By Sabrina Yohannes
London (TADIAS) – The 2012 London Olympic Games are officially open as of the declaration during the July 28 opening ceremony, but the bulk of Ethiopia’s star athletics team will arrive in the English capital during the subsequent week, ahead of the athletics program that starts Friday, August 3rd.
Of the athletics team led by 2008 double Olympic champions Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba, the first wave will leave Addis Ababa on Monday July 30; while the final batch, the men’s marathon runners, will depart a few days prior to that race, which is being held on the last day of the Olympics, August 12.
DISTANCE DOUBLE POSSIBLE
Dibaba’s 10,000-meter final is the first track final of the Games and takes place on the evening of Friday, August 3, when she will be joined by Belaynesh Oljira and former world cross country champion Werknesh Kidane.
Unlike at the athletics world championships, reserve team members will, for the most part, not travel to London, unless replacing an already-injured athlete, and only three athletes per race can be accredited to stay in the Olympic Village at any time. In the 5000m, though, the announced reserves are themselves members of the 10,000m team — and they are in fact the defending Olympic champions in both events.
In addition to leading the men’s and women’s 10,000 teams, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba were named as reserves in the shorter event, so the possibility of both of them, Dibaba in particular, defending both titles remains.
Of the women on the 5000m team, the young Genet Yalew is significantly less accomplished than the runners she joined there, 2004 Olympic champion Meseret Defar and former world indoor 1500 champion Gelete Burka; and indeed, some athletes have referred to Yalew as the 5000m reserve.
If she contests the 5000, the former double world champion Dibaba will be tackling the first round heat in that event four days after her 10,000 final.
SELECTION BASED ON FAST TIMES
Contrary to media reports that referred to races in various European cities this summer as Ethiopian Olympic trials, selection to the nation’s Olympic team is based primarily on the fastest times run by athletes in their event this season, with their ongoing fitness also being taken into consideration. Typically, the year’s four fastest athletes hoping to contest a particular Olympic track event make up its roster of three runners and a reserve.
Dibaba contested just one 5000m track race this season, winning at the New York Diamond League in 14 minutes, 50.80 seconds, which is the fourth fastest among Ethiopian women this season, after the clockings of Defar, Burka and Yalew in Rome.
Similarly, Bekele ran the fifth-fastest Ethiopian men’s 5000m time of the year, 12:55.79, in Monaco (while the fourth-fastest athlete, his brother Tariku, is contesting just the 10,000m). The fastest times in the entire world this year were those of Ethiopia’s 2011 world bronze medalist Dejen Gebremeskel and his compatriots Hagos Gebrhiwet and Yenew Alamirew, who all ran under 12:50 in the same Monaco race.
OTHER FINALS ON THE FIRST WEEKEND OF ATHLETICS
The first round of the men’s 1500m, with Mekonnen Gebremedhin tackling the favorites, also takes place on the first day of athletics in London, followed the next morning by the 3000m steeplechase heats with Sofia Assefa and Hiwot Ayalew.
The night of Saturday August 4 features the men’s 10,000m final, an event in which Ethiopia has taken gold at every Olympics since 1996, courtesy of Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele. Former New York marathon champion Gebregziabher (Gebre) Gebremariam joins the Bekele brothers in London.
The women’s marathon final with 2009 world bronze medalist Aselefech Mergia and the women’s 1500m heats, featuring Dibaba’s world indoor champion sister Genzebe and newcomer Abeba Aregawi as contenders, round out the Ethiopian action in the first weekend of athletics.
While Ethiopia, historically a nation of long distance runners, has genuine 800m medal hopes this year in Fantu Magiso and especially Mohammed Aman, Bereket Desta is entered in the 400m having met the lower “B” standard of entry for the sprint event.
Dates of London 2012 athletics finals with Ethiopian finalists anticipated:
Friday August 3:9:25pm – Women’s 10,000m.
Saturday August 4:9:15pm – Men’s 10,000m.
Sunday August 5:11am – Women’s marathon; 9:25pm – Men’s 3000m steeplechase.
Monday August 6: 9:05pm – Women’s 3000m steeplechase.
Tuesday August 7: 9:15pm – Men’s 1500m.
Thursday August 9: 8pm – Men’s 800m.
Friday August 10: 8:05pm – Women’s 5,000m; 8:55pm – Women’s 1500m.
Saturday August 11: 7:30pm – Men’s 5000m; 8pm – Women’s 800m.
Sunday August 12: 11am – Men’s marathon.
Ethiopian athletes entered in London 2012 athletics events
(as previously announced, including, in italics, those reserves who will likely not travel to London):
Men: Bereket Desta
Men: Mohammed Aman
Women: Fantu Magiso
Men: Mekonnen Gebremedhin, Dawit Wolde, Teshome Dirirsa;
Aman Wote (reserve)
Women: Abeba Aregawi, Genzebe Dibaba, Meskerem Assefa
Men: Dejen Gebremeskel, Hagos Gebrhiwet, Yenew Alamirew;
Kenenisa Bekele (reserve)
Women: Meseret Defar, Gelete Burka, Genet Yalew;
Tirunesh Dibaba (reserve)
Men: Kenenisa Bekele, Tariku Bekele, Gebregziabher Gebremariam;
Lelisa Desisa (reserve)
Women: Tirunesh Dibaba, Belaynesh (sometimes spelled Beleynesh) Oljira, Werknesh Kidane;
Aberu Kebede (reserve)
Men: Ayele Abshero, Dino Sefer, Getu Feleke;
Tadesse Tola (reserve)
Women: Tiki Gelana, Aselefech Mergia, Mare Dibaba;
Bezunesh Bekele (reserve)
Men: Roba Gari, Birhan Getahun, Nahom Mesfin
Women: Sofia Assefa, Hiwot Ayalew, Etenesh Diro;
Zemzem Ahmed (reserve)
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