Friday, January 20, 2012

Let me run for another country, says Kenenisa Bekele after federation bans Ethiopians from London 2012


January 20 - The participation at London 2012 of 35 leading Ethiopian athletes including double Olympic champions Kenenisa Bekele (pictured) and Tirunesh Dibaba has been put in jeopardy by the application of an indefinite ban by their national federation for their failure to take part in group training sessions.
Hermens (pictured right), who through his company Global Sports Communication has been involved with Ethiopian athletics for 30 years, has seen similar stand-offs between athletes and the federation in the past.

And Bekele is so upset about what has happened that he is reportedly considering running for another country.

Bekele's manager Jos Hermens, who has also guided the career of Bekele's fellow Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, his predecessor as Olympic 10,000 metres champion and world record holder, told insidethegames: "I have just spoken to Kenenisa, who is back home, and he is so upset about the whole thing that he is saying 'Let me run for another country'.

"He says the first time he knew anything about it was when he saw the reports on Ethiopian TV.

"He said to me 'I have not been shown any respect'.

"He has told the federation he does not want to train on the Mondo track at the national stadium because it is too hard and it could lead to injury.

"Kenenisa and Haile were among several athletes who asked the authorities not to lay a hard track there three years ago, but they were ignored.

"This is a nation with the world's best endurance runners, and they lay a sprinter's track at the national stadium.

"You can't believe it.

"In a couple of months' time Kenenisa is going to set up a softer track of his own 10 kilometres outside Addis.

"He has spent $1 million (£646,300/€775,100) of his own money on it, and it will mean other Ethiopian athletes can train there too.

"But instead of getting thanks, this is the way they treat him.

"It's unbelievable.

"Kenenisa is not due to run until the end of February, but this is going to affect seven or eight athletes who are supposed to be running in the Dubai marathon in a week's time."
"It was worse in the 80s and 90s," he said.

"But in recent years things seemed to have been getting a lot better.

"The stupid thing is that some of the athletes on this banned list were not even invited to national squad training in the first place.

"Haile is not on the banned list, but he is a very wise man.

"Maybe he has gone along to one or two sessions and shaken a few hands.

"I am surprised about this because I was in Addis last week and spoke to Dubie Jilo, the Ethiopian Athletics Federation's (EAF) technical director.

"I understood there was going to be flexibility over athletes preparing for the Olympics.

"I think this latest action may have more to do with people from the Ethiopian Olympic Committee (EOC) who have their own ideas about things.

"For three years you don't see them, and then they turn up.

"These people have no idea of what they are doing.

"They are treating athletes as if they are a soccer team, but athletics is an individual sport.

"The idea of a national squad system is not a bad one for younger, developing athletes who may not have their own coaches.

"But you can't expect athletes just to get on a bus and all go training together on a hard track.

"You have 20-year-old athletes and 35-year-old athletes whose requirements are very different.

"Haile, for instance, needs to concentrate on quality rather than quantity in training these days.

"He is preparing to run in Tokyo at the end of February, while others are running sooner.

"This is something the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) have to look into and I hope they can sort it out."
Other athletes on the banned list are the 2009 world 10,000m silver medallist Meselech Melkamu (pictured) and 2009 world half-marathon bronze medallist Aberu Kebede.
Of the 35 athletes, 17 are runners that specialise in the 5,000 and 10,000m.

Additionally, it is reported that six coaches and athletics managers have also been banned.

The EAF were reported to have named 223 Olympic hopefuls over a month ago and asked for everyone to start preparing for London under their supervision from January 1.

It was also reported that Jilo had said that the athletes must start following the directions of the federation or a new generation of athletes would be taken to London 2012.