Making their bids to rise from the crowded ranks of their nation's deep well of distance talent, junior runners Abe Gashahun and Fotyen Tesfay were the surprise winners at the 16th Great Ethiopian Run 10km road race in Addis Ababa on Sunday (20).
Gashahun, 18, won one of the closest finishes in the race’s 16-year history, just edging Kenyan Jerome Lumbasi by one second in 28:53.
Four athletes entered the final home straight locked together before Gashahun clinched victory just a few metres from the finish.
Gashahun, who is coached by Haji Ajilo comes from Debre Birhan, 120 kilometres northeast of Addis Ababa, and had travelled to the capital yesterday for this race.
“I hope that my win today will give me more opportunities to compete in international races abroad,” said Gashahun, who finished eighth at the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China, and fifth over 5000m at the African Junior Championships that same year, also in Addis Ababa.
Lumbasi, 19, became the first Kenyan male to place in the top three since Nathan Naibei finished runner-up in 2005.
Like Gashahun in the men’s race, Tesfay was also making her Great Ethiopian Run debut in the women’s contest, where she sprung a surprise over better-known names. Her winning time of 33:09 was one of the fastest performances in race history.
“This is my biggest race victory by a long way," said Tesfay, also 18. “It is in fact my first race over 10km, and I am so happy to win here.”
Tesfay runs for the Messebo club based in the northern province of Tigray and is still relatively new to the racing scene in Addis Ababa. But she’s already represented Ethiopian internationally, having finished fourth in the 3000m at the IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016 last July.
Among those she defeated was 2:22 marathon runner Tadelech Bekele, who recently finished second in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon where she clocked 2:26:31. Here, Bekele was a distant third in 33:25, eight seconds behind runner-up Muluye Dakamaw.
Two weeks into his new role as Ethiopian Athletics Federation President, race founder Haile Gebrselassie expressed his delight that the race had once again helped bring young talent to the larger domestic stage provided by the this massive event in the Ethiopian capital.
The race incorporated a wave start this year to accommodate the growing number of participants. More than 40,000 runners took part this year, with race organisers now confident that the number could grow towards 50,000 in the coming years.
Organisers for the IAAF
1 Abe Gashahun (ETH) 28:53
2 Jerome Lumbasi (KEN) 28:54
3 Adugna Tekele (ETH) 28:55
1 Fotyen Tesfay (ETH) 33:09
2 Muluye Dakamaw (ETH) 33:17
3 Tadelech Bekele (ETH) 33:25