year old, who finished fifth in the Beijing Olympic 1500m final, is a two-time Asian Cross Country champion, the Asian mile record holder, and the reigning Asian Games 800m/1500m champion. She goes to Amman on the back of a five-race winning streak that includes her fourth World Athletics Final 1500m victory in Stuttgart last September and a solo victory in her only indoor appearance in 2009 in Birmingham over the 1500m.

She will be joined in Amman by Mimi Belete, who finished second behind Jamal in the senior women’s 8km race. The former Ethiopian, who sought political asylum three years ago and had been living and competing in Belgium, is now a Bahraini citizenship and is looking to make her mark on a global level in only her second appearance in the white and red colours of Bahrain.

Bahrain had hoped to line up more runners to increase their chances of medalling in the senior women’s team. But Asian Games 10,000m silver medallist Kareema Jasim is on maternity leave, while Nadia Ejaffini, the national half marathon record holder, is ill.

JUNIORS- Bekele leads strong juniors

The Bahrain team won five individual and team titles from the eight gold medals available at the 10th Asian Cross Country Championships on home soil just over two weeks ago.

Competing in Amman with exactly the same athletes, Bahrain now expect to find just how good their athletes, especially their new junior runners of Ethiopian and Kenyan origin, really are on a global stage.

“We will be present in these world championships with interesting individual challengers,” said BAA Technical Director Lounes Madene in an email message. “It is interesting to discover after the Asian cross country championships the real capacities and the level of competitiveness of our young and new athletes that for sure will be interesting to follow in the next future.”

The most impressive of those young individuals was Alemu Bekele who, though having no relation to Ethiopia’s multiple global outdoor and cross country champion Kenenisa Bekele, is nicknamed “little Kenenisa” after he dominated the domestic running circuit in Ethiopia. The 18-year old took a runaway victory in Bahrain on 1 March and will lead compatriots Isaac Kemboi and Edwin Chebii in Amman.

Shitaye Eshete and Tejitu Daba, first and second in the Asian Cross Country junior women’s race, will also compete on a global level for the first time.

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF

Bahrain Team for the 10th Asian Cross Country Championships   

SENIOR WOMEN: Maryam Yusuf Jamal, Mimi Belete
JUNIOR WOMEN: Tejitu Daba, Shitaye Eshete, Gladys Jerotich
JUNIOR MEN: Isaac Kemboi, Alemu Bekele, Edwim Chebii