A dramatic sprint finish in the men’s 10,000m by Ethiopian cross country champion Tadesse Tola was the highlight of an exciting opening to the 36th Ethiopian Athletics Championships (2- 6 May 2007) in Addis Ababa yesterday evening (2).
But there was a big upset in the men’s 1500m as World junior 5000m champion Tariku Bekele failed to advance from the heats to tomorrow’s final.
For the first ever time there was live television coverage, fantastic home support, and a newly-created evening session also made out for an exciting opening to the annual championships.
Front running Tola saves enough energy to take win
The performance of the day belonged to Tola, who is now becoming a permanent fixture on the domestic running scene. The 22-year-old, who is born and raised in Addis Ababa, has already won a national title over the cross country in February and produced another scintillating display to dispatch the world class challenge.
After a day filled primary with heats and semi-finals, the men’s 10,000m got off at a speculative pace with none of the top contenders willing to take part in the early pace-setting duties. Former double World Cross Country silver medallist Gebregziabher Gebremariam, Defence club runners Habtamu Fekadu, and Emana Merga were one of the few to show any kind of ambition, but then Tola took charge in the first serious move of the race and began to increase the pace.
Tola’s ambitious front-running reduced the leading pack down to five runners with five laps of the left. In addition to Tola and Gebremariam, World junior 10,000m champion Ibrahim Jeylan, Fekadu, and Lishan Yegezu were all in contention at the 8000m mark.
A lap later, Tola’s increasing pace dropped off Jeylan and with three laps to go, the race turned into a three-horse race with Fekadu leading Tola and Gebremariam.
The trio kept up the pace until the final lap upon which Tola and Gebremariam accelerated to set-up an exciting sprint finish.
Tola’s front-running effort looked to have cost him dearly when Gebremariam powered on with 200m to go seemingly destined to snatch victory. But Tola overtook his more illustrious compatriot with 100m to go and took victory in a 28:48.34.
Good comeback from injury
Gebremariam completed his comeback from a year out due to illness and injury to take second in 28:49.01, while Fekadu edged out more illustrious compatriot to confirm his position on the medal podium.
“I knew the Gebregziabher had the speed although we have never competed together,” said the winner after the race. “I have always had endurance. This year, I have been worked hard on my speed. I am happy that it has paid off.”
After winning his second domestic title of 2007, the Prisons Police runner said running in the evening was a big difference to his performance. “The wind did not affect me because I am strong,” he said. “Running in the evening has helped me extremely very well. After this, I will be trying to obtain the qualification minimum for Osaka and then we will see what happens.”
The best of the rest
In the day’s other competitions, World Junior 5000m champion Tariku Bekele failed to advance from his heat in the men’s 1500m. The 20-year-old, who is running his first senior race this year, finished sixth in the first of two heats.
In the field events, defending champions Emebet Tilahun, Roman Abera, and Sisay Mekonnen all successfully defended their titles, respectively the women’s Long Jump, women’s Shot Put, and men’s Shot Put, while Defence Club runner Galwot Galkot took victory in the men’s Long Jump.
Women’s 10,000m, men’s 5000m semi-finals on Thursday
The highlight of Thursday (3 May) will be the women’s 10,000m which is expected to feature Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Ejegayehou Dibaba as she aims to bounce back from an injury-plagued season. She will be pushed all the way by the medallists from last year’s competition: defending champion Bezunesh Bekele, Ahaza Kiros, and Teyiba Erkesso as well as Ashu Kassim, who is the reigning All-Ethiopian Games champion over the distance.
The semi-finals of the men’s 5000m will also be held tomorrow and will feature World 5000m and 10,000m silver medallist Sileshi Sihine against World Junior 5000m silver medallist Abraham Cherkose.
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF
36th Ethiopian Athletics Championships - Official Results (Finals Only)
Women’s Shot put
1. Roman Abera (Ethiopian Banks) 11.48m
2. Zewdnesh Beshay (Prisons Police) 11.22m
3. Selamawit Haylu (Ethiopian Banks) 10.95m
Women’s Long Jump
1. Emebet Tilahun (Ethiopian Banks) 5.55
2. Fetiya Kedir (Ethiopian Banks) 5.32
3. Netsanet Addis (Prisons Police) 5.28
Men’s Shot Put
1. Sisay Mekonnen (Prisons Police) 13.00m
2. Bahiru Mariam (Defence) 12.43m
3. Bekele Gebre (Prisons Police) 12.17m
Men’s Long Jump
1. Galwat Galkot (Defence) 7.19m
2. Girmaye Gebretsadik (Defence) 7.06m
3. Mama Edea (Prisons Police) 7.05m
1. Tadesse Tola (Prisons Police) 28:48.34
2. Gebregziabher Gebremariam (Ethiopian Banks) 28:49.01
3. Habtamu Fekadu (Defense) 28:55.43