Ethiopian long distance runners eyeing Beijing glory

July 24th, 2008 - 4:13 pm ICT by IANS  

By Wu Junkuan
Beijing, July 24 (Xinhua) Ethiopia’s star-studded long distance squad is ready to launch another fierce charge in next month’s Beijing Olympic Games. With 14 golds, five silver and 12 bronze earned since its Olympic debut in 1956 Games, Ethiopia has emerged as a superpower in the Olympic track events.

The Ethiopia Olympic Committee (EOC) named a 36-member athletics squad for the coming Beijing Games. They will compete in the men’s and women’s marathon, the 10,000 metres, 5000m, 3000m steeplechase and 1500m events.

In the 2004 Athens Games, Ethiopia brought home two gold medals, respectively, in the men’s 10000m and women’s 5000m. In Beijing, the Ethiopia team of star athletes will do everything possible to defend their rule in the two events.

Kenenisa Bekele is the reigning Olympic and world champion in the men’s 10,000m, while quadruple world champion Haile Gebreselassie swept two Olympic golds in 1996 and 2000 in the event.

World marathon record holder Gebreselassie has decided to give up the marathon to focus on the 10,000m, hoping for a unique Olympic triple after winning in Atlanta and Sydney.

Bekele also ruled out an Olympic 5000-10000 double in Beijing, in spite of narrowly missing out on winning both races four years ago.

And there is also Sileshi Sihine, the 10,000m silver medallist in Athens and recent two World Championships. And he will go all out in Beijing to break the fate as a runner-up.

Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba holds the world record over the women’s 5000m. Being the reigning two-time world 10,000m champion, Dibaba will arrive in Beijing as the hot favourite for gold in the 5000m, and 10,000m maybe, if she decides to double up.

Though losing the world record, defending 5000m Olympic and world champion Defar will try her best to avoid being de-throned at Beijing’s “Bird Nest”.

The EOC is also hoping for a medal boost in other long-distance events. Ejegayehu Dibaba in the women’s 10,000m and Tariku Bekele in the men’s 5000 are both medal prospects for Ethiopia.

However, Ethiopia’s long-distance charge will not be an easy case, with their neighbour country Kenya also being an athletics powerhouse. The two countries will have a tough rival in Beijing for the lion’s share in distance events.

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