World U18 and U20 champion Selemon Barega and Zeyneba Yimer won close contests at the 2017 TOTAL Great Ethiopian Run 10km road race in Addis Ababa on Sunday (26).
It has been a stellar 2017 for Barega who stormed to an impressive 3000m title at the World U18 Championships in Nairobi in July and followed it up with an impressive fifth place finish over 5000m at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in London a month later.
And following a short rest, the 17-year-old was an impressive winner of the Cross International de Main Libre in Allones, France, last weekend and followed it up with an impressive victory on his debut Sunday against some of the country’s upcoming athletes including two-time national cross country champion Getaneh Molla and defending champion Moges Teumay.
A slow start to this contest left around 30 runners in contention at four kilometres with Jemal Yimer, world championship 10,000m fifth place finisher, Teumay, Barega, and Molla all in contention.
Barega who looked relaxed behind the pacesetters in the large group, suddenly took the lead at the halfway point with Teumay following him closely. The chase pack failed to cover the sudden move as the duo opened up a two-way battle for the finish.
Teumay tried the first breakaway attempt at the seven-kilometre mark, but Barega fought him off en route to his victory in 28:36. Teumay followed him across the line two seconds later with Dawit Fekadu winning the battle of the leading pack chasers for third.
“Because it is the first time for me to run in Great [Ethiopian] Run, it was not easy,” Barega said. “I had a slight injury before the race and again there were some big names to battle with. I really did not expect [to win] it.”
Patience pays for Yemer
Defending champion Foten Tesfaye was the favourite in women’s race, but victory in this contest went to Zeyneba Yimer, the world U20 cross country bronze medallist.
The women’s race followed a similar pattern to the men’s contest with a large pack of runners unwilling to make any serious moves in the first half of the race. Ruti Aga and Degitu Azmeraw were the first to make a big move at the halfway point looking to open a slight gap over their rivals. But a trio including Yimer, Tesfaye, Aga and Girmawit Gebrezer were quick to cover this ambitious move to expand the lead group to five runners a kilometre later.
As predicted, Tesfaye made her penultimate move in the waning stages with Yimer the lone challenger remaining to the finish. She piled on the pace trying to shake off Yimer to avoid a race to the line, but it was Yimer who stayed with her for about a kilometre before taking the lead. The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia runner roared on to victory in 32:30, but Tesfaye failed to maintain the runner up position, eventually overtaken by Girmawit Gebrezer.
“I cannot say it was an easy one, “ said a jubilant Yimer. “I was well prepared for this, but not confident [enough] to win it. But I did it.”
A record 44,000 participants started the race in the Ethiopian capital that saw three-time world half marathon champion Lornah Kiplagat, reigning Olympic 5000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot, and two-time Olympic 5000m champion Meseret Defar as guests of honour.
Elshadai Negash (with the assistance of Abiy Wondifraw) for the IAAF