Ethiopian Athletics: New Faces of Pride

By Girma Feyissa, Addis Tribune

African Junior ChampionshipTraditional Ethiopia had given running down to young errand boys or even canines. But modern Ethiopia scaled it up to school level.

I remember runners like Negussie Roba, Makonnen Dori, Hussien Roble, Ketebo Dissasa, Haile Boru and Belete Awoke were popular names often heard at the same old stadium during inter-school meets when I was a student at the Tafari Makonnen School. Abebe Bikla ran bare foot to win the Rome Marathon. None of us anticipated that such winnings meant little more than the national anthem and hoisting the national tricolour above others.

Economics came late over the years. Haile Gebreselassie made a name not only for himself but also made the “Great Run” an international event that greatly contributed to the positive image of Ethiopia. Having witnessed the results over the long years, I asked myself if athletics had to do with geography.

That ironic query comes to mind when one wonders why on a global level, winners of the competitions seem to polarise around African or Jamaican contestants depending on the distances. The latter excel in short sprints, while the former tend to be resilient in all distances.

I was even narrowing my mind to contemplate adding to the list locality and sex in the case of most races and Ethiopian winners. By some coincidence, it was the women contestants who won five of the six gold medals for Ethiopia in the 12th African Youth Athletics Championship held in Addis Abeba, between March 5 and 8, 2015. Again, the three Ethiopian half marathon contestants that won the race held in Paris, France, were all women.

It may well be argued that March 8, the day that marks women’s struggle for empowerment, has coincidentally squared up with what Ethiopian women athletes have proved both in Addis Abeba and in Paris. I see the 12th Championship meet from a slightly different angle other than winning trophies or medals.

Read more at: Addis Fortune


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