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Gebremariam takes Bekele’s mantle

Saturday March 28 2009

Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba celebrates after winning the junior women’s race on Saturday. Photos/MOHAMMED AMIN

Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba celebrates after winning the junior women’s race on Saturday. Photos/MOHAMMED AMIN 

By CHRIS MUSUMBA in Amman, Jordan

Painful silence fell on the Kenyan team’s camp at the end of the 12-kilometre senior men’s race on Saturday as the country failed yet again to beat perennial arch-rivals Ethiopia - even without their top runner and defending champion Kenenisa Bekele.

After all the talk, the Ethiopians took over the Bisharat Golf Course in celebration with only Uganda able to challenge their force.

Despite having been warned of his ability, Kenyans did not take the challenge from Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam of Ethiopia seriously and they paid the price when a killer sprint in the final 100 metres by the Africa 10,000 metres champion destroyed his opponents.

He won by clocking 35 minutes and two seconds with Moses Kipsiro of Uganda second in 35:04 and Eritrean Zersenay Tadese (35:04), winner in Mombasa two years back, third.

Komon, a wild card inclusion in the Kenyan team and second last year, was lucky to claim the fourth slot after he struggled to keep up the pace with the leaders. He was timed at 35:05 and finished ahead of Habtamu Fikadu (Ethiopia) 35:06 while Kenya’s Mathew Kisorio faded to the sixth slot in 35:08.

Kenya’s overall team captain Mark Kiptoo was seventh in 35:11.

But for another year, Kenya was happy to hang onto the team title ahead of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

After wins for Ethiopia in the junior races, it was a disastrous outing for Kenya as their strength deserted them yet again in their bid to deny Ethiopians the senior men’s title. The shoes legendary Paul Tergat left in 1999 in Belfast still remain too big for any Kenyan to fit into.

Linus Chumba and Komon almost engaged into a physical fight with the Eritrean team who accused them of foul play. The truth was the plan had terribly gone wrong for the Kenyans.

World Junior Championships 5,000m silver medallist Kisorio was supposed to wear down the pack and indeed that part of the task he did well, but when he signalled for the true champions to take the lead, nobody from the Kenyan camp could respond.

“I don’t know what happened. They were supposed to take over after me, but when I looked back after the third lap, there was no one. It was known that Moses Kipsiro was strong and could sprint and I wanted somebody to take over, but it was only Komon who kept up with the pace,” said Kisorio.

Komon was not happy after failing to make it to the podium. But he was relieved the team title was Kenya’s.

“The fourth place is not good enough. But when the entire plan went wrong here, what can you say. It was good for me. This is what the God had planned for me. Even in camp I was struggling with a groin injury,” he said.

For Kiptoo, it was hard to come to terms with the results. He had hoped to end the search for Tergat’s successor, but it was not to be his year.

“It is hard to accept the result. But that is what we had here. We made a tactical mistake and let the race to remain open until the last lap,’ he said.

Moses Mosop, who was favoured to dominate the race here, faded to 11th slot in 35:17 while Mangata Ndiwa 35:32 attributed his poor performance to having fallen when tackled from behind in the third lap to finish 14.

The other Kenyan, Linus Chumba, was 25th in 36:29.

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