Ethiopians Reveal Brilliant Young Talent


Sihine and Tirunesh Dibaba take Great Ethiopian Run in record times
Sunday 30 November 2003
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - World 10,000m Bronze medallist Ethiopian Sileshi Sihine won the men’s division of today’s TOTAL Great Ethiopian in a course record time, while the Dibaba sisters, Tirunesh and Ejigayehou, crossed the line in that order in the women’s race.

Sihine, who this year has also won gold medals in the 10,000m at the All-African and Afro-Asian Games, beat training partner and last year’s champion Gebregziabher Gebremariam, while little-known Mulugeta Wondimu was a surprise finisher in third place.

Sihine’s winning time of 29:52.71 was twelve seconds better than the course record set by reigning double Olympic 10,000m champion Haile Gebrselassie in the inaugural running of this event two years ago.

Sileshi Sihine crossed the line to win the 2003 Great Ethiopian Run

The race was devoid of its biggest name after World Marathon record holder Paul Tergat of Kenya opted not to run at the last minute.

However, after a nervy start with two Ethiopians and two Kenyans leading the way at the 1.5 km mark, the race began to live up to its reputation as one of the best road race events in Africa. It was Sihine and Gebremariam leading the way with the Kenyans Christopher Cheboiboch and Paul Koech also very much involved in the contest.

But with bright sunshine in Addis Ababa temperatures soared to 24c, and the altitude (2400m above sea level) began to take its toll and the Kenyans soon found themselves back-pedalling in the contest. As such, very soon at the top of the field Gebremariam and Sihine were heading Dejene Birhanu, Mulugeta Wondimu, and Derese Denboba, with the latter trio also taking turns in the lead as they completed the first lap of Meskel Square, a distance of about 3.5 km.

As the race wore on, Birhanu was first dropped and when Gebremariam, and Sihine increased the tempo with just 1.5km to go, Denboba, and Wondimu were also left behind.

Gebremariam took the first initiative to break from Sihine, but was quickly closed down after making a break of about 100m. And with a kilometre to go, Sihine made his own decisive move and completed the race (29:52.71) to roaring applause from the spectators.

Gebremariam followed Sihine to the line in a time of 30:20.01, while Mulugeta Wondimu finished third. Kenya’s Paul Koech was the first foreign athlete to complete the race in 13th place.

A delighted Sihine said that the win would add to his collection of triumphs this year. “I am very delighted. It gives me great happiness to win a race in front of my fellow Ethiopians. This is just the great experience I had hoped to get as we go into the cross country season. The race was very good, but I never thought I would win at the beginning of the race.”

Dibaba double-act

The women’s race was a tighter affair with Ethiopia’s elite athletes taking it all the way to the finish line. After a nervy start to the race, last year’s winner Werkinesh Kidane led the pack through the half-way stage with Tirunesh Dibaba, Ejigayehou Dibaba, Eyerusalem Kuma, and Kenyan Susan Chepkemei still in the running.

It was Ejigayehou, the older sister of Tirunesh Dibaba, and the reigning All-African and Afro-Asian Games 10,000m champion, who threatened to pull away at the 7.5km mark, but Kidane and T. Dibaba quickly closed her down as the pace slowed.

However, Kidane dropped 200m metres off the pace leaving the two sisters to battle it out for the finish line. It was Tirunesh, the youngest individual gold medallist at the IAAF World Championships in Paris in August, who had the drive to pull away with 500m to go, and crossed the line in 34:48.01, just two seconds ahead of her older sister and a further five seconds ahead of last year’s champion Werkinesh Kidane.

A delighted Dibaba said that she did not expect the final outcome. “I am very happy with the results. I did not expect to win the race, but to be a very good competitor,” she said. “I pulled away from Ejigayehou at the 500km mark and was delighted to see the crowd and the finish.”

Like Sihine, Dibaba said that her main focus now will turn to the cross country season in Europe and a chance to move up to the senior’s race this year. “I won the junior’s race last year in Lausanne and now I want to see how I will do against the senior athletes,” she said. “But I know that I need to prepare very well for that, which I will do from now until mid-March.”

NB. Ethiopia’s World 10,000m champion Berhane Adere did not start the race but Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba, the World Marathon gold medallist did run and finished outside the top 20. Her precise finishing position is unconfirmed.

2003 TOTAL Great Ethiopian Run Official Results

Sileshi Sihine 29:52.71
Gebreziabher Gebremariam 30:20.01
Mulugeta Wondimu 30:31.55
Maeregu Zewde 30:43.08

Tirunesh Dibaba 34:48
Ejigayehou Dibaba 34:50
Werkinesh Kidane 34:55

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF