Defection hits brand new Ethiopia Games squad

July 11, 2012, Kenya (Daily Nation) – All seems not to be well in the Ethiopia camp with one of the squad members reportedly having taken up Swedish citizenship.

The Ethiopian Athletics Federation included rising 1,500 metres star Abeba Aregawi when it named its squad for London on Sunday but it has since emerged that the authorities in Stockholm have appealed to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to have her struck off the Ethiopian roster.

Abeba is currently training alongside the Ethiopian squad although Ethiopia’s The Reporter claimed that Aregawi was granted the European country’s citizenship last month.

“Following her remarkable achievement in the Diamond League, the Swedish government granted her the citizenship on June 8, 2012 after reviewing the application she submitted back in 2009,” the Addis Ababa paper said. “The Swedish government, moreover, wrote a letter to IAAF saying that she would represent Sweden at the London Olympics.”

Pessimism over Ethiopia’s chances

Analysts in Addis Ababa are pessimistic about Ethiopia’s chances.

“Our London Olympic team is the weakest, compared to past ones,” says journalist Konjit Teshome. “I and many people want to see young and fresh athletes. We need to build our athletics sport from the ground.”

Konjit argues that Bekele brothers Kenenisa and Tariku ought not to have been picked for London, saying: “Kenenisa shouldn’t have been selected; he is not in good shape and there are others better that him.

“His younger brother Tariku also shouldn’t be included in 10,000m because he is not only inexperienced in the 10,000m but also not a team runner…. We miss Imane Mergia in the men’s 10,000m.”

Jelimo, Rudisha favourites

Though hopeful Ethiopia will do well in women’s 10,000m and 5,000m and men’s and women’s 800m, she concedes that defending champion Pamela Jelimo and world champion and record holder David Rudisha will be favourites in the two-lap race.

“In the women’s 10,000m, we expect gold from Tirunesh. Really, she shouldn’t be a reserve for the 5,000m because she is in good form, better than Meseret (Defar) and Gelete (Burka), to challenge Vivian (Cheruiyot). I hope the federation guys will change their mind on the final day. In the 800m, I expect medals from Mohammed (Aman) and Fantu (Magiso) if they reach the finals.”

Kenya will sweep the men’s and women’s steeplechase, she predicted, however adding that Sofia (Assefa of Ethiopia) “might surprise us”.

–Daily Nation