Gebremariam beats Sihine in the 2004 East African XC Champs long race (© M. Wessenyeleh)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia A second title for women’s World Cross Country long course champion Werkinesh Kidane, and a surprise men’s 12km victory for Gebregziabher Gebremariam were the highlights of the day two and closing day of competition at the 21st East African Cross Country Championships on the Jan Meda race course here this morning.
Kidane, who took yesterday's 8km race, was a comfortable winner in the 4km race in a time of 13:40, more than three seconds ahead of the current All-African and Afro-Asian Games champion Ejigayehou Dibaba. It was another scintillating display of front running by the diminutive runner, who now looks fit and ready to defend her World crown in three weeks time (20/21 March).
With the race start delayed to allow more spectators to gather around the Jan Meda circuit, it was always a most eagerly-awaited race which included the finest distance runners including E. Dibaba, Kidane, and Merima Denboba.
Yet despite the depth by the end of the first lap (1.92km), the event was already a three-woman contest with Kidane, Dibaba, and Bizunesh Bekele breaking away from the main pack. But Dibaba and Bekele could only keep up with Kidane until the 3km mark, upon which the World 10,000m track silver medallist opened up a 10m lead, which kept on increasing.
As the runners came into the home straight, Kidane was now had a comfort zone with a sizable 50m gap between her and the other two runners. She easily glided home showing neither the effects of her grueling 8km run the previous day nor the one-month long injury layoff that forced her to miss the Great North Run in January.
There was an interesting sprint finish for second with E. Dibaba just taking it in 13:43.61 with Bekele coming in two hundredths of a second behind.
After the race, Kidane said, "it may be because I ran the 8km yesterday, but today's race was a bit harder for me," she said, more relieved that her legs had handled more torture. "I am happy because my legs responded well again today."
Kidane also confirmed that she will running both the long and short course races at the 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Brussels. "With the help of God, I will run in both the short and long course races," she reaffirmed.
Amazing sprint finish by Gebremariam
In the other highlight of the day's action, defending champion Gebre Gebremariam profited most from the absence of Kenenisa Bekele to regain his title beating Sileshi Sihine to sprint finish in the men's 12km senior race. The 20-year old crossed the line in 36:52.64 beating Sihine by just over a second.
The race got to off to a nervy start with many athletes hoping to grab the initiative very early on in the race. However, it was Sileshi Sihine who took the pace running the first kilometre in 3:50 and opening up a 25m gap from a chasing pack that included Gebremariam, Abebe Tinkessa, Ketema Nigussie, and Yibeltal Admassu.
However, Sihine's early attempt to derail his opponents was to no avail as Gebremariam and Admassu caught up with him by the end of the first lap (1.92km). The other athletes in the chasing pack were also close behind, now a mere 10m apart from the front three.
Admassu, who finished fourth in the 10,000m at the Edmonton World championships in 2001, look to have timed his comeback from injury and loss of form to perfection, but Gebremariam and Sihine decided to speed up the pace by the beginning of the fourth lap, and he had no answer and was eventually caught by Nigussie and Tinkessa. From this moment on, it looked like another Sihine-Gebremariam run for the title.
The duo were running neck-to-neck as they entered the final lap with a huge gap of 100m between them and the chasing pack, which was still increasing. Sihine was marginally leading up front at the bell, by which time the gap with the chasing pack subsiding to 50m. After doing the front-running for the most part in the race, Sihine looked tired, while Gebremariam looked the fresher of the two showing no effects of his 4km run yesterday.
As the two came into the home straight, Gebremariam made the decisive break leaving Sihine in his wake, crossing the line in 36:52 with a disappointed Sihine finishing in 36:54, his first outdoor defeat since finishing fifth in the 5000m at the 1st IAAF World Athletics Final in Monaco on September 13, 2003. For Gebremariam, the win went some to avenging his defeat by Sihine at the 2003 TOTAL Great Ethiopian Run.
Wondimu takes Junior title
Mulugeta Wondimu, who was in the Ethiopian team that won the Chiba Ekiden International Marathon relay race in Japan in November, was a comfortable winner in the 8km Junior Men's race with last year's champion Tessema Abshiro finishing a close second ahead of Meba Taddesse. It was a powerful run from Wondimu, who lead from half-way point in the race to cross the line in 24:29.64 a massive eight seconds ahead of Abshiro.
Ethiopian Team for Brussels to be named on Friday
With the Jan Meda race now completed, the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) will now concentrate on naming its squad of 36 Athletes that will represent Ethiopia in Brussels. Only Kenenisa Bekele, who was given a rest from these championships due to exhaustion is officially in the squad, while the first four finishers from the six international races at the East African Championships, guaranteed a place in the team.
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF
21st East African Jan Meda Cross Country Championships Official Results
Day ONE - February 28, 2004
6km Junior Women (International)
1.Meselech Melkamu (EEPCO) 21:07.79
2.Workitu Ayana (Banks) 21:12.39
3.Yenealem Ayenew (Rental Houses) 21:13.20
4.Aziza Alayu (Oromia Prisons) 21:15.06
4km Senior Men (International)
1.Dejene Birhanu (Prisons) 12:06.40
2.Gebregziabher Gebremariam (Banks) 12:07.26
3.Mohammed Awol (Prisons) 12:09.36
4.Hussein Adlo (Banks) 12:10.02
8km Senior Women (International)
1.Werknesh Kidane (Banks) 28:14.44
2.Teiba Erkesso (Prisons) 28:33.96
3.Tirunesh Dibaba (Prisons) 28:47.94
4.Eyerusalem Kuma (Prisons) 29:01:92
Day TWO - February 29, 2004
8km Junior Men (International)
1.Mulugeta Wondimu (Defence) 24:29.64
2.Tessema Abshiro (Banks) 24:37
3.Meba Taddesse (Banks) 24:38
4.Yerefu Birhanu (Prisons) 24:41
4km Senior Women (International)
1. Werknesh Kidane (Banks) 13:40.29
2. Ejigayehou Dibaba (Oromia Police) 13:43.61
3. Bizunesh Bekele (Banks) 13:43.63
4. Meselech Melkamu (EEPCO) 13:56
12km Senior Men (International)
1. Gebregziabher Gebremariam (Banks) 36:52.64
2. Sileshi Sihine (Prisons) 36:54.11
3. Yibeltal Admassu (Prisons) 37:19.19
4. Tibebe Yenew (Banks) 37:20.00