Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - - The first group of Ethiopian athletes left Addis Ababa Monday evening for the London 2012 Olympic Games with the athletics competition commencing on Friday August 3rd 2012. But thanks to increasing competition in many events and injuries, there will be strong contingent athletes who will be missing from the squad. Here are seven of the best to miss the showpiece event in the British capital.
1. Haile Gebrselassie
After gold medals in Atlanta and Sydney and excellent cameos in Athens and Beijing, distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie had wanted to cap his career with an appearance in London, a city which holds fond memories of his long and illustrious career. But after ‘only’ clocking 2:08.06 in Tokyo to miss the cut for the marathon and finishing seventh in the 10000m trial in Hengelo, Gebrselassie happily bowed out of contention for an Olympic place and returned to ceremonial role.
Gebrselassie was one of six specially-selected Olympic flag bearers at the opening ceremony on Friday and will stay in London to work as a summarizer for the BBC in their coverage of the Games.
2. Ibrahim Jeylan
Jeylan shocked many observers in August last year when he won 10000m gold at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea and following a fine run, emerged as an early contender for Olympic gold. But a difficult 2012 battling with injuries left him with very few opportunities to chase an Olympic qualifying time. He got his shot in Brussels a week before the end of the Olympic qualifying period, but dropped out of the contest won by compatriot Lelisa Desisa.
3. Meselech Melkamu
Another athlete who just ran out of time to qualify for the Games following a difficult year with injuries and loss of form, the 27-year old also dropped out of her qualifying 10000m at the UK Trials in Birmingham. A member of Ethiopia’s world championship squads in 2005, 2007, and 2009 with a silver medal in the 10000m in 2009, Melkamu’s loss could be felt in the 10000m where Ethiopia continues to depend on the form and fitness of Tirunesh Dibaba.
4. Tsegaye Kebede
The reigning Olympic marathon bronze medalist has struggled for any kind of fitness since finishing third in the 2011 London Marathon. After missing the world championships in Daegu last year, Kebede made a rate rally to try and qualify for the London Olympics. In previous years, his 2:06.13 would have been sufficient to guarantee him a place. But this no longer holds true in 2012 where the slowest of Ethiopia’s London 2012 men’s trio, Getu Feleke, has a season’s best of 2:04.50.
5. Kalkidan Gezhagne
Heralded as the next big thing in Ethiopian middle distance running after winning the 2010 World Indoor title in Doha, Gezhagne has failed to live up to the billing ever since. She had done well to qualify for the world championships in Daegu last year, but bad tactics saw her finish fifth in the Korean city. The 21-year old failed to launch a comeback this year thanks largely to an Achilles heel injury, but her place as the woman to watch over the 1500m has seen been overtaken by Abeba Aregawi and Genzebe Dibaba.
6. Sileshi Sihine
Nicknamed ‘the Silverman’ for his repeated second place finishes in major championships behind Kenenisa Bekele- two Olympic and four world championships to be exact, Sihine was expected to end a few injury-plagued years and assume his place in the Olympic team again this year. But Gebregziabher Gebremariam piped him to a place in the 10000m team with a faster time in Birmingham meaning that Ethiopia will be missing the 29-year old from a major championships team for only the second time in ten years (his other absence came in the 2009 World Championships in Berlin).
7. Derese Mekonnen
Mekonnen is another promising athlete who went AWOL in the headlines. His crowning moment came in the 2009 world championships where he won Ethiopia’s first and only 1500m silver medal. But the two-time world indoor champion has struggled with career-threatening injuries since the 2010 season and his brave front running will be missed in the Olympic stadium in London.