Ethiopian middle-distance runner Samuel Tefera (© Getty Images)
Championship records by world indoor 1500m champion Samuel Tefera and two-time national cross country champion Getaneh Molla were the highlights on the sixth day of the 47th Ethiopian Athletics Championships which concluded on Sunday (22).
Molla impresses in another domestic win
Indeed, the performance of the final day yet again belonged to Molla who continued his unparalleled domestic dominance with victory and a championships record in the men’s 5000m.
World indoor 3000m silver medallist Selemon Barega took the race from the start by heading up a pack of 16 starters in a crowded opening lap. The pack was reduced to ten at the halfway point as Molla moved to fourth in the chasing pack with Barega still powering ahead at the front.
With three laps to go, the pack was down to seven with Tilahun Haile taking the lead from Barega as the race moved into the last kilometre. When Barega and Molla made the final push to the finish in last 200 metres, a deafening roar went up inside the stadium in anticipation of a big finish. It was Molla who shrugged off the challenge from Barega in the final 60 metres with an astounding finish en route to a 13:31.41 performance. Barega lost his second place to a resurgent Haimanot Alemu who clocked 13:32.31. Interestingly enough, Molla improved the championship record set by Kenenisa Bekele in 2004, two weeks before he would set the world 10,000m record in Hengelo.
“I never expected to break the record,” Molla said. “I was running road races recently. I did not even expect a win today.”
On a pulsating final day of action, Tefera further cemented his recent rise with an impresive 3:36.4 early season stunner.
Watched on by Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) President and running legend Haile Gebrselassie, Tefera bode his time behind the early leaders before a last lap of 53.2 launched him to an impressive victory ahead of last year’s winner Teressa Tolossa.
Worku’s 10,000m surprise
Following their World Championships debut in London last year, Abduamlak Belihu and Jemal Yimer were heralded as the new hopes for Ethiopia over 10,000m. The duo followed up their global cameos with impressive performances on the road with Belihu taking the New Delhi Half Marathon title in November 2017 and Yimer scorching to second place in 59:00 at the 2018 Ras Al Khamiah Half Marathon in the UAE.
And for a moment at the start of the final lap in a tactical contest, the duo looked to be in pole position to battle it out for victory. But no one shared these plans with Taye Worku.
With about 300 metres remaining, the little-known 18-year-old spotted a moment of hesitation from the favourites and positioned himself behind the leaders. Then with half a lap to go, he launched a surprising but devastating kick that didn’t stop until he crossed the finish line in 28:26.7, three seconds ahead of Belihu (28:29.7) with Yimer coming home in third (28:30.3).
“I had a very good preparation for this,” said a beaming Worku. “But still to win competing with the top athletes is unbelievable.”
Tesfay, Feyissa take women’s long distance titles
On the opening day, Haftamnesh Tesfay kept her composure before making a decisive surge on the final lap to win the women’s 10,000m in 33:28.46. Tesfay would go on and win the Shanghai International Half Marathon four days later.
In the women’s 5000m on the final day, defending champion Hawi Feyisa overtook Meskerem Mamo in the last 20 metres to snatch victory. She needed needed to produce a strong comeback after dropping back early in the race, but recovered to stop the clock in 15:31.46.
Getenet Wale, the injury-prone former All-African Games champion, showed signs of recovering from his injury nightmares with an impressive 8:28.98 win in the 3000m steeplechase, another championships record.
Elshadai Negash (with the assistance of Abiy Wendifraw) for the IAAF