Almaz AyanaAddis Ababa, Ethiopia – The athletics world is accustomed to seeing Ethiopian women winning 5000m or 10,000m titles, but no one from the East African nation of 94 million whose last name does not start with a ‘D’ had been able to get to the top of the podium at the Olympic Games, IAAF World Championships, IAAF World Cross Country Championships, or IAAF Continental Cup over the past decade prior to mid-September.

This strange streak ended when Almaz Ayana won the 5000m at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech, Morocco.

In the probable absence of her two illustrious compatriots Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar, Ayana is now being touted as a potential medal contender at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing next summer.

“Being called the successor to Tirunesh and Meseret does not frighten me,” said the 23-year-old Ayana.

“I grew up listening about Tirunesh and Meseret on the radio. I am proud that people are comparing me with them. My plan is to achieve more than they did and to do so with God’s help.”

Her victory in Marrakech was one of two major titles in the Moroccan city this year. The other came just over a month earlier when she beat another team mate, world indoor 3000m champion Genzebe Dibaba, in a pulsating race to win the African 5000m title.

Understandably, Ayana has fond memories of the picturesque holiday destination, not for its tourist getaways but the serious business of athletics.

“I would be happy if championships are held there all the time,” she says of Marrakech with a big smile, “It is the city where I have a lot of good memories. The stadium and its track were comfortable for me.”

Read more at: IAAF.org

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