A dominant display by Belete Assefa over 25 laps was the highlight of the first day action at the 42nd Ethiopian Championships held for the first time in Assela, Ethiopia (26-30 June 2013).
On a day of no other distance finals, national junior champions Alemitu Haroye and Seberi Teferi progressed from the women’s 5000m heats, while an inspired Almaz Ayana was fastest in qualifying for the women’s 3000m Steeplechase.
Assefa dictates and wins controversial contest
With three of Ethiopia’s four places in the men’s 10,000m for the World Championships in Moscow already decided, many of Ethiopia’s elite performers in the event chose to give the championships a miss. Kenenisa Bekele and Imane Merga have already qualified, while reigning World champion Ibrahim Jeilan is granted a wildcard spot.
That did little to deny Belete Assefa the spotlight on the opening day of these annual championships as his measured running throughout the 25-lap contest brought a small crowd at the Assela Green stadium to its feet.
A large pack of 54 runners started this contest, but they were quickly reduced to just 18 by the seventh lap as Assefa injected a fresh breath of pace into the race. Only seven athletes remained in contention after ten laps with eventual runner-up and defending champion Tsebelu Zewde among those with an eye for victory.
Assefa’s role in deciding the outcome of this contest intensified with each lap as he took further control by injecting another spurt of pace into the race. With four laps left, only four runners remained in contention with Assefa and Zewde leading Kinde Atenaw and Abraham Molla.
But at the bell, Assefa launched his last and most decisive kick of the race to leave the chasing trio in his wake, stopping the clock at 28:28.54. Zewde won the battle for silver ahead of Atenaw and Molla.
Molla later on launched a protest with the jury of appeal claiming that Atenaw was lapped earlier in the contest, but his appeal has been rejected.
“I was well prepared for this race since I returned back from the Bolder Boulder race in Colorado,” says Assefa who finished second in Boulder. “I am now looking for a 10,000m race in Atlanta [to qualify for Moscow]. Last year I finished ninth in the 5000m [at the Ethiopian Championships], but today’s race was very easy.”
Usual suspects all through in competitive heats
A day dominated by qualifying rounds and heats saw many of the country’s aspiring athletes in comfortably progress to the next round of their events.
Alemitu Haroye was the fastest qualifier in the women’s 5000m with World junior 1500m silver medallist Senbere Teferi and World junior 5000m silver medallist Ruti Aga both progressing.
Abiyot Abnet clocked 1:47.62 to head the list of 800m semi-finalists, while Tigist Getnet, Lemlem Berhe, Almaz Ayana, Netsanet Achamo, and Mekdes Bekele all went through to the women’s 3000m Steeplechase final.
Elshadai Negash (with the assistance of Bizuayehu Wagaw) for the IAAF