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Sunday, August 1, 2021

Tokyo Olympics 2020 ~ long distance running Gold

Haile Gebrselassie in 1996 & 2000; Kenenisa Bekele in 2004 & 2008 and  Selemon Barega now – wonder what is this about  ??

The streets of Dessie, in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, are loud and bustling. So are its restaurants and bars. But as Ethiopia’s civil war edges closer, the mood is darkening. In the past week military-training camps have sprung up. Outside a hospital a tent has been erected; wounded soldiers lie on stretchers.  The jitters are because rebels from Tigray are advancing fast and meeting weak resistance. Nothing great but more distressing for a Nation torn by internal strife !!

Ethiopia, the country located in the Horn of Africa is often in news for wrong reasons. With about 87.9 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world. Some of the oldest evidence for modern humans is found in Ethiopia – civilization existed thousands of years ago here. Ethiopia was the only African country to defeat a European colonial power and retain its sovereignty as an independent country. Western World has portrayed Ethiopia highlighting malnutrition and hunger  highlighting the child deaths.  Addis Ababa  meaning “new flower”; is the capital city of Ethiopia. It is the largest city in Ethiopia. 

Often the long distance running is dominated by Kenyans and Ethiopians.  Ethiopia is the most successful nation in the event, with ten gold medals among its total of 24. Finland is the next most successful, with six gold medals and thirteen overall.  The 10,000 metres at the Summer Olympics is the longest track running event held at the multi-sport event. The men's 10,000 m has been present on the Olympic athletics programme since 1912. The women's event was added to the programme over seventy years later, at the 1988 Olympics.   The competition format is a straight final between around 30 athletes, although prior to 2004 a qualifying round was held.

The Olympic records for the event were both set by Ethiopians at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics: Kenenisa Bekele set the men's record at 27:01.17 minutes, while Almaz Ayana set the women's mark at 29:17.45 minutes. Today  - Selemon Barega won gold in a thrilling 10,000m to enhance Ethiopia’s rich history in the event in the first athletics final at Tokyo 2020. The 21-year-old took the lead at the bell and produced a scintillating final lap of 53.94 seconds to come home in 27:43.22 after a tactical affair. Barega held off Ugandan world record holder Joshua Cheptegei (27:43.63) and Jacob Kiplimo (27:43.88), who took silver and bronze respectively. Following in the footsteps the legendary Haile Gebrselassie, who took gold in Atlanta and Sydney, and Kenenisa Bekele, who won gold at Athens and Beijing,  Selemon Barega’s gutsy effort was enough in a packed field, with the race wide open with 800m remaining.

Ethiopia’s Berihu Aregawi was fourth and Team USA’s Grant Fisher took fifth ahead of Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed in sixth, with race favourite and the third member of Ethiopia’s contingent Yomif Kejelcha down in eighth. Stephen Kissa sprung a surprise early on to take the pace out hard, leading by 45 seconds after the first kilometre, but the Ugandan was completely ignored by the rest of the field, perhaps sensing more of a mental test which would follow. Barega, as one of the main favourites, eventually took the bold decision to stop Kissa’s solo effort by responding after six minutes and 20 laps to go, which saw the field stretch out a little.  Kissa was swallowed up by the pack at the half-way point with the favourites all looking comfortable and splitting 5,000m in comfortable 14:08. .. and the race predictably soon picked up with Cheptegei, Kiplimo, Kejelcha, Barega and Rodgers Kwemoi all primed to contend for gold.

                          Australian distance runner Patrick Tiernan collapsed twice in the closing stages of a 10,000m final on the opening night of Olympics track and field, before bravely picking himself up to finish the race. The event took place in intense humidity and the 26-year-old had run strongly through the opening 24 of 25 laps to maintain a top 10 position before the conditions got the better of him. At the 100m mark of the last 400m his head fell forward. By halfway he was staggering and he fell when he reached the bend. “He was disorientated and went sideways before he went forwards in the manner of a concussed football player,” reported The Age. “But he was not concussed, he was exhausted. He had run himself past his limit. He fell again. Again he got up.

“He was going to finish. His was a performance that drew applause in an empty stadium. It was as brave a run as you’ll see at an Olympics. He got to the line.” Tiernan was taken away for treatment, having finished 26th in a season best time of 28:35.06.

Selemon Barega of Ethiopia won in 27:43.22 seconds to upset world champion and world-record holder Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda. Cheptegei took the silver medal and Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda was third.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
30th July 2021. 

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