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Wami stakes claim for World Cross Country crown

Wami stakes claim for World Cross Country crown
Sabrina Yohannes for IAAF

25 February 2001 - Gete Wami won the long course race at the Ethiopian cross country championships in Addis Ababa Sunday, but in the absence of several top names, the championships may not provide as strong an indicator of what will play out on the world stage a month later as they have in previous years.

Wami was beaten by Barcelona Olympic gold-medallist Derartu Tulu at last year’s Ethiopian cross country championships and lost her world crown one month later in Vilamoura, when Tulu, back from a long knee injury and maternity leave, took her third world title.

Tulu, who won her second Olympic 10,000-metre gold medal in Sydney, did not participate in Sunday’s championships. "She is nursing a small injury," said head Ethiopian Athletic Federation track coach Wolde-Meskel Kostre. "The old problem she had may be resurfacing slightly."

Other top names missing from the championships due to minor injuries or ailments include world short course champion Kutre Dulecha, who suffered from muscle cramps, and men’s long course world silver-medallist Assefa Mezgebu, who came down with tonsillitis upon returning from competitions in Europe.

The championships took place over a few hours by permission on the morning of a day when all offices were closed for local elections, and competitors and officials dispersed immediately after the races. Complete official results will be compiled and available during the week at the start of which selections for the world indoor championships in Lisbon will be finalised, followed shortly thereafter by those for the world cross country championships in Dublin.

The top results from Sunday’s championships at Jan Meda—which included both complete newcomers and others with some experience but no major senior titles—will be reviewed along with the notable absences, said Kostre.

Wami won ahead of Merima Hashim and Eyerusalem Kuma, who placed fifth and seventh in the 2000 world junior race. 1999 world junior champion Worknesh Kidane took the short course victory, followed by Genet Gebregiorgis and Hareg Sidelil, who was fourth in the 2000 world junior race and third at San Sebastian in Spain last month. Abebech Negussie, who took the world junior 1500 metre title in Santiago last year, won the junior women’s race.

The 10,000 metres runner-up at the national track championships, Dejene Birhanu, won the long course men’s race ahead of Yibeltal Admassu, who was fourth and then tenth in the 1998 and 1999 world junior races, and Tegena Abebe. World junior 5000m silver medallist Kenenisa Bekele outran two young challengers in addition to Dagne Alemu, who was seventh in the Sydney Olympic 5000 metres, and 1999 double cross country medallist Hailu Mekonnen to win the short course competition.

The holder of the world indoor two-mile record—despite an attempt by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj in Ghent on Friday—Mekonnen has raced frequently indoors this season and joins 3000m indoor world bronze-medallist Million Wolde on the list of candidates for the 2001 world indoors team. With world 3000m and 1500m indoor champion Haile Gebrselassie out of the indoor season and in physiotherapy following an operation on his foot after his successful defence of his Olympic 10,000m title, others being considered for the men’s and women’s indoor teams over the two distances include Girma Tola and Berhanu Alemu; and Wami, Kidane and Dulecha.