By Michael Seium
Short History starting from 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
As the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, commonly known as Rio 2016, take place in Rio DE Janeiro, Brazil, from 5 to 21 August 2016 there will be a record number of countries participating in a record number of sports. There will be more than 10,500 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees. Kosovo and South Sudan will be participating for the first time. Meanwhile, it is to be recalled that Eritrea officially competed in the Olympic games for the first time at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Three athletes Bolota Asmerom, Yonas Kifle and Nebiat Habtemariam made history as the first participants from this very young and proud nation. Representing the USA at the time a young Eritrean-American Meb Kiflezghi took 12th place in the 10,000 meters making Eritrean sports fans happy despite his participation as an American athlete.
Eritrean national team & pride with the President of Eritrea!
Eritrea at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
Eritrea in 2004 did the unthinkable. It was a time of sheer jubilation as legendary and first and only medal winner up to this point Zeresenay Tadesse brought home a bronze medal in the 10,000 meters despite tough competition against very seasoned Ethiopian and Kenyan runners. Zeresenay also took 7th place in the 5,000 meters. Yonas Kifle took 16th place while Samson Kiflemariam and Nebiat Habtemariam both took part as part of the 4 member team. This would be Nebiat’s second and up to this point the only female to participate in the Olympics. In Athens Eritrea made history as the nation won its first Olympic medal in its only second appearance.
A few days later also in Athens, Eritrean-American Meb Kiflezghi would win a silver medal making both his adopted home and his land of origin Eritrea very proud. Meb finished second in the men's marathon, winning a silver medal in a personal season's best time of 2 hours, 11 minutes and 29 seconds. This was the first medal won for America in the Olympic marathon since Frank Shorter won the gold in the 1972 Summer Olympics and took the silver medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
Eritrea's history making athlete with a medal! Go get another!
Eritrea at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
Up to this point its largest contingent, Eritrea sent a delegation of 10 athletes to compete at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. While Nebiat Habtemariam made her third appearance this time a second female Simret Sultan joined her. A new core group of runners joined Zeresenay Tadesse as Eritrea continued to build its running program from scratch. Zeresenay took 5th place in the 10,000 meters while his brother Kidane Tadesse took 10th in the 5,000 meters and 11th, in the 10,000 meters. Yared Asmerom finished in 8th, place in the marathon and even though Eritrea did not earn a medal, it showed some signs of growth and maturity in running. Hais Wolday, Tesfayohannes Mesfin and Ali Abdalla along with Teklemariam Medhin, and Yonas Kifle who placed 32nd & 36th in their respective events of 10,000 and the marathon round up the Eritrean national team. As a result of hip injury Meb Kiflezghi was not able to participate missing the Olympics and recovering. It was following this Olympic that the number of runners grew at a rapid rate. Some runners even decided to move to other countries, meanwhile diaspora runners also started to perform well in their respective countries. Eritrea and Eritreans made lots of progress. The fact that EAAA (Eritrean American Athletics Association) helped with many activities should never go un-noticed.
Eritrea at the 2012 Olympics in London, England.
Eritrea competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, It was the nation's fourth appearance at the Olympics. The Eritrean National Olympic Committee sent 12 athletes to the Games to compete in athletics. For the first time Daniel Teklehaymanot also participated in road cycling. Marathon runner Yonas Kifle had competed at every Olympic games since Sydney 2000 while Nebiat Habtemariam was replaced by Rehaset Mehari who did well in her first marathon. Eritrea did well as a new and still developing nation in comparison to many other developed countries who spend millions on their athletes. Samuel Tsegay, Amanuel Mesel took 15th in the 5000 meters, Abrar Osman Adem, Zeresenay Tadesse who finished in a respectable 6th, and Teklemariam Medhin in 7th and new comer Nguse Tesfalidet who took 15th place in the 10,000 meters. Eritrea once again despite not winning a medal has done very well. Placing athletes in the top 10 for a new nation of just 25 years is no easy task. It is also to be known that once again at an age of 36 years old Meb Kiflezghi finished 4th in the London Marathon in an amazing finish after having some minor difficulties early on in the race.
4 time Olympic participant in 5 olympics at 40 years old! Legend!
So what happens in Rio, Brazil 2016?
There will be 15 athletes with one female representative while one cycling spot for Eritrea. It still puzzles me as to why the African champion in Cycling only has one cyclist while other African and Asian countries have more? Based on the criteria I believe Eritrea could have had more cyclists. The lone representative for Eritrea once again is Daniel Teklehaymanot who just got done representing his professional team in the Tour De France. We hope Danny will shine as the Cycling Road race is slated to take place early on in the Olympics. Let’s look out for Daniel this coming weekend.
Go Daniel King of the Mountain!
Eritrea’s forte so far has been in the 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, and the marathon. This time around Eritrea will have a participant in the 3,000 meters steeple chase which Yemane Haileslassie this past weekend took second place in. Even though the official list is not available Eri-International sports will try to analyze the way in which the team will participate. Eritrea has three quota places in the 5,000 meters which will include Abrar Osman, Aron Kifle, Awet Nftalem Kibrab. In the 10,000 meters hoping to see veteran Zeresenay Tadesse along with 2 others whose names are not mentioned. In the steeple chase we hope to see another great performance from Yemane Haileslassie. Then comes the marathon which will have a record number of Eritreans including Eritrean-American Meb Kiflezghi as well as Eritrean-Brit Tsegai Tewolde who will participate for the British, another Eritrean-Swiss Tadesse Mehari will also be competing in the Swiss flag. They’re also a couple of other athletes who will be competing for other nations.
Good luck to the future of Eritrean athletes.
While it is always very difficult to get a medal at the Olympics, there is a good chance that an Eritrean athlete may finally be successful in Rio adding another award to the legendary Zeresenay Tadesse. We wish the Eritrean national team as well as all those proud Eritreans the best as we hope to enjoy the show that is the Olympics live from Rio where we also wish the Brazilian nation and people a very successful event.
For Eri-International sports