August 23, 2007

IAAF Osaka 2007: Top Oromo Athelets (Men)

KENENISA Bekele (KEH-neh-NEE-sah BEH-keh-leh), Ethiopia (5000m/10,000m/cross country)

Born 13 June 1982, near Bekoji (Derartu Tulu's hometown), Arsi Province, Ethiopia.

Lives in Addis Ababa. Stays in Nijmegen, Netherlands, between European competitions.

Manager: Jos Hermens. Coach: Tolosa Kotu. Club: Mugher Cement.

Second of six children. Brother Tariku (b. 1987) won 3000m silver at 2003 World Youth Ch., 5000m bronze at 2004 World Juniors. Father retired from farming and raising grain, cattle and sheep.

Finished eight years of school. Has taken courses aiming to complete secondary school.

Fiancée Alem Techale died suddenly in January 2005.

Kenenisa began running in primary school, inspired by the success of Tulu, Fatuma Roba and Haile Gebrselassie. His first competitive success came in 1997, his seventh year of school, when he won a local schools cross country. In 1999 he won the provincial championship and represented the province in the national junior championship, finishing 6th and qualifying for Ethiopia's junior World Cross team for Belfast (he finished 9th). He was then offered a place in team sponsored by Mugher Cement factory, whose members include Tesfaye Jifar, Tesfaye Tola and Gezahagne Abera, and whose coach is Tolosa Kotu, now also a lead national coach.

On the track in 1999 he won silver in the 5000m behind Kenyan Pius Muli at the World Youth Championships. The next year he fell ill before the World Cross trials and failed to qualify but later came 2nd to another Kenyan, Gordon Mugi, in the 5000m at the 2000 World Juniors in Chile.

In his final year as junior, he completed an astonishing double at 2001 World Cross, finishing 2nd in the men's short-course race on day 1 and returning the next day to add an overwhelming 33 second victory in the junior race. Stricken with abdominal pains during the 5000 at the Rome Golden League meet, which effectively served as Ethiopia's World Championships selection event, he finished 4th among Ethiopians (16th overall in 13:15.39) and failed to make the team.

In 2002, a similar pattern: he scored an even more extraordinary double at the World Cross, winning both long and short races (first man in the history of World Cross to do so), again by overwhelming margins. But his track season was curtailed by an achilles injury that precluded competition until November, when he ran to a modest 3rd in the Great Ethiopian Run.

Early in 2003, he won a series of five straight European cross races with an average victory margin of 27 seconds, and then completed a third supremely dominant double at the Lausanne World Cross. Two months later came what amounted to Kenenisa's senior international track debut in the Hengelo 10,000m, racing against Haile himself. When the "Emperor" launched his celebrated kick, his heir apparent responded with an even faster one, winning by almost a full second (26:53.70 to 26:54.58) and leaving observers in no doubt as to who now rules Ethiopian distance running. Kenenisa next outkicked most of the top Kenyans over 5000 in the Oslo GL, recording a PB 12:52.26; he beat many of them again in Lausanne (13:06.05 with a 52.6 last lap), and beat Haile a second time in the Rome GL (12:57.34 to 13:00.32), but both were edged by the astonishing finish of Kenyan Abraham Chebii (12:57.14), who handed Kenenisa his first loss in an international competition in more than two years.

Kenenisa's first global track gold came at the front of an intimidating Ethiopian sweep in the Paris World Championships 10,000. Kenenisa, Haile and Sileshi Sihine broke the field with a 12:57.24 final 5000, Sileshi dropping back with 600 to go and Kenenisa kicking past Haile over the last 200 for a championship record 26:49.57. The Paris 5000 also went in record time, but this one was not Kenenisa's. He and Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya followed the finishing drive of Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj over the last 800 meters, and both were gaining on the Moroccan down the final straight, but only Kipchoge (12:52.79) got past him. Kenenisa settled for an unaccustomed bronze (12:53.12) as his second World Championships medal and then capped his season with a solid win over half a dozen top Kenyans in the 3000m (7:36.98) at the World Athletics Final.

In 2004 Kenenisa extended to three years his cross country unbeaten streak (last loss: 2nd in the 2001 World Championships 4 km behind Kenyan Enock Koech) with his third crushing double at the World Cross, his sixth individual senior gold surpassing the record tallies of Kenyans John Ngugi and Paul Tergat. He also made a stunning debut on the indoor circuit with a 7:30.77 win at 3000 in Stuttgart and a 12:49.60 world record 5000 in Birmingham, his first senior global mark, taken, fittingly, from Haile. His pre-Olympic outdoor season, consisting of just four races, included the removal of two more of Haile’s world records—the big ones: 5000 (12:37.35 at Hengelo) and 10,000 (26:20.31 at Ostrava), both captured in a span of nine days.

Under pressure from Ethiopian athletics officials, Kenenisa agreed to double at 5000 and 10,000 in Athens. The 10,000 went much as expected, although the Ethiopians were unable to repeat their Paris medal sweep because the off-form Haile couldn’t hold his teammates’ pace (in spite of their praisewothy effort to pull him along by temporarily slowing down late in the race). Kenenisa finally blasted away from Sileshi with 500m to go for one of the most predictable golds of the Games (27:05.10).

The 5000, however, was up for grabs. The expected three-way battle between the Paris medalists developed more or less on schedule after about 4000m, but by then, after dawdling through ten laps, El Guerrouj correctly judged that he didn’t need his usual sustained drive for home and he allowed Kipchoge and Kenenisa to lead through the bell. When El Guerrouj did go, it was decisive, and even Kenenisa’s acceleration couldn’t hold off the miler’s speed. Kenenisa nevertheless came away from Athens with a gold and a silver, and that, together with his Cross Country double and his three world records made him an easy choice for IAAF World Athlete of the Year.

He was also the subject of a hit pop song, “Anbessa” by Ethiopian vocalist Tewodros Kassahun (“Teddy Afro”) celebrating Kenenisa’s 10,000m gold and his generosity towards Haile—and he was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, an honor comparable to similar posts held by Haile and Paul Tergat, and an indication of his stature in the sport.

Kenenisa began the 2004-2005 cross country season with a comfortable win in Spain’s Venta de Banos 10+ km race, but his plans were suddenly suspended January 4, when his fiancée, World Youth 1500m champion Alem Techale, collapsed and died while on a training run on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Grieving Kenenisa withdrew from the big Edinburgh cross country but decided to race January 29 over 3000m at the Boston Indoor Games. Still distracted, he lost count of the laps and lost to rising South African-Irishman Alistair Cragg. Three weeks later in the Birmingham Indoor GP, his invincibility breached by his bereavement, Kenenisa lost again off a slow pace over 2 miles to the fast finish of countryman Markos Geneti. He was permitted to skip the Ethiopian cross country trials and entered to run both the short and long races at the World Cross Country Championships in St. Etienne/St. Galmier.

In the short race, perhaps in an effort to test Kenenisa’s unaccustomed vulnerability, Qatar’s Saif Saeed Shaheen (née Stephen Cherono of Kenya) attacked aggressively and held a substantial lead at halfway, but the effort appeared to exhaust the Qatari, and Kenenisa calmly reeled him in and strode to victory, gratefully acknowledging a supportive crowd. The next day, Kenya’s Kipchoge controlled the pace for much of the long race until a duel between the two East African rivals was decisively settled by a kick from Kenenisa at the start of the last of six laps. His easy victory brought Kenenisa’s remarkable streak of double golds to four. Given the circumstances he’d had to overcome, it was acclaimed his greatest victory ever, and Kenenisa agreed, noting, “I ran with grief and joy alternating in my heart.”

Kenenisa escaped unhappy memories at home by training in Flagstaff, Arizona for the track season. He attacked his own world 10,000m record in Hengelo, but was thwarted by heavy winds and clocked 26:28.72. Wins over 5000m in Paris (a record attempt that yielded history’s fourth fastest clocking, 12:40.18), 3000m in Lausanne (7:34.57) and 5000 again at London’s Crystal Palace (12:55.55) followed.

By the time of Helsinki World Championships, there was no more talk of Kenenisa’s vulnerability. The 10,000m gold was a foregone conclusion, and on a rainy night, he won easily in 27:08.33 with a 54.25 last lap, leading Sileshi to silver ahead of Kenya’s Moses Mosop. Despite the urging of the Ethiopian Federation that he go for the 5000-10,000 double he had attempted twice before, Kenenisa chose not to run the 5000, and the first World Championships distance doubler turned out to be his countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba.

Kenenisa then used a a 7:32.59 3000m win in Zurich, ahead of new World 5000m champion Benjaimin Limo of Kenya and bronze medallist Craig Mottram of Australia, to warm up for an assault on his own world 10,000m record. He demolished the mark with a 26:17.53 run in the Brussels GL, paced by his brother Tariku through the halfway mark (in 13:09.19), and putting in a smoldering last kilometre and a 57-second last lap. For the second straight year, Kenenisa led the IAAF World Rankings both in his category and overall, and his Cross Country golden double, global track title and world record earned him the IAAF Athlete of the Year award.

In January, 2006, Kenenisa was challenged by Shaheen at the Edinburgh cross country meet but prevailed by 4 seconds. He returned to indoor track at New York’s Millrose Games, where he tackled his first mile race. A minor training injury had led him to pull out of an intended 1500m debut in Karlsruhe a week earlier. Kenenisa faced Olympic 1500m silver medallist Bernard Lagat of the US on the 160 yard (146.3m) steeply banked Millrose track, where Lagat had set the meet record a year earlier. A fast early tempo from pacemaker Elkanah Angwenyi dropped Kenenisa by half way, but he held off world 1500m bronze medallist Rui Silva of Portugal for second.

Kenenisa then aimed for Haile’s 8:04.69 two mile world record in Birmingham, and though he came up half a second short (8:05.12), the second fastest ever, he confirmed his form. Kenenisa’s main goal for the season has always been the World Cross Country Championships, but he detoured to Moscow for the World Indoor Championships in March, winning the 3000 decisively (7:39.32) over Shaheen and Kipchoge. He thus became the first ever to hold World titles in indoor and outdoor track and cross country at the same time. He is chasing history again in Fukuoka, going after his fifth straight double gold in what will be the last World Championships to feature the short as well as the long race.

Yearly progression 3000/5000/10,000: 1999 - 8:09.89/ —; 2000 - 7:46.95/ 13:20.57; 2001 - 7:30.67 (WJR)/ 13:13.33; 2002 - injured; 2003 - 12:52.26/ 26:49.57; 2004 - 7:30.77i/ 12:49.60i (IWR)/ 12:37.35 (WR)/ 26:20.31 (WR); 2005 - 7:32.59/12:40.18/26:17.53 (WR); 2006 – (2mi. 8:05.12)

A note on Ethiopian names: Ethiopians are customarily referred to by first name or first and second name together, the second name being the father's first name.

Prepared by Sabrina Yohannes, Elshadai Negash, John Manners and Richard Nerurkar for the IAAF. © 2002-2006 IAAF.

TARIKU Bekele (TAH-ree-koo BEH-keh-leh), Ethiopia (3000m/5000m/cross)

Born 21 Jan. 1987, near Bekoji (Derartu Tulu’s hometown) Arsi Province, Ethiopia.

Lives in Addis Ababa with older brother Kenenisa and younger sister.

Manager: Federico Rosa. Coach: Tolosa Kotu. Club: Mugher Cement.

Third of six children. Younger brother of Kenenisa Bekele, Olympic and world 10,000m champion and double World Cross Country champion. Parents, retired farmers, live in Bekoji.

Finished twelfth year of school in 2005.

Much like his older brother Kenenisa, Tariku grew up helping the family raise the staple crops teff, wheat, and barley. He started running in primary school in his hometown of Bekoji in 1999. He enrolled in an Ethiopian youth development project in 2002, training half a day with his project mates and spent the other half with Kenenisa. By the end of the year, he was talked of as Ethiopia’s next hope for the future, having won a well-known talent-spotting cross country race in Addis Ababa.

He narrowly missed qualifying for the 2003 World Cross, finishing 9th in Ethiopia’s trials. But on the track, Tariku comfortably beat his contemporaries in the Ethiopian youth development project championships and thus booked a place in the Ethiopian squad for the World Youth Championships in Canada, where he took silver in the 3000m behind Kenya’s Augustine Choge.

He started 2004 with an unfortunate 7th in the junior race at the East African Cross Country Championships in Addis Ababa, the qualifying meet for the World Cross in Brussels. He thus missed selection by one place. The following May, he made his senior track debut at the Ethiopian championships, finishing 4th in a highly competitive 5000m that saw brother Kenenisa set an Addis Ababa stadium record. Tariku’s performance earned him selection to the Ethiopian squad for the World Junior Championships in Italy, where he won bronze at 5000m (13:30.86), once again behind Choge, as well as an Ethiopian teammate, Worku Bado. After the World Juniors, he raced over 5000m in four European GPs, recording an impressive 13:11.97 PB for 7th in the Zurich GL and notching his first overseas win in Rovereto, Italy (13:15.86).

After the 2004 track season, Tariku joined a select group of runners under his brother’s coach, Tolosa Kotu, and the move quickly paid dividends in Tariku’s performances on the European cross country circuit. In November in Portugal he beat Kenya’s World Marathon record holder Paul Tergat and a week later in Spain lost by barely a second to double World Cross silver medalist Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam. In January 2005 in Spain, he bested 2004 World Cross bronze medallist Maeregu Zewde in Elgoibar and then lost by a second to European Champ Sergey Lebed in San Sebastian.

Tariku suffered a minor leg injury in San Sebastian that troubled him when he paced Kenenisa’s two mile indoor race in Birmingham in February, one week before the Ethiopian cross country trials. In Ethiopia, some suggested Tariku had outgrown junior competition, but he ran in the junior race in the World Cross trials and looked tired coming home 6th. At the World Championships in France, the injury continued to give him trouble. A strong Kenyan junior team led by Augustine Choge took the first five places and Tariku, who was the top Ethiopian in 6th, left the field limping.

On the track, Tariku ran 13:14.15 to finish behind Choge and ahead of Kenya’s eventual world 10,000m bronze medallist Mosos Mosop over 5000m in Hengelo. Running behind Kenenisa, Tariku ran impressive personal bests in July, breaking 13 minutes for 5000m at the Paris GL (12:59.03), and placing 2nd in 7:38.18 over 3000m in Lausanne. In a slow and tactical World Championships 5000m, Tariku was 7th.

At the Brussels GL, Tariku paced Kenenisa to a phenomenal 26:17.53 world 10,000m record, taking him through the halfway point in 13:09.19. Tariku placed 5th at the World Athletic Final 3000m (7:40.30) and later the same month, he followed Kenenisa to a 7:36.63 personal best ahead of Kenya’s Boniface Songok in Shanghai. In November, Tariku contributed a strong leg in the 2nd placed Ethiopian Chiba ekiden team, and switched to cross country, finishing 2nd in Oeiras, Portugal, and employing a decisive last-kilometre kick in Llodio, Spain to defeat Uganda’s world junior 10,000m champion Boniface Kiprop (over 9.2K). Tariku was tied for 12th place in the IAAF World Rankings distance track/cross country category for 2005.

After merely pacing his brother’s indoor efforts in 2005, Tariku ran for himself in 2006, finishing his first indoor race over two miles in Boston. In a field of senior Ethiopians like Gebregziabher Gebremariam, Abebe Dinkessa and Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Sileshi Sihine, as well as Australia’s World 5000m bronze medallist Craig Mottram and Ireland’s Alistair Cragg, Tariku frequently took the lead, and was surprised to place 4th (8:37.56) behind Mottram, Sileshi and Cragg. “I could have done better, but I figured there are better runners than me,” he said. In his next race, in Birmingham, Tariku placed 2nd in 8:13.32 behind Kenenisa’s near-world record 8:05.12. He then joined Kenenisa on Ethiopia’s 3000m team for the World Indoor Championships. Kenenisa won the much anticipated contest with his long-time Kenya rival Eliud Kipchoge and the ex-Kenyan Qatari Saif Saeed Shaheen. Tariku was 6th in 7:47.11.

At Ethiopia’s February World Cross trials, when Tariku’s focus was on Moscow, he took 2nd in the junior race, upset by his Mugher Club teammate, the 2005 World Youth 3000m silver medalist Ibrahim Jellan Gashu. But Tariku’s focus has since turned to Fukuoka and he is aiming for gold.

Personals bests: 3000m 7:36.63 (2005); 2 miles 8:13.32i (2006); 5000m 12:59.03 (2005).

A note on Ethiopian names: Ethiopians are customarily referred to by first name or first and second name together, the second name being the father’s first name.

Prepared by Sabrina Yohannes, Elshadai Negash and John Manners for the IAAF. © 2005-2006 IAAF.

ABEBE Dinkessa (ah-BAY-beh), Ethiopia (3000/5000/cross country)

Born 6 March 1984, Dendhi, near Ambo, northern Ethiopia (also birthplace of 1992 Olympic 5000m bronze medallist Fita Bayissa)

Lives in Addis Ababa.

Manager: Jos Hermens. Coach: Tolosa Kotu (national) and Hussein Shebo (club)

Club: Prisons Police

Second of three children, parents grain farmers.

Completed 10 years of school; plans to continue studies in near future.

Abebe started running at 13 when his uncle brought him from Dendhi to Ambo to study and work in his shop. In Denhi, Abebe had walked and run 10 km to and from school. After three years, the uncle’s shop failed and Abebe was able to study and train full time. “If the shop hadn’t closed,’ says Abebe, “I wouldn’t have taken up running seriously.” At 17 he won the 5000m and took 5th in the 10,000m in the Ambo Interschool championships.

In July 2001, he made his first visit to Addis Ababa to take part intrials for the World Half Marathon championships. He finished 90th running barefoot, but was happy to have run with his idol Haile Gebrselassie. His uncle, who had accompanied him, was also pleased and gave him his blessing to take up running fulltime. He ran in a fewregional half marathon and cross country races in Ambo before moving to Addis Ababa to join the Ethiopian Electric & Power Corp. (EEPCO) club in September 2001.

In February 2002 he finished 9th in Ethiopia’s World Junior Cross trials, barefooted for the last time. Signed by manager Jos Hermens, he travelled to Holland for five track races and finished the year with an impressive 4th in the Great Ethiopian Run, just yards behind Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam, Sileshi Sihine and Kenenisa Bekele.

In the 2002-03 cross country season, he raced three times in Spain (5th Amorebeita, 2nd Santander, 4th San Sebastian) and was preparing for the Ethiopian trials when he sustained a foot injury. He started the 4 km race at the trials and wound up aggravating a multiple fracture of his toes, curtailing his 2003 season until he returned to action in November, finishing 9th in the Great Ethiopian Run. He then ran two races in the Addis Ababa Municipal cross country championships, winning the 12 km and finishing 3rd in the 4km behind Dejene Berhanu and Maeregu Zewde.

Abebe made a promising return on the 2003-04 international cross country circuit in France and Belgium before going down with flu days before the Ethiopian World Cross trials. He finished 10th in the 4km race and dropped out of the 12km. Turning to the track, he finished 4th at 10,000m in the Ethiopian Championships in May behind Sileshi, Dejene, and Gebre-egziabher and was included in the provisional team for Athens. Unfortunately, a lackluster early track season in Europe (a distant 3rd in the Hengelo 10,000 in 27:23.60 behind the blazing pace of Sileshi and Haile, and modest PBs at 5000m in Spain and Belgium –13:30.92 and 13:23.85) was not enough to lift Abebe into the top three of Ethiopia’s world-leading 5000 and 10,000 ranks. “I was not disappointed,” he says, “because I knew the others were far better than me.”

As a consolation, Abebe was selected to run 10,000 in the African Championsihps in July in Brazzaville, where he finished 2nd (28:10.49) to Kenya’s 2001 World Champ Charles Kamathi. He then won the Ethiopian half marathon championships, but finished a disappointing 10th (64:06) in the World Championships in New Delhi.

He made up for New Delhi by winning the longest (12 km) stage in Japan’s Chiba Ekiden, helping Ethiopia take the team title. He then wrapped up the year with an outstanding turn of speed to win the 2004 Great Ethiopian Run.

Abebe’s current cross country season has been uneven—a win in Brussels in December over European champ Sergey Lebed and Olympic 10,000 bronze medalist Tadesse Zersenay, 2nd to Maeregu Zewde in Seville, then 6th in Elgoibar. But he came up trumps in Ethiopia’s World Cross trials, taking the 12 km title by an 18-second margin over Gebre-egziabher. This World Cross is Abebe’s first, but his coaches are confident that he is ready to medal.

Yearly Progression 5000/10,000: 2002 – 13:42.30/--; 2004 – 13:23:85 / 27:23.60

A note on Ethiopian names: Ethiopians are customarily referred to by first name or first and second name together, the second name being the father’s first name.

Prepared by Elshadai Negash for the IAAF “Focus on Africans” Project © 2005.


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