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Wolde heads Ethiopian team for world indoors

Wolde heads Ethiopian team for world indoors
Sabrina Yohannes for the IAAF

2 March 2001 - In the absence of indoor double gold medallist Haile Gebrselassie, Olympic 5000m champion Million Wolde will head a five-member Ethiopian team for the world indoor championships.

Gebrselassie missed the indoor season for the second straight year due to a 1999 ankle injury which he avoided treating surgically until after defending his Olympic 10,000m crown. The indoor championships in Lisbon next week mark the first time the Ethiopian will not be on hand to defend his world title, leaving the 3000m title he has held since 1997 and the 1500m title up for grabs.

Wolde, who followed Gebrselassie to a bronze in 1999, will be joined at the 2001 championships by fellow Sydney Olympians Hailu Mekonnen, Daniel Zegeye, Kutre Dulecha and Worknesh Kidane, said Ethiopian Athletics Federation permanent secretary Mekonnen Teklu.

One Ethiopian athlete will compete in each of the men’s and women’s races from 800 to 3000 metres, with Dulecha, the world 1500m women’s bronze medallist outdoors, doubling to compete in the two shorter events. Ethiopia took eight distance running medals at the Sydney Olympics, but the nation's athletics officials have been looking to increase participation in shorter events. Zegeye, who placed sixth in the Olympic 1500m, will run in the men’s 800 in Lisbon. Indoor two-mile world record-holder Mekonnen will compete in the 1500m and Wolde will attempt to improve on his 3000m bronze.

All three men and Dulecha have raced indoors repeatedly this season, with Wolde logging two victories and a world leading 3000m time of 7:37.99 in Stuttgart (apart from Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj’s time en route to a two-mile finish). Mekonnen has also won two races, including over two miles in Birmingham, although well outside the world mark he set there last year.

Former world junior cross country champion Kidane, who was seventh in the Sydney women’s 5000m, will run the 3000 in Lisbon. "She’s actually in very good shape," said Teklu. Kidane helped the Ethiopian team place second at the February 18 Beijing road relay, and then on Sunday won the women’s four kilometres at the national cross country championships, which serve as trials for the world event. Mekonnen was fourth in the men’s four kilometres.

Dulecha was nursing a minor injury and missed the trials, but she may still make the team for the March 24-25 world championships in Dublin, said federation coach Wolde-Meskel Kostre. Two-time former world champion Gete Wami, who won the women’s long race Sunday, has run fast indoor times this season, but is scheduled to focus on her bid for the world cross country crown. "If she went to the indoors, the time left after her return would be very short," said Teklu.