Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cycle away Eritrea: Olympics here we come Like it or not.

     I guess the term "Nkhid Tray" or "Segum" is applying in sports these days and Eritrea is starting to make some serious noise be it running, cycling, or soccer. While runners continue to run and make their mark internationally, the Cycling team has also proven to be the best in Africa. What an honor and what a moment for the nation of Eritrea. It was just in 1996 when two Eritrean Cyclists came to the U.S.A to be exact in the city of Atlanta when they were denied participation at the 1996 Olympics. The two who got an overwhelming support from Eritreans in the diaspora along with a humanitarian Japanese group known as Peace Boat did not get a chance to participate. Yohannes Zekarias and Bereket Zere watched on the sidelines despite all the efforts to get them to participate only four years after an independent Eritrea was formed. Their moment of pride was shattered as the IOC denied them entry to participate after they flew to Atlanta all the way from Eritrea.

Well! Oh how times have changed. Today two Eritrean cyclists have qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London and more may come as we near the next Olympics almost 15 years later since Atlanta 1996. Daniel Teklehaimanot and Meron Russom have already bought their ticket after an astonshing performance at the African Continental Cycling championships held in Rwanda. The Eritrean national team has also shown that it is capable of working as a team as they won the team trial session easily placing First. In the elite race Eritrea placed four cyclists in the top ten and 7 in the top twenty with Frekalsi Debessai finishing a strong 19th. Frekalsi one of the top notch cyclists continues to play a big role in the development of Eritrean cycling despite his results which is not too bad at all. 

     What makes Daniel's situation even sweeter is the fact that he is a professional athlete in Europe and he made his way back to represent Eritrea in the African continental championship. He is an inspiration to other athletes and we hope to see an Eritrean Gold in the 2012 Olympics in London.
Congratulations to Eritrean athletics as the term "Nkhid tray" & "Segum" are proving to be a success model just like everything else happening in this nation of the can do people. 

For Eri-International sports 
Mike Seium

Here below are results of the top 20 from the African Cycling Competition in the Elite men's course,
Top twenty Elite (Eritrean cyclists highlighted)

1Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eri)3:54:06
2Meron Russom (Eri)0:00:28
3Dan Craven (Nam)
4Adil Jelloul (Mar)0:01:14
5Araya Medhin Dawit Haile (Eri)
6Azzedine Lagab (Alg)0:01:31
7Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA)
8Adrien Niyonshuti (Rwa)
9Teweldemedhin Natnael Berhane (Eri)
10Abdelati Saadoune (Mar)
11Tesfai Teklit (Eri)0:01:55
12Paul Agorir (Ken)0:01:59
13Hichem Chabane (Alg)0:02:57
14Estifanos Gebresilassie (Eth)
15Gabriel Combrinck (RSA)0:03:33
16Sollomon Bittew Shiferaw (Eth)
17Issiaka Fofana (CIv)0:08:09
18Fathi Ahmed Atunsi (Lba)
19Frekalsi Debesai (Eri)



Saturday, November 13, 2010

2010 New York City Marathon, Meb Kiflezghi, Running & Eritrea: A perspective

     The impact of an Athlete in any given sport can be tremendous towards others. It also matters how the athletes handle their long-term careers in order to make a difference in the lives of other runners.  Eritrean born and American raised Meberhatom Kiflezghi is a unique individual who I have had the pleasure of knowing for a long time. What Meb as he is known brings to the table is the fact that he thinks of his sport in a bigger frame of mind than any other athlete I have come across. His vision for success is a great attribute to his ability as a disciplined person. He also has been able to draw a great picture of what it feels like to be a successful individual by making decisions that are honest and beneficial to him, his family and community. What I am about to do is use his success as a model for all immigrants and especially Eritreans, so that more young people can look up to his story and strive to be positive citizens of their respective countries and community.

      On November 7th, 210 while witnessing the New York City Marathon as a credentialed media member, it gave me a great pleasure to see first hand what most people don’t get a chance to see. I have covered almost every sport as a journalist including 10K events and track and field events in the past, however this would make it my first big city marathon and just to be in New York City to feel the excitement of this event has to be one of the most memorable moments in my life. As a bonus in witnessing history, I had a first hand look at probably one of the greatest runners of the sport announce his retirement after dropping out of the NYC marathon earlier that day. 

MEB: Maintain Excellent Balance

Ok! Now I want to get back to Meb and talk about my view of how he has had an impact in the sport of running, as an Eritrean-American (Immigrant) and as an individual who has been very powerful in making sure his goals have been met. He has been able to maintain excellent balance in his life as his slogan for his newly formed foundation says.  To all youngsters and future generations that in order to achieve success where ever it may be, you have to believe in yourself and can’t be bothered by the small things that get in your way.  Why is Meb’s story different than other athletes in his sport? I will make good use of his latest book to answer this question point-by-point.

1. Meb came to America and attended high school as a regular student like everyone else. He had no previous running experience and joined his high school track team as a raw talent. He was a soccer player who took matters into his own hands to be an athlete in a different sport after he was not being fairly treated on the soccer field. In his book a quote that he mentions goes like this “ Running is like Life. You start at the same place with your fellow runners. You will finish at the same place. How you do is largely up to you. If you win you congratulate your team and yourself. If you lose, you evaluate how to improve. You can’t make excuses like, “he did not pass me the ball” or “The coach did not put me in.” It’s on you that is the beauty of the sport.” He was encouraged by a friend to take up running on a full time basis.

2. Meb always appreciates a higher being. He thanks god when he is up and when he is down and his title for his book says it all. “Run to win” a partial quote from the bible on Corinthians 9:24 “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win.” So whatever your religion may be, it is always wise to fear, respect and thank god. But always focus on your goals and desires to be the best that you can be.

3. Meb put his land of origin and his adopted homeland on the map in a field that had been dominated by Kenyans, Ethiopians and Moroccans. While historically both Eritrea and the United States aren’t known for the sport of running, Meb was able to use his skills and hard work along with the opportunity that came along with it to help the USA get to the top of the running scene. He also helped create a running and athletics phenomena in his land of origin Eritrea. He inspired many runners by his actions. In appreciation to Meb, the most famous Eritrean athlete and another incredible human being said this about Meb,
“ Meb and I had our shining moment at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens. Those of us, who know Meb, know he is a very giving person who loves interacting with people. In person, via e-mail and by phone. Meb advises me and my Eritrean teammates on many matters related  to running. I was very happy to see him earn an Olympic medal and win the New York City marathon.”

What other pioneering runners did for their countries, Meb did for Eritrea and the United States. The story of Meb bridges a gap between two countries that have historical foreign policy disagreements. Like many other immigrants before him Meb and the rest of us Eritrean Americans should strive to do the same and in order to do so, it is encouraged that young people respect the value of life and the love and respect of family, god/allah, and the discipline that requires to be a humble & successful person.

On Sunday November 7th, 2010 at the New York City marathon, I witnessed a lot of positive things. As a former three sports high school athlete I recall during wrestling tournaments the competitive spirit was very highly driven but during the week of the regional and State tournaments, the opportunity to meet and build a relationship with your competitors and other schools coaches was something that flashed back in my mind. So, here I am in the media room and throughout the hotel where the athletes congregated, the headquarters of the ING New York City marathon in the heart of Manhattan, and I witness some of the greatest athletes like Haile Gebereslassie, Kaled Khanougi and 2004 Athens Olympic marathon gold medalist Stefano Baldini of Italy and others just enjoying each other in the spirit of camaraderie and affection and respect for one another that you mostly see in team sports. All the runners had this unique way about them in how they communicated with each other and respected one another but when it came time to compete like the biblical quote from Meb's book above everyone had to “Run to win”.
The blogger with 2004 Marathon Gold & Silver Medalists Meb and Italian Stefano Baldini

     During the press conference when many media outlets were covering the post marathon reactions the organizers brought in the athletes turn by turn and Legendary runner Haile Gebreslassie announced he was retiring at which point everyone was quite and shocked since it was not expected, but Haile vowed that it was time to hang it up and pass on the baton to the younger generation. Then Meb came in as a defending champion even though he finished a very respectable 6th, place. Meb was even surprised at the fact that Haile would announce his retirement but in a show of respect and admiration for Haile, Meb was very saddened and surprised and spoke of how he had influenced him as a runner. Meb is a class act and what Haile did for his country and running Meb was emulating for his two countries of Eritrea and the United States.With the thought in mind what if Eritrean Zeresenay Tadesse came to New York City and how would he fare? I proceeded to ask Meb a question which I wanted a reaction to. I also calculated the fact that the winner of the NYC marathon Gebre Gebremariam made his debut in the marathon race for the first time. Just like the many other potential Eritrean runners this guy comes from cross country and it was his first marathon ever. My question to Meb was as follows,

Q. Just like you mentioned Haile was your inspiration like he is for many other people, you're an inspiration to many runners, including half marathon world champion in Zersenay Tadesse. And Gebre Gebremariam, this was his first marathon, and he was a half marathon runner. So do you think chances are very good for people like Zersenay Tadesse to come and run in these types of races?

MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Thanks for the nice comments. I always try to be the best that I can as a human being. If you do the right things, things will fall in places. I know Zersenay Tadesse hasn't hit the home run on the marathon, but he's definitely done five times the world champion, and 58:38 I think is the world record. So his day will come. And Gebremariam, he just I remember on First Avenue he was like, come on, let's go. Because he asked me for advice right when we laid down in the tent, what do we need to do? I said, be patient on First Avenue. I remember I was behind, he said, come on, let's go, let's go. I tried to go with him. But he was able to connect with the other guys. It's all about passing the knowledge. Give them good advice, and hopefully like you said I inspire some people. They'll inspire others to do the best they can. It's great to see. The ING New York City Marathon is not an easy thing.

Immediately following that question I was getting bombarded by some of the press members and other folks that came and introduced themselves and proceeded to ask who I was talking about and how do you spell his name? I said Zersenay Tadesse and he can be currently found in the top two of the IAAF athlete of the year voting if you go to the IAAF website. Lo and behold the next day I saw on the website that Zeresenay Tadesse along with 4 other athletes were chosen to be in the competition for IAAF athlete of the year. Zeresenay, thanks to all the votes from those that know he is a hard working Eritrean hero but also one of the greatest runners of our time, decided to vote for him as the top leader of the IAAF vote. It was a pleasure to explain to some of these folks about Eritrea and most of them were somewhat aware of it thanks to Meb. What made it even sweet for me was after I got home that evening I saw in the news where Teklemariam Medhin along with Kidane Tadesse (Zeresenay’s younger brother), Samuel Tsegai , Kiflom Sium, and Tesfayohannes Mesfin of Eritrea finished in the top ten at ‘Cross Internacional de Atapuerca’ which witnessed the shock defeated of  World Cross Country champion Kenyan Joseph Ebuya as he was beaten by Eritrea’s Teklemariam at the end of the race. The rest of the team finished in 3rd, 5th, 9th, & 10th place giving Eritrea hope to be the next nation in the region to join the long and middle distance running surge that has long been dominated by the Kenyans and Ethiopians.
A book that I recommend to everyone who wants to be inspired. The story of an Eritrean-American athlete.

     Finally, I would like to say that Meb has been an inspiration to many like Zeresenay after him and the many more to come. I also would like to say that Merhawi and the entire kiflezghi family have left a long legacy for humanity through their support of Meb. His wife and beautiful daughters are also a pleasure to be around. It does truly take a village to raise a family and my hope by writing this blog is to inspire other Eritrean and non-Eritreans to work hard in whatever they do in life. I recommend Meb’s book highly. It is informative, educational and can relate to many other Eritrean-American families stories in some fashion. Congratulations to Meb on his foundation the "MEB Foundation" which according to him will continue to educate, support and create healthy families. Donations from the book will be given to the foundations work. 

The writer of the blog currently serves at the EAAA information desk officer.

For Eri-International sports blog
Mike Seium

Friday, October 29, 2010

Running Eritrea: The emergence of a new running nation.

Running Eritrea: The Emergence of a new running nation.

     When most people think of long distance running and Africa, the nations that come to mind quick are Kenya & Ethiopia. These two nations have dominated the long distance sport for many decades and continue these days to be top long distance running nations in the world just like they were more than 50 years ago. In the early 2000's however a nation less than 15 years independent and known more for soccer & cycling was starting to get some attention internationally and in North America. It was in the mid 1990’s when a young Eritrean-American who migrated here at a young age and picked up the sport of running in the American inter scholastic system took the college running scene by storm. Meb Kiflezghi broke all kinds of records at UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) and became one of the best runners in the history of the sport. Another Eritrean who also pioneered the growth of the sport Bolota Asmerom run for University of California at Berkley and represented Eritrea in international competition. 
The blogger with Olympic medalist & NYC marathon defending Champ.

      Other runners also qualified and represented Eritrea from the U.S. A. Meanwhile in Eritrea the sport of running started to get some attention. The organization known as Eritrean American Athletics Association lead by Yohanness Debesai and other Eritreans who had different roles was officially established in the city of Atlanta during the Eritrean Sports Festival annual event that took place in the year 2001. The likes of Zeresenay Tadesse, Yared Asmerom, Samuel Tsegai, Ali Abdella Afringi, Yonas kifle, Kidane Tadesse and more runners including female runners like Simret Sultan, Nebiat Habtemariam, & Furtuna Zegergish started to make headlines.
VOTE for Zeresenay: See link below. The Pride of the Running Nation.

     As most of us know since then with the collaboration of EAAA and the Eritrean National Sports Federation, the country continues to produce more top notch long distance runners that are bringing amazing results. It is also to be known that many other runners of Eritrean heritage have excelled in different parts of the world including Canada’s top runner Simon Bairu who was an NCAA champion at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Many more youngsters male and female have attended college through scholarship as a result of the growth of the sport. See a clip below titled Rookies vs the world where a very articulate Simon Bairu is featured.

Most Athletics competitions particularly the sport of running is very interactive. People learn from observing and following them sometimes unconsciously. The running euphoria that has taken Eritreans by surprise in the past decade is not any different. Eritreans and the international community have started to witness, to watch, to understand and experience the logic behind the very quick success of Eritrean runners who have been registering amazing results in many competitions throughout the world. Like everything else in Eritrea the development of running is starting to be witnessed everywhere.

     Though it garners less attention than cycling & soccer, thousands of Eritreans throughout the world are already passionate about, and conversant in the sport of running. In fact, it may well be the most closely followed sport at the moment as a result of the success stories of the greatest runner to come out of Eritrea Zeresenay Tadesse. Here are updates, highlights and important information for all fans as the New York City and Frankfurt Marathons are approaching us very soon.

* The MEB foundation will be inaugurated in New York City on Wed. November the 3rd, 2010. The foundation initiated by New York City Marathon defending champion Meb Kiflezghi will be a great source of inspiration for health and competition running. MEB other than the name stands for Maintain Excellent Balance.

* The IAAF is the international Athletics Association Federation, which is the governing body of athletics.

* Currently there are 99 Eritrean Male runners and 39 Female runners whose information can be found on the IAAF website. This can be found by clicking athletes and choosing the country of Eritrea and then clicking on the Eritrean athlete you would like to learn about.

* Also by clicking on the IAAF website while you are at it VOTE! VOTE! For Zeresenay Tadesse whose accomplishments this year have been AWESOME!  He deserves the “MALE ATHELETE OF THE YEAR” award.  Three people will be chosen and we shall find out who the final winner will be in November. Click on the following link and VOTE!

* Meb Kiflezghi along with Simon Bairu both top runners in the U.S and Canada will be competeing in the New York City Marathon on November 7th, 2010. Meb will be defending his title while this is the first competition ever in the marathon for Simon Bairu. Both Athtletes are NCAA champions at UCLA and University of Wisconsin in Madison.

* Yared Asmerom will be competing in the Frankfurt Marathon coming up this weekend October 31st, 2010.

* Beraki Beyene Zerea finished in the top 10 in the Toronto Marathon in September qualifying for the London Olympics in 2012 with a time of 2:11:22 He has also taken third in the Hamburg Marathon in Germany and has quickly improved his time. His potential is unlimited.

Beraki Beyene Zerea the great Eritrean hope. 

* In the high school and college scene Shewit Weldensea has been showing some great success in the Raleigh North Carolina, winning several competitions while Meron Fessehaye also in the North Carolina (Charlotte) doing very well. We will try to feature more high school runners as we gather more information. Mean while both Shewit and Meron will be competing in major events this week. The Unique part about Shewit is she has been very successful finishing in the top 10 in the 1500-meter, which is considered more of a middle distance running.

* Petros Welday from Maryland is also showing a lot of potential finshing in top spot at a recently held national footlocker running event. If there are any Eritrea runners who are doing well please don't hesitate to contact us and respond back to this blog.

 Abrar Ousman Not the singer but as you can see the 3000 meter Youth Olympic Champion.

It is also to be remembered that this past September Eritrea stood first in the 26th World Mountain Running Championship that was held in Slovenia in which over 120 athletes from 40 countries took part. In the men’s race covering 12 kilometers, Eritrean athletes finished 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 9th and 12th respectively. Eritrea stood first followed by USA and Italy.  Similarly, Eritrean athlete Yosef Andemichael won gold medal in the 8.5 Km-long similar junior men’s race.  Meanwhile in Singapore at the 2010 Youth Olympics, ERITREA'S ABRAR OSMAN Crossed the FINISH LINE to win GOLD MEDAL IN THE MEN'S 3000M FINAL SINGAPORE 2010 YOUTH OLYMPIC GAME. Abrar Ousman took most Eritreans by storm when his name was all over newspapers and websites. Some thought there was a mishap since his namesake is one of the top Eritreans singers. See his excellent win on the link below. Eri-International sports is proud of all the hard work and dedication of Eritrean athletes.

Abrar Ousman winning the 3000 meters in Singapore.

The writer of this blog is the current Information officer for EAAA.

Eri-International sports blog would also like to congratulate Merhawi Kiflezghi the brother of Meb for working very hard to help up and coming Eritrean and non-Eritrean athletes through his sports management company known as Hawi Sports management. Merhawi began his career as a student manager for the UCLA Men’s basketball team from 1999-2002; Hawi was critical to the team’s success as a consistently top ranked NCAA team. His experience on the court merged with his studies off the court as he went on to receive a B.A in Communication Studies from UCLA and a J.D. (Juris Doctor) Law degree from UCLA School of law will help out his Eritrean and non-Eritrean clients and partners.

Eritrea's Struggle to Survive