What you need to know:
- Nation Sport recently spent time with some Ethiopian athletes in Addis Ababa as they prepared for the new season.
- A major highlight is the World Athletics Championships scheduled for Budapest, Hungary on August 19-27.
During the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA in July last year, Ethiopia emerged the top country from Africa with 10 medals; four gold, four silver and two bronze and was second overall in the standings behind America.
Athletics powerhouse Kenya managed a fourth place finish after bagging 10 medals; two gold, five silver and three bronze.
This performance was a decline from the team's second position at the previous edition held in Doha in 2019. Then Kenya picked 11 medals; five gold, two silver and 11 bronze.
Nation Sport recently spent time with some Ethiopian athletes in Addis Ababa as they prepared for the new season.
A major highlight is the World Athletics Championships scheduled for Budapest, Hungary on August 19-27.
We left our hotel around 6.30am accompanied by the 2015 World Athletics Cross Country Championships silver medallist, Senbere Teferi, and her husband Mesfin Desalegn and headed to Entoto Park in Addis Ababa — one of the highest points for hill work training.
Entoto Park has a breathtaking view in a forested area that overlooks Addis Ababa City.
It has a high altitude which ranges between 2,600 metres and 3,100m and is a popular training ground for athletes.
One of the athletes we found training was former African Games Youth 3,000 metres champion Berihu Aregawi who also runs 5,000m and 10,000m races.
Aregawi shot to the limelight when he bagged a bronze medal in the 10,000m race during the World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland.
Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto won the race and Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo was second.
Aregawi wants to be on the podium in Budapest and he is weighing his options on whether to compete in the 5,000m race or in the 10,000m category.
He was not impressed with last season's performance, and is determined to flip the script.
The athlete was bundled out of World Indoor Games in Belgrade, Serbia in the 3,000m heats and he finished seventh in the 10,000m race at the Oregon championship.
“Last season was not that good, and that is why I have started early preparations for the new season. My target is a podium finish in Budapest and good results in the Diamond League races I will take part in," Aregawi said.
“Competition is becoming tight, but I have to do my best and be in great shape for the challenge ahead."
Aregawi holds the 5km world record after timing 12 minutes and 49 seconds in Barcelona in 2021. He set the new time after slashing Ugandan star Joshua Cheptegei’s record by two seconds. Cheptegei is the world 10,000m and Olympic 5,000m champion.
Another athlete we spoke to is the 2020 Tokyo Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega.
The World Athletics Indoor Championships 3,000m title holder said that he has had enough rest and he is ready for the next season.
His immediate focus is the World Athletics Country Championships scheduled for February 18 in Bathurst, Australia.
He will gauge himself at the national Ethiopian trials as he gears up for the Budapest contest where he hopes to atone for his poor show in Oregon.
Barega came a distant 12th in the 5,000m race in Oregon and was a disappointing fifth in the 10,000m race.
“It wasn't a good season for me. I realised my mistake because I took part in a lot of races. I was fatigued in Oregon and lacked a strong finishing kick,” he said.
To boost his speed, the former world junior 5,000m champion will compete in 1,500m races.
Barega said he has to work extra hard to counter Kenyan opponents.
“I believe without Kenyan athletes, there is no competition. I really respect my rivals like Nicholas Kimeli, Jacob Krop and Daniel Simiu," said Barega, who started the season on a high note after winning the 10.8km title at the 79th Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza — a World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold meeting in Elgoibar, Spain on Sunday.
Another runner we spoke to Nation Sport was 3,000m steeplechase world bronze medallist Mekides Abebe, who finished fourth at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games that were held last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I admire Kenyan athletes, especially the steeplechasers, who inspire me,” said Mekides.
“I have interacted with world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and I love the way she competes. I want to follow in her footsteps."
Middle distance runner Diribe Welteji, who specialises in 800m and 1,500m races, also spoke to Nation Sport.
The 2018 World Athletics Under-20 Championships 800m gold medallist won the race in Tampere, Finland in a course record time of 1:59.74.
After missing a medal at the Oregon championship last year, Welteji is keen to rectify her mistakes.
At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games she reached the semi-finals in the 1,500m race.
“I’m planning to double up in Budapest in the 800m and 1,500m races," said Welteji.
World marathon champion Gotytom Gebreslase has her work cut out this season.
She has been named to the elite team of athletes who will feature in this year's Boston Marathon race against two-time world champion Edna Kiplagat, New York Marathon Sharon Lokedi, world bronze medallist Lonah Salpeter, Mary Wacera, and Ababel Yeshaneh, among others.
In an interview, Gotytom, who won the world title in a course record of 2:18:11, said that she respects Kenya’s Judith Korir whom she beat to second place at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon.
She said that she is one of the strongest athletes she has competed against from Kenya.
“I love Kenyan athletes and I gained good experience when I competed with Korir. Kenyans are tough competitors, they make competition sweet and have made me strong,” said Gotytom.
“I also gained experience when I finished third in the Tokyo Marathon and also at the New York Marathon. I look forward to retaining my world title,” said Gotytom, who is under Elite Sports Management.
Gotytom was born in Tigray region and started running at a tender age after listening to radio programmes on athletics.
That inspired her to try the sport, and through the support from her family, she has made tremendous progress.
Gotytom represented Ethiopia at the 2011 World Athletics Youth Championships in the 3,000m race where she bagged a gold medal in Lille, France.