IN ASABA, NIGERIA
Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer will be the man to watch at next year’s IAAF World Championships in Doha after obliterating the 10,000 metres field in winning the first gold medal of the 21st African Athletics Championships at Asaba’s Stephen Keshi Stadium on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old Yimer, who runs for the Amhara Prisons Athletics Club in Debre Markos, kicked with 300 metres to go and opened up a 50-metre gap from his compatriot, silver medallist Andumalak Belihu of Sidama Buna Athletics Club in Ethiopia’s southern region.
The winning time of 29 minutes, 08.01 seconds might have been slow, but it didn’t matter for the prisons man who took no prisoners, exchanging the lead with Belihu (29:11.09) who had thrown down the gauntlet with a deceiving sprint to open up a 50-metre gap after just two laps before tactically retreating back into the pack.
Uganda’s Timothy Toroitich (29:11.87) took bronze.
Kenya’s Vincent Rono (29:14.52) was fourth after pulling a muscle in the sprint finish, Kipsang Temoi (29:29.54) fifth with Josephat Bett struggling at seventh in 30:13.22.
Yimer’s star first shone at last year’s IAAF World Championships in London where he finished fifth in the 10,000m in a personal best 26:56.11.
Coached by Habtemariam Ayehu and managed by Briton Malcolm Anderson, Yimer has already been touted as “the next Kenenisa Bekele” and his amazing sprint finish in Asaba had all the ingredients of the legendary, multiple world champion and record holder’s trademark kick.
With the confusion that has been the hallmark of these games continuing to bite, official results had not been issued to the media an hour after the race and journalists will be excused for failing to provide race data, including split times, as there are no statistics coming through the hurriedly-put-together media centre.
Even at the medal ceremony after Yimer’s win, the Ethiopian national anthem was played three times with the Ethiopian flag raised upside down, perhaps an appropriate indication of how the championship organizers have had their priorities.
It wasn’t going to be any easy for the Kenyan trio in Wednesday’s race as they settled into their hotel barely three hours to the race.
“It was a tough race. We arrived here just three hours to the race after spending two days in Lagos and we were absolutely tired,” Temoi said with coach Julius Kirwa also attributing the failure to medal on fatigue.
“You see, these athletes didn’t train for three days, they didn’t have time to stretch and it affected their muscles,” the veteran coach said.