From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sun Jun 07 2009 - 15:50:33 EDT
Eritrea's Tadesse tells of epic duel with ace Bekele in Mombasa
Sunday, 7th June 2009
By David Ochami
Two and a quarter years after Eritrea's most celebrated athlete,
Zersenay Tadesse beat Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele at the 2007 World
Cross country Championship in Mombasa, the two have not met to discuss
their epic duel.
Neither has the Eritrean, who believes supportive Kenyan crowds spurred
him to victory, found an adequate explanation for Kenenisa's spectacular
The diminutive Eritrean, whose fame in his motherland has been equated
to David Beckham's in England, soared after winning a bronze medal in
10,000m at the 2,004 Olympics in Athens and rose to new heights after
Tadesse defeated the Ethiopian multiple record holder for whom he
reserves tremendous respect.
"I have become a role model for Eritreans," said Tadesse in Asmara,
referring to his younger brothers Kidane, Maekele and Merhawi who, among
others, have taken to athletics and occasionally accompany him on
workouts outside Asmara Cemetery.
'Most hostile race'
"We did not have an occasion to talk about anything," he said, referring
to his attempts to speak to the frustrated Ethiopian after the Mombasa
race, which he termed 'the most hostile race I have ever run.'
Although Tadesse came to Mombasa to win, he did not expect to defeat the
Ethiopian despite much pre-race training.
"Defeating some of the greatest athletes was something I did not
expect," he confessed.
Held under sweltering coastal temperatures, the World Cross country
Championship in Mombasa was a catastrophe for many local and foreign
athletes who had neither practised nor run at sea level. Besides the
sandy terrain, many suffered dehydration and reduction amid reports of
It was alleged the Ethiopian developed stomach crumps after swallowing
water but all Tadesse remembers is that Bekele was totally destroyed as
he prepared to capitulate amid howling from Kenyan crowds. Initially,
Tadese did not know whom the Kenyan fans were crying out for until he
ran passed the Ethiopian who has destroyed every record set by Kenyans.
"When the Kenyans discovered it was me (leading) they began supporting
me. The Kenyan crowd became part of my win that day. They wanted me to
win because of the rivalry between Kenya and Ethiopia."
Before the race, he trained hard in and around Asmara at an altitude of
about 2000 feet and at the Eritrean coast but was still not well
prepared as the hundreds of competitors in the men's senior race blasted
from the start. At the last stages, Bekele led but suddenly reduced
speed. Tadesse then blasted past his opponent after suspecting he had
run out of gas.
"When I found out he was tired and I had some energy I made a kick. I
realised he had had his last breath"
At the end of the race, the Eritrean claims they never met with Bekele.
Apparently, the Ethiopian had stormed from the venue.
"We did not have an occasion to talk about anything. I do not know why.
He might have been crying."
They met briefly at a cross-country meet in Scotland, says Tadesse, who
has since moved to marathon races and has immense respect for Kenyan and
Born at Adi Bana in Eritrea's Debarwo region in 1992 Tadesse become a
runner by accident, spurred by the hardship of village life and
admiration of his country's past athletes like Tecle Mengistaeb.
His father bought him a racing bicycle in 2002 and he moved to
Mendefera, about 15 kilometres from Debarwo to foster his ambition but
was halted after two years by a prohibition order by the regional
cycling authorities in Mendefera who wanted him to race in Debarwo.
Ran 6km everyday
Frustrated " I began racing in 2002 after the clash between the two
cycling zones," said Zerisaney who now lives with his wife and extended
family in Asmara. Before Mendefera, he played football and ran 6km to
school everyday. He began competing for his school on a teacher's order
representing Debarwa sub-zone, graduating in four months from 3km to
In 2002, he took part in the Massawa Half Marathon and came second to
Yonas Kifle, one of Eritrea's most celebrated athletes. His maiden
international race was at the 2002 World Cross Country Championship in
Dublin, finishing 30th. He was frightened when the race was started with
He then caught the attention of a Spanish manager and proceeded on a
professional career. He was ninth at the 2003 World Cross country
Championships in Lausanne and sixth in Brussels in 2004 before coming
second in Etienne, France, in 2005. He also emerged fourth in Fukuoka,
Japan in 2006 and took gold in 10,000m at 2007 All Africa Games in
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