Stars Turn Up For African Championships
Many of Africa's budding stars have turned up in Addis Ababa hoping to use this year's African Athletics Championships as a major preparation for the Olympics to be staged in August.
Ghana's Vida Anim,Africa's sprint queen, Kenenisa Bekele, the world's 10,000m champion, Tirunesh Dibaba, as well as Meserat Defar, are among the over 2,000 athletes from 43 nations who will compete in the Addis Ababa Meet which opens today and ends on May 4.
Most of the defending champions in attendance are eager to successfully defend their titles at the biennal event, even though injuries have also robbed the event of some of the exciting and world performers.
Commonwealth gold medalist in long jump, Ignatius Gaisah, and veteran middle distance champion, Maria Mutola, are the top stars to miss the competition.
Ghana's contingent which is already in Addis Ababa, is counting on a bunch of young and budding stars to retain Ghana's place among Africa's athletics elite.
Africa's sprint queen, Anim, just back from injury is poised to retain her titles in the individual 100 and 200m events, as well as spearhead the dream quartet to also retain the gold they won in Mauritius two years ago.
However, new star, Nigeria's Francisca Idoko stepping out with such confidence, poses a strong challenge to Anim's dream.
In the men's sprint events, Ghana's chances are further dicey with the absence of Aziz Zakari whose ban will be over in June, while Eric Nkansah, one of the most experienced sprinters in the pack, faces stiff challenge from African champion Olusoji Fashuba.
Meanwhile, hosts Ethiopia have forecast a clean sweep for their distance runners at the Championships.
Olympic champion and world record holder, Bekele, will lead the 10,000 metres squad, which also features Olympic silver medallist Sileshi Sihine, while Tariku Bekele heads the 5,000 metres team.
World champion Dibaba will compete in the 10,000 metres women's event, while the 5,000 metres squad includes Defar — the Olympic and world champion at that distance.
Story by Rosalind Amoh