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Updated 26 March 2009
GEBREEGZIABHER Gebremariam, Ethiopia (5000/10,000 m, cross country)
a.k.a. Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam
Born: 10 September 1984, Tsenkanet, Hawzen (near Adigrat), Tigray region, Ethiopia
Lives in Addis Ababa. Married to 2003 World Cross Country Champion Werknesh Kidane. Has two sons, Nathaniel and Muse.
Manager: Mark Wetmore
Coaches: Kassu Alemayehu (club) and Dr. Woldemeskel Kostre (national)
Third of six children. Parents are farmers.
Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam (whose names mean "Servant of God" and "Servant of Mary") began running in school at the urging of his older brother Gebrselassie ("Servant of the Trinity"), who had done some running himself in the Ethiopian Air Force.
In 2001, Gebre-egziabher won schools competitions at 5000, 10,000 and Half-marathon and progressed through regional races, eventually representing Tigray at the Ethiopian nationals, placing seventh in the 10,000 (31:04.61 at altitude) and fourth in the 5,000 (14:13.74). That gained him entry into the Banks athletic club, whose members included 2000 Olympic 5000m champion Million Wolde and 2003 World Cross women's long course champion Werknesh Kidane.
Gebre-egziabher made his international debut that autumn in Tanzania, placing in the top five over 5000 and 10,000. Several weeks later he ran his first cross country race in Addis Ababa and won comfortably, running barefoot. He won the junior race at Ethiopia's 2002 World Cross trials, also barefoot, and took gold in the same category at the Dublin World Cross, where he started out shod but wound up barefoot after loosing a shoe mid-race and removing the other.
He wrapped up his junior career with a gold (10,000) and a bronze (5000) at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston, and went on to record impressive times (7:55.40/ 13:12.14/ 27:25.61) on the European GP circuit. Back in Ethiopia, he won the second annual Great Ethiopian Run 10K in November, ahead of Kenenisa Bekele, who was coming back from injury.
With Kenenisa out sick, Gebre-egziabher won the long race at Ethiopia's 2003 World Cross trials—this time in shoes—and then placed third behind Kenenisa and Kenya's Patrick Ivuti in the long race in Lausanne. At the Ethiopian track nationals, he broke the championships record at 10,000m (28:45.4, an impressive time at Addis Ababa's 2300 meter altitude) only to lose to Sileshi Sihine. He then turned in a series of unspectacular showings in five GP meetings (best performance: 13:03.19 PB over 5000m for sixth in Paris GL) and was selected for the Ethiopian team for the Paris World Championships 5000m, where he finished a creditable sixth, notching a PB (12:58.08) in the process. He closed out his season with a bronze at 5000m in the World Athletics Final and silvers at 10,000m in the All Africa Games (27:43.12) and Afro-Asian Games (28:08.79).
2004 began with a highly successful cross country season: three victories and a second on the European circuit and a double in the Ethiopian World Cross trials—first in the long race ahead of Sileshi Sihine and second in the 4km behind Dejene Birhanu. (Kenenisa didn't run in the trials.) Then, doubling in the Brussels World Cross, he notched a pair of silvers behind Kenenisa’s two golds, as well as his first team gold as Ethiopia broke Kenya’s seemingly unbreakable streaks in both races.
In a limited pre-Olympic track season (four races), he recorded two major PBs: 12:55.59 for fourth in Rome (behind Sileshi, Dejene and winner Eliud Kipchoge), and six days later 26:53.73 for 2nd in Ostrava behind Kenenisa’s World record. He was selected for the 5000 in Athens, where he finished a respectable fourth in the final behind Kenenisa, Kipchoge and Hicham El Guerrouj, the three medallists from the Paris 5000.
Leading up to the 2005 World Cross, Gebre-egziabher’s form remained consistent. In November, he helped the Ethiopian team to another victory in Japan’s Chiba Ekiden road relay. The next month he recorded a couple of strong wins on the Spanish cross country circuit, and in January he finished a close third behind Kipchoge and Dejene in the Edinburgh International cross country. He cruised to a pair of second places in the short and long races at the Ethiopian World Cross trials, reminiscent of his double silver in Brussels the previous year. However, at the World Cross in St. Etienne/St. Galmier, he was ninth in the short race and the next day dropped out of the long race.
A consistently successful competitor at home, Gebre-egziabher took the national title over 10,000m ahead of Abebe Dinkessa and Sydney bronze medalist Assefa Mezgebu, before winning the New York Grand Prix 3000m in 7:39.48 and running what remains his 5,000m personal best, 12:52.80, at the Rome GL, but in the wet Helsinki World Championships 10,000m, he placed 15th. He ended his season on a better note, though, with a 4th place at the World Athletics Final and a win in Korea over 5000m.
On the personal front, in 2006, Gebre-egziabher married 2003 World Cross champion and fellow Banks club member Werknesh Kidane and the couple had their first child, a son.
Gebre-egziabher’s World Cross Country outings in the years after 2005 were unremarkable, with a 13th place in the long race at Fukuoka 2006 his best showing, but it came a day after a 30th place in the final edition of the short race.
His 2006 track season was also uneventful but 2007 was a clear improvement. He was fourth in a personal best 26:52.33 in the 2007 Hengelo 10,000m that saw Haile return to the event, finishing behind Gebre-egziabher in 26:52.81. Gebre-egziabher earned his second All Africa Games medal in Algiers that July, taking bronze behind Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese and Ethiopian cross country champion Tadesse Tola. At the Osaka World Championships, four years after his first track Worlds, Gebremariam landed the same rank of sixth while his teammates, the two-time former champion Kenenisa and Hengelo winner Sileshi took gold and silver.
Back at home, Gebremariam was third in the 2008 cross country nationals, although he only managed 17th at the Edinburgh Worlds. He ran 27:20.65 in Hengelo in 2008, this time for seventh place and behind Haile, whose runner-up finish in 26:51.20 gave him the third Olympic berth after Athens champion Kenenisa and Hengelo’s repeat winner Sileshi. But Gebremariam once again delighted Addis Ababa fans with a dominating performance at the African Championships held at the National Stadium, where he led Ibrahim Jeylan and Eshetu Wondimu in an Ethiopian sweep of the 10,000m medals on the opening day of the meet.
In his initial foray into longer events, Gebre-egziabher took second behind his compatriot, the Paris marathon champion and Olympic bronze-medalist Tsegaye Kebede, at the October Great North Run half-marathon in England in 61:29.
A proven fierce competitor at home, Gebre-egziabher showed that his national cross country results can be duplicated abroad when he snatched victory from Tariku Bekele in Alcobendas, Spain on 7 December. That further indicated that Gebre-egziabher, now a seasoned veteran on the track -- and the father of two sons off the track – is experiencing something of a comeback season. He continued to impress at Addis Ababa’s altitude, unleashing a kick at the end of the 2008 national trials in Addis Ababa on 22 February that took him well past several competitors and on to his third national victory ahead of newcomer Feyissa Lelisa, Tadesse and Tariku.
In the absence of the six-time former World 12K Champion Kenenisa Bekele, Gebre-egziabher will be one of several Ethiopians hoping to bring the crown back to Ethiopia from Amman, but whether he can again translate his successes on home turf to the international arena, this time on the global stage, remains to be seen.
5000m: 12:52.80 (2005)
5000m: 26:52.33 (2007)
5000/10,000: 2001 - 14:13.74/30:02; 2002 - 13:12.14 /27:25.61; 2003 - 12:58.08/27:43.12; 2004 - 12:55.59/26:53.73; 2005 – 12:52.80 (PB)/27:11.57; 2006 – 13:30.95/27:03.95; 2007 – 13:10.29/26:52.33 (PB); 2008 – 13:36.67/27:20.65; 2009 - -/-.
2002 1st World Cross Country Championships, junior
2002 1st World Junior Championships, 10,000m
2002 3rd World Junior Championships, 5,000m
2003 3rd World Cross Country Championships, 12K
2003 6th World Championships, 5000m
2003 3rd World Athletics Final, 5000m
2003 2nd All Africa Games, 10,000m
2003 2nd Afro-Asian Games, 10,000m
2004 2nd World Cross Country Championships, 4K
2004 2nd World Cross Country Championships, 12K
2004 4th Olympic Games, 5000m
2004 4th World Athletics Final, 5000m
2005 9th World Cross Country Championships, 4K
2005 4th World Athletics Final, 5000m
2007 3rd All-Africa Games, 10,000m
2007 6th World Championships, 10,000m
2008 1st African Championships, 10,000m
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, John Manners and Elshadai Negash and for the IAAF "Focus on Athletes" project. Copyright IAAF 2003-2009.