Ethiopia- ATHLETICS:Gebrselassie not quitting track just yet
Story by ELIAS MAKORI
Publication Date: 2007/07/08
If you thought Haile Gebrselassie is headed to the pensioners’ queue, then think again.
The king of distance running is not finished yet.
In fact, the 34-year-old superstar is scheming for next year’s Olympic Games’ marathon race in Beijing and the London Games in 2012!
Just how he manages to successfully juggle between training and managing his numerous business interests in Ethiopia is as amazing as his athletics career that has seen him shatter an astonishing 24 world bests, the most recent coming just last month when he set a world best of 21,285 metres for the rarely run one hour race at the Golden Spike track and field meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Perhaps the secret lies in the way he has programmed his body.
Doctors in three countries
So meticulous is the man from Assela in Arsi Province of the Oromiya region in his undertakings that once when he suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury ahead of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, he consulted three doctors in three different countries on the same day, just to be sure of the right diagnosis!
Haile Gebrselassie smashes one-hour record
“I first went to see a doctor in Berne (Switzerland) who told me that the solution for my injury was an operation,” he explained recently in the magnificent top floor office of his eight-storey Alem Building in Addis Ababa. The building is named after his wife.
“In the afternoon, I travelled to France to see another doctor who is good in treating belly dancers and he, too, told me that I needed an operation.
“I then flew to Finland, just to be sure, to consult another physician. I arrived at 8 pm and he was waiting for me at the airport. After observing me, he also said I needed an operation.
“Therefore, I had no choice and two weeks later I flew back to Switzerland where I was operated on.”
Haile’s day starts as early as early as 5.30 am when he drives to Sululta hills on the outskirts of Addis Ababa for his morning training session from 6 am to 9 am.
“Sometimes I’m finished by 8.30 am after which I go the my office either in my tracksuit or the normal suit, depending on my engagements for the day,” he explains.
On the ground floor of his eight floor Alem Building is Haile’s gym which is perennially full. Who wouldn’t like to train where the master works out?
It is here that he takes a quick shower before heading to his office to handle his businesses until lunch time.
Haile and Alem International has a workforce of about 400 people. Haile is the General manager and his wife Alem his deputy.
The company has vast interests in real estate, cinema, the hotel industry and also runs two schools, one – The ADM School - in his Assela birth place which he named after his mother, Ayelech, who died in 2004.
Haile started off with a huge capital of about Sh420 million and has concerns in several Ethiopian towns including Addis Ababa, Bahar Adar, his Assela home and Awassa.
Currently, he is constructing a 150-room, four-star hotel in Awassa.
Haile and Alem International also deals in a successful vehicle imports business which trades about 30 units a month, with specialisation in trucks. In all, Haile owns 10 commercial buildings in Ethiopia alone.
After lunch, Haile is back in the office from 1.30 pm to 4.00 pm when he goes for his second training session of the day.
“I normally go either to the gym or for speed training at the National Stadium. By 6.30 pm I’m done and by 7 pm I’m at home to spend some time with my family before going to sleep at 9 pm.”
If he were to vie for election to political office, Haile would floor any opponent, hands down. He is arguably the best known and most respected Ethiopian.
But he wouldn’t go down that road. “I’m already busy with my business and I’m already president of 400 people,” he said when I asked if he had any presidential ambitions.
“Every day, there are different problems that I have to solve. For instance, this morning there was a fight between the site engineer and the foreman at the hotel I’m building in Awassa. I have to travel there are sort out the problem.
“Last week also, one of the teachers in my school died in a road accident. I was shocked. Of course I can get another teacher, but what about the family of the teacher? Her children? I cannot let them suffer and so I have to do something for them.
“With all these things in mind, I do not have time for politics now.”
Just how does he manage to continuously break world bests? “Records are a combination of everything, from technology to training programmes and running shoes,” he explains.
“The shoes we used to run with in 2000, for instance, are not the same as the ones today. Conditions to break records get better every day.”
Kenya’s running icon Paul Tergat is one of Haile’s greatest friends off the road or track despite their running rivalry.
Haile feels that Tergat’s marathon world best of two hours, four minutes and 55 seconds can fall any time.
“2:04 is not a difficult mark to beat. It will be impossible to run under two hours for the next 25 to 30 years but 2:04 is beatable.
Last year, Haile came close to beating the record in Berlin, venue of Tergat’s world best run in 2003.
“I was close as I was on world record pace until the 38-kilometre mark when everything fell apart.”
Haile won the race in 2:05.56, just 61 seconds off Tergat’s world best. It was the fifth fastest all-time mark.
He returns to Berlin in September for possibly another go at the record.
This year, Haile has competed in one marathon so far, in London last April, in which he was forced to drop out.
“I have a bit of asthma and I’m also allergic to pollen,” he explains. “After 30 kilometres, I could not breathe. There was a street lined up with pollen. Perhaps next time I will avoid this street,” he joked.
Haile’s achievements are simply amazing. Sample just a few highlights: 24 world bests; Twice Olympic 10,000m champion (1996 and 2000); Four times world 10,000m champion (1993-1999).
Just how long will you continue running?, I put it to him.
“As long as I continue running. I cannot rule out an appearance at the 2012 Olympic Games. After all, when Mamo Wolde won the marathon gold in Mexico in 1968, he was not a young man.
“I will only be 39 in 2012,” the 34-year-old Haile argues.
Outside athletics, like many Addis residents, Haile is a Chelsea fan, a club he supports having defected from Liverpool.
“I like (coach, Jose) Mourinho and (owner, Roman) Abramovic and Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard are my favourite players. I don’t mind missing my training sessions once in a while to watch Chelsea play in the premiership.”
Haile – who has three children, all girls, with Alem, Eden (nine years old), Melat (seven) and Batiy (five) - will not be at the world championships in Osaka next month but is preparing for the Berlin Marathon in September and will feature in a few races in between.
Far from done
The distance running legend is far from done.
Just over a month ago, he ran a sub-27 10,000m in Hengelo before breaking the one hour world best time in Ostrava.
Like wine, he simply gets better with age. His parting shot: “In the early days, nobody knew Haile Gebrselassie. What I have achieved is a dream. In Assela (birthplace) I was a nobody. But it is always good to rise from the bottom to the very top.
“I had nothing as I grew up but now my children have everything they need in life.
“It’s all like a dream to me.”
Ethiopia - Open Letter From Berhane Mewa to Meles Zenawi
Open Letter from Berhane Mewa of Kinjit International to Meles Zenawi, Prime Minster of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia - Ethiopian government's stance on human rights attacked
The lack of democracy and the large-scale human rights violations in Ethiopia were condemned by MEPs on Tuesday at a hearing held by the EP's Development Committee and the Human Rights Subcommittee. The Ethiopian Government's refusal to send a representative to speak to MEPs was also criticised.
"The human rights situation has deteriorated since 2005 with the imprisonment of members of the opposition and human rights defenders who still await trial", said Josep Borrell (PES, ES), chair of the Development Committee, at the start of the meeting.
The former President of the European Parliament expressed disappointment at the refusal to attend the meeting by the ambassador of Ethiopia to the EU, Ato Berhane Gebre-Christos. In a letter addressed to MEPs, the Ethiopian foreign minister stated that the invitation could not be accepted, partly because "the list of invited speakers to this hearing does not indicate any intention to try and reach a balanced or accurate assessment of the stage of democratisation in Ethiopia today".
Referring to the parliamentary elections of May 2005, which were marred by fraud, the chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee, Hélène Flautre (Greens/EFA, FR), emphasised "the importance of envisaging follow-ups to election observations". "By acting as if there was nothing wrong, we strip the European Union's policy in this area of all credibility", she said.
Judge Woldemichael Meshesha Damtto, former vice-chair of the commission of inquiry set up following the protests which took place in June and October 2005 against the election results, said the members of the commission had been pressed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to alter their findings. "The civilians used no weapons, the forces used excessive violence, 193 people were killed, 760 were injured and 20,000 were arrested and held in military camps", he said. These claims were backed up by Mulualem Tarekegn, an opposition figure and former member of the Ethiopian Parliament, who today lives under international protection in Sweden.
In an urgent resolution adopted in November 2006 in Strasbourg, the EP called on the Ethiopian Government "to publish unamended and in its entirety, and without any further delay, the final report of the Commission of Inquiry".
Ana Gomes (PES, PT), who led the EP election monitoring mission for the 2005 parliamentary elections and is attacked by name in the letter from the Ethiopian foreign ministry, said she was accustomed to the attitude of the Ethiopian authorities, who attacked her personally instead of taking notice of the EU observers' findings. "The attitude of the present government, which is violating the human rights and the aspirations to democracy of its people, and the behaviour of the Ethiopians in Somalia, who are committing atrocities, are a disgrace", she said.
Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia cruised to an easy win in the women's 5,000 meters in Paris today June 6 2007.Dibaba, the 2005 world champion in both the 5,000 and 10,000, won in 15 minutes, 21.84 seconds, nearly a minute off her best.
Never under pressure, she surged to the front on the last lap at the Stade de France.
Florence Kiplagat of Kenya was second in 15:23.85, with Meselech Melkamu of Ethiopia third in 15:24.19. Ethiopian world record holder Meseret Defar, who set the mark of 14:16.63 in the opening Golden League meet in Oslo on June 15, did not race.
Dibaba, recovering from a leg injury, was disappointed with her time but still hopes to defend her titles at Osaka.
"I'm starting to rediscover my form, but I am still not at my best," she said.
Ethiopia - Athletics - Tirunesh, the Millionaire Village Girl
By Elias Makori
Nairobi, Kenya - A lot of stories have been told about Tirunesh Dibaba's early life, but two truly stand out as most memorable.
In 2001, she was almost late for her maiden appearance at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Ostende, Belgium.
Aged 16, it was her first trip outside Ethiopia and it came shortly after her arrival in the city of Addis Ababa from her rural birthplace of Bekoji, some 280 kilometres south east of the Ethiopian capital.
"When they announced that the race was going to start at 9 am, I thought it was 9 O'clock Ethiopian time in the afternoon (translates to 3 pm), and I decided to sleep," she once told Ethiopia's leading athletics writer, Elshadai Negash, currently the press chief of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation.
"One of the coaches burst into my room to wake me shouting that my race was just minutes away," Tirunesh recounted.
She eventually made it to the start and finished a commendable fifth after hardly having warmed up for the race and wearing big shorts that she had picked from a senior athlete's closet in the hurry to make it to the start.
Then there was the story of an earlier incident in which Tirunesh arrived in Addis from Bekoji to live with her cousin, Bekelu, and continue her high school education, only to be told she had shown up six days after the school registration deadline.
Marrying at young age
"I was heartbroken? Bekelu tried all she could but there was no hope for me. I could not go back to Bekoji because I could have ended up marrying at a young age and not fulfilling by athletics dream."
Bekelu then helped Tirunesh to enrol in the Prisons Police Sports Club at the tender age of 14, and things have looked up for the rural girl ever since.
Tirunesh is the fourth born in a family of seven children, the eldest, Bekelu Dibaba, currently residing in Belgium and the second, Chala, living with his mother, Gutu Tola and father Dibaba Keneni, in Bekoji.
Their cousin, Derartu Tulu, was the first Sub-Saharan woman to win gold on the Olympic track which she did in the 10,000m at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and again at the Sydney Games in 2000.
Tirunesh's elder sister, Ejegayehu, 25, is an established athlete in her own right, having won bronze medals in the 5,000m and 10,000m at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki. Their younger sibling, Genzebe, 16, is also one to watch. She represented Ethiopia at last March's IAAF World Cross Country Championships' juniors' race in Mombasa and finished fifth in 21:23, just 31 seconds behind Kenyan winner Linet Barasa Chepkwemoi.
Ejegayehu is enrolled with the Oromiya Police Club while Genzabe runs for Muger Cement, the same club that has in its fold superstar Kenenisa Bekele.
Tirunesh is by far the best known family member, bursting into prominence in her best year as an athlete so far, 2005. It was in this year that she won a double in the long and short course races at the 33rd IAAF World Cross Country Championships in St Etienne/St Galmier, France, before moving over to the track to complete another double over the 5,000m and 10,000m at the World Championships in Helsinki.
Also in 2005, Tirunesh broke the world indoor 5,000m record in Boston before grabbing another world best over five kilometres in Carlsbad, US. Between 2004 and 2005, Tirunesh was the highest paid Ethiopian athlete having earned close to $100,000, which was not too bad for a 19-year-old village girl.
Like her track rival Meseret Defar, Tirunesh has not yet ventured into big business or real estate. Instead, she invested her initial earnings in the family, building a mansion for her parents in Bekoji and also purchasing a $500,000 (Sh35 million) residence in Addis Ababa where she lives with her siblings and fiancé, another top Ethiopian distance runner, Sileshi Sihine, the All Africa Games defending 10,000 metres champion.
Unlike Meseret, Tirunesh did not get any opposition from her parents when she exhibited great desire in athletics. "Perhaps it's because my parents had seen the successes of our cousin, Derartu, and other top athletes from our region like Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie," Tirunesh says in her compound, where she has parked her five-litre BMW 750 next to boyfriend Sileshi's Toyota Prado.
"I did not want her to get married young," Tirunesh's mother had told us in Bekoji where the star athlete spent her early education at the Bekoji Elementary School, which is also Kenenisa Bekele's alma mater. "I wanted her to study and get a job. I never object to my children's desires and when she took up athletics, I did not object."
Tirunesh is shy, reserved and hardly media savvy. She loves her space, which is quite evident in her expensively furnished but spacious living room. That's why she would not budge when asked about her game plan for the 2007 track season after failing to retain her world cross title, finishing second to Kenya-born Dutchwoman Lornah Kiplagat in Mombasa.
"I just want to be at my best and win gold at the World Championships in Osaka," was all she could offer. The Mombasa competition was the most demanding of her career. "It damaged the whole Ethiopian team but we are recovering well for the track season now."
Like Meseret, Tirunesh and her sisters, along with Sihine, have morning and evening training sessions and also report to the National Stadium in Addis Ababa for regular track splits under veteran distance running coach Woldemeskel Kostre.
Tirunesh's tense relationship with Meseret, her biggest track rival, reached its climax at the final 5,000m race of last year's Golden League in Brussels, where Tirunesh needed to win to grab a share of the $1 million jackpot on offer for athletes completing a six-race sweep in their Golden League Series specialities.
But Meseret had other ideas, breasting the tape ahead of her compatriot and denying her a clean sweep and over Sh1 million in income.
"I lost a lot of money," Tirunesh recalls, the bitterness evidently still showing. "At that time I was very angry but now I think nothing of it. We both went there to win and she had every right to win too."
Meseret will not be there when Tirunesh runs at the Meeting Gaz de France in Paris Saint-Denis tonight, the second of this year's six Golden League competitions.
The pair's next big duel will now most probably be at the world championships in Osaka next month.
Tomorrow: Why Tariku Bekele is not supposed to beat brother Kenenisa Bekele, according to their father.
Report: Scores still jailed in secret after fleeing Somali war
By Shashank Bengali,
NAIROBI, Kenya — At least 76 people who were captured while fleeing the war in Somalia in January are still being held in Ethiopia under a program of secret prisoner renditions backed by the United States , Kenya and Somalia , human rights activists said Friday.
The Muslim Human Rights Forum , a Kenyan advocacy group, said that the prisoners— including 17 Kenyan citizens and 20 Ethiopians— were being held incommunicado and in violation of international prisoner conventions, and may be at risk of torture.
Most of the Ethiopians in custody are members of the minority Ogadeni and Oromo ethnic groups, which are waging separatist campaigns against Ethiopia . International human-rights monitors have warned that Ethiopian security forces routinely abuse members of those groups, and the U.S. State Department has accused Ethiopia of torturing prisoners.
The Muslim group's report, titled "Horn of Terror," provides the fullest accounting so far of the fates of 152 people from 21 countries who were arrested in a shadowy anti-terrorism operation run by U.S. allies in the Horn of Africa that activists think had the backing of American officials.
The captives included at least three Americans, whom FBI agents questioned in Nairobi . They included Daniel Joseph Maldonado , who was deported to the United States to face federal terrorism charges, and Amir Mohamed Meshal , who was among about 80 prisoners transferred back to Somalia and later to Ethiopia . Ethiopian authorities released Meshal in May without ever charging him.
The whereabouts of the third American, whom the Muslim group identified as Abikar Abdullahi Osman , remain unknown, but it's thought that he was released into U.S. custody in Kenya . His name didn't appear on flight manifests that showed Meshal and others were transferred to Somalia .
Lawyers and human rights groups have questioned whether the renditions were part of a policy by the Bush administration— whose detention practices are under congressional scrutiny— to have other countries hold terrorism suspects.
U.S. officials have described Kenya and Ethiopia as partners against terrorism in the region, where al Qaida cells have struck in the past, and the American military has coordinated with its allies at least three strikes on suspected terrorist targets in Somalia in recent months.
The human rights report criticizes the Kenyan government for arranging the secret transfers of some prisoners, including Kenyans, to Somalia , which later transferred them to Ethiopia . Kenyan authorities have refused to acknowledge rendering their citizens to a foreign government.
"I don't know if there has been a country in the world that has exported its people like this," said Maina Kiai , the chairman of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights . "If the Kenyan government cannot use its laws and processes . . .how do we say we are a strong state?"
Diplomats from Great Britain , Sweden and other countries intervened in Ethiopia to have prisoners from their countries released. Activists said they'd tracked the whereabouts of the remaining prisoners through interviews with those who'd been discharged, as well as with security officials in Kenya and Ethiopia .
The prisoners were arrested by Kenyan authorities in January along the Somali border in the weeks after a U.S.-backed invasion by Ethiopian forces toppled a fundamentalist Islamic regime in Somalia known as the Council of Islamic Courts .
In March, the Pentagon announced that the arrests had netted a "high-value" terrorist target: Abdul Malik , who'd admitted involvement in a 2002 terrorist attack on a tourist hotel in Mombasa, Kenya , that killed 13 people and injured 80. He was transferred to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba .
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