Reigning World long course champion Tirunesh Dibaba will lead Ethiopia’s squad of twenty six athletes for the 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Kenya (24 March 2007).
Dibaba is the only runner given special dispensation by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) to miss the qualifying trials due to competition fatigue on Sunday, but maintain her place in the squad. But the EAF has left one place vacant in the squad released on Wednesday as it has yet to reach a decision on the participation of five-time double World Cross Country champion Kenenisa Bekele.
Women’s senior team- Dibaba again the top name
Although she has not taken part in a cross country race since she dropped out of the short race in last year’s 34th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, Dibaba maintains her place in the squad by virtue of her outstanding results in previous editions of the championships where she has won three individual titles.
But the 21-year-old has been in scintillating form indoors this year where she smashed her own World Indoor 5000m record by five seconds in January.
Dibaba’s strongest rival for the defence of the senior women’s 8km title will undoubtedly be Meselech Melkamu, who could see Mombassa as her chance to make a breakthrough. The former World Junior Cross Country champion has been in devastating form in 2007 where she ran the second fastest time for the 3000m indoors when she clocked 8:23.74 for second place behind Meseret Defar in Stuttgart. Melkamu comfortably escaped the challenge of Mestawot Tufa to take victory in the trials on Sunday.
Ethiopia’s squad is again a mixture of youth and experience with the inclusion of Wude Ayalew (fifth in last year’s long race); Koreni Jelila (winner of the 2006 Ethiopian 3000m title); and Ahaza Kiros (second in the Ethiopian championships 10,000m race).
Men’s senior team- Sihine and T. Bekele the big names, but watch out for Tola!
Reigning World 12km silver medallist Sileshi Sihine is again expected to lead the team in Mombasa and will be encouraged by his form after a nine-month absence due to injury.
The 24-year-old won the Juan Muguerza Cross Internacional in Elgoibar, Spain on his return from injury, but struggled to finish second behind Tadesse Tola and Solomon Tsige at the trials on Sunday.
However, Sihine will take a lot of cross country experience to Mombasa as he has won two individual medals in four editions of the championships.
Joining him in Mombasa will be World Junior 5000m champion Tariku Bekele, who flies to the Kenyan coastal city on the back of an impressive 2006/07 cross country season. In five cross country races, Tariku took three victories in Soria, Llodia, and Alcobendas, while finishing second in Amorebeita and Sevilla.
Sihine and Tariku may be the star names to watch in Mombasa, but the biggest surprise yet to emerge in the Kenyan coastal city could well be Tadesse Tola. The 20-year-old, who finished seventh in last year’s junior race, made the loudest statement of his Mombasa ambitions when he beat Sihine, T. Bekele, and a host of other established names at the Jan Meda racecourse on Sunday.
Completing Ethiopia’s team of eight runners will be Solomon Tsige (second in the trials and second in the Ethiopian 20km championships); Ketema Negussie (fourth in the trials and winner of the 2005 TOYOTA Great Ethiopian Run); Chala Lemi (fifth in the trials and 13th in the junior at the 2005 World Cross Country Championships in St. Etienne/ St. Galmier, France); Markos Genetti (seventh in the trials and former World Indoor 3000m bronze medallist); and Abebe Dinkessa (winner of the 2005 and 2006 Ethiopian Cross Country Championships).
Juniors- Jeylan is the biggest hope
Despite comfortably winning the trials on Sunday, Ibrahim Jeylan knows that he needs to keep his foot on the ground when he prepares to lead Ethiopia’s team for Mombasa.
The World Junior 10,000m champion has reasonable justification for his guarded optimism. He was in the same situation last year as he sprinted past Tariku Bekele in the trials only to fall victim to his lack of endurance in Fukuoka where he finished fifth. “I have to work on my endurance a lot,” says Jeylan, whose trademark sprint finish was one of the highlights of the 2006 athletics season where he took victories over the 10,000m at the national championships and in the World Junior Championships in Beijing.
He will be joined by Demesew Tsega, who finished third in the trials, but was the star of the Ethiopian Marathon relay championships where he played a crucial part in St. George’s team victory in the men’s race. World Junior 5000m silver medallist Abraham Cherkose is another runner to look out for in Mombasa. The 18-year-old is regarded by many as the future prospect of distance running in Ethiopia judged by his World Youth records over the 3000m and 5000m.
In the women’s team, all eyes will be on trials winner Sule Utara on whether she has what it takes to transform domestic form into international success. The most experienced member of the team is, however, Emebet Eta’a, who was part of the junior squad last year and finished fourth over the 1500m at the 11th IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing, China. Watch out also for Genzebe Dibaba, younger sister of Tirunesh Dibaba who will run in Ethiopian colours for the first time in her short career.
Ethiopian squad for the 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombassa, Kenya
6km Junior Women
8km Junior Men
8km Senior Women
12km Senior Men
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF