In search of the next Gebrselassie or Bekele

Yomif Kejelcha

Addis Ababa – “Ethiopian running is very poor right now,” says the taxi driver when asked to drive to the Ethiopian Athletics Federation offices.

In a country where Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba are household names, and where the populace is used to dominating middle and long distance running on the track, there is a sense of desperation. Who, they ask, is going to resurrect their good fortunes?

Gebrselassie and Bekele each won four world titles and two Olympic gold medals in the 10,000m. The latter’s 11-medal tally at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships is another impressive reminder from a bygone era. Ethiopian media call the current state of affairs a ‘transition period’ while the federation looks to youth for the answer.

“It is very tough, you know Kenenisa and Haile are the best athletes and they are unique because Haile was running for about 20 years,” says Dube Jilo, the technical director of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation. “This is amazing. And Kenenisa is still an active athlete now.

“So replacing these two guys is very difficult. We are trying to develop good young new athletes like Yomif Kejelcha and Hagos Gebrhiwet. Maybe for the future these two athletes can replace them. We will try but we can never have runners like Haile and Kenenisa. This is a big challenge.”

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