Addis Ababa, EthiopiaAfrican champion Zemzem Ahmed and rising talent Aberu Kebede took deserved victories in the women’s 3000m Steeplechase and 10,000m respectively on the fourth day (2) of the 38th Ethiopian Athletics Championships (29 April- 3 May 2009).
In other major final of day four, youngster Abeba Aregawi beat national champion Mestawet Tadesse in the women’s 800m for the biggest surprise of the championships so far.
Ahmed shows poise to defend title
With all of the country’s top female steeplechasers taking part, the event was always going to be the most star-studded event of the national championships. And with the runners running close to each other for six of the seven-and-half laps, there was initially nothing to tell the runners apart in a tightly-contested race.
Ahmed, Netsanet Achamo (second 2007 All-African Games), Mekdes Bekele (third at the African Championships), Olympian Sofia Assefa, and youngster Korahubesh Etea (4th in the 2008 World junior championships) all took the opportunity to share the lead at the head of the pack with no runner making a breakaway attempt.
Ahmed’s upped the pace with two laps to go and only Achamo, Bekele, and Etea were able to follow suit. At the bell, Achamo was marginally ahead, but both Etea and Ahmed closed her down. The race turned into a two-horse contest with 200m left, but Ahmed quickly asserted control and pulled ahead of Etea in the home straight. Ahmed was already 15m clear at the last barrier before crossing the finish line in 10:01.42, a new championship record.
"It was a good race thank God,” Ahmed said after the race. “I did not exert myself because I knew that we were all training well in the season. My next race is in Doha. I hope to do well and qualify for the World championships.”
In second place, Etea caused a major surprise beating All-African Games and African championships silver medallist Mekdes Bekele.
Kebede surprises in 10,000m
Despite the absence of the likes of Olympic and World champion Tirunesh Dibaba, All-African Games champion Mestawot Tufa, and former Olympic silver medallist Ejegayehou Dibaba, the women’s 10,000m was still bitterly-contested with a host of new names and faces emerging from a brutal 25-lap contest.
The race was won by Aberu Kebede, but fellow newcomer Mamitu Deska in second also showed impressive resistance to stay with the leaders and even beat runners like 2003 world championship 10,000m silver medallist Werknesh Kidane, who is struggling to re-launch her career after returning from a three-year maternity leave.
But the diminutive Kidane helped to shape what became an exciting race by laying the gauntlet to her challengers and picking up the pace when the starting field settled to virtual walking pace. With the former World Cross Country champion and youngster Deska exchanging leads at the head of the pack, the pace became too hot to handle for more than half of the starting 25 runners after just five laps.
Five laps later, the field dwindled down to just seven runners with Deska, Kebede, Kidane, Bezunesh Urgessa, Werkitu Ayanu, Abebech Yalew, and Ahaza Kiros all running in a line behind one another.
With nine laps to go, Kiros was the first to drop off with teenager Yalew following suit two laps later. The front five exchanged leads and all held out their own until four laps to go when Ayanu and Kidane also found the going tough in the front pack.
With only Kebede, Deska, and Urgessa now in contention, the crowds at the Addis Ababa stadium were on the edge of their seats and cheered the trio to a grand slam finish.
At the bell, Urgessa tried to move marginally ahead, but 50m later, Deska pushed on the pace and look to cause a major upset in the championships. But Kebede had the last hurrah, moving ahead of her challenger on the home straight and sprinting for victory in 33:18.08 with Deska and Urgessa following home for the remaining podium places.
Aregawi shocks Tadesse in 800m
The only other outfield final of the day came in the women’s 800m where Mestawet Tadesse, three-time national champion, was looking for a fourth title. But the experienced runner found the going tough against unknown Abebe Aregawi who powered ahead 50m from the finish for an unlikely victory in 2:08.89. Tadesse fought off the challenge from Yemechawork Ghion to finish second in 2:08.99. Ghion clocked 2:09.75 for third.
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF