Gebregziabher Gebremariam is a very well-known athlete and manger of Ethio-Trial Race. He competes in different IAAF World Cross Country Championships and won the junior title in 2002 and two other silver medals in the senior races in 2004. He represented Ethiopia in 5000 meters at the 2004 Summer Olympics, and in 10000 meters at the 2012 summer Olympics. He was also the 2009 World cross Country. Champion In 21st general assembly of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF), he was a candidate representing Tigray Regional State to become member of the Executive Committee, of EAF. Following the election he achieved and became a member of the executive committee and vice president of the federation. Dawit Tolesa of The Reporter sat down with him to discuss the election process, his future plan and other related stories. Excerpts.
The Reporter: What are the major factors which pushed you to run for the executive committee of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) in 21st General Assembly meeting?
Gebregziabher: As we all know the name Ethiopia is associated with great victories when it comes to international athletics competitions. We have proven track record in athletics competition across the globe, especially in long-distance running and track race. However, through time we are losing our footing in many competitions including the Olympics. Our result in 2016 Rio summer Olympic is the major manifestation of this. The Ethiopian team which took part at the Rio Olympics performed very poorly and it came back home with only one Gold, two silver and five bronze medals. Apart from this, issues of doping, Athlete management, training, international communications and finance were getting worse and worse in the federation. All these challenges and hindrances were not being addressed properly in the past two decades. For this reason, my friends and I have discussed and decided to take part in the administration of the federation. This is the major reason for me to participate in election and to run for the executive committee of the EAF, that comprises of nine regional states and two city administrations. Though we have decided to participate in the election, it required a great amount of lobbying of the regions to field us as representatives of the respective regions, which was not an easy task. Finally, all the wrangling and long discussions paid off, and we were allowed to run for the position.
With the exception of Gezahegn Abera, Sydney Olympic marathon gold medalist, veteran athletes of the country like the legendary Haile Gebre sillasie and, you were elected as president and member of the executive committees to serve EAF for the coming four years. So what is the next plan and what are the priority areas regarding the structure and administration of the federations?
There are various programs in EAF; we don’t want to start from scratch by destroying the existing structures and administrations, which have been used by the previous management. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a new plan to introduce. We have additional strategies which will help to rearrange the previous structure. We will work on improving the positive achievements and eliminate the drawbacks. Based on scientific researches we will investigate the challenges thoroughly. Subsequently the members of the executive committee will deliberate on the challenges and difficulties to arrive at possible solutions.
During the selection process of team Ethiopia to Rio Olympics you and other athletes were complaining on the transparency of the process. But at the same time, there were some athletes who were not happy about the complaints. So, how do you describe your current relations with those athletes who were not happy about the complaining?
I don’t think there is such a squabble between us. We all are fighting for the development of athletics in the country. Nothing is personal here. It was rather a misunderstanding of the issues and the real questions that we had raised to the governing body and EAF.We believe that they know clearly our intentions and goals. So, if something happened, we are ready to work with them closely.
One of the changes that you want to bring to the EAF is focus on professionals of this field. Now, you are assuming the vice-president position of the federation. So what kind of mechanisms are you going to implement to work with professionals in the future?
Honestly speaking, it is a fact that professionals, composed of both veteran athletes and well-experienced coaches, should support athletics. To this effect, we are ready to work with professionals from different perspectives and ready to take immediate actions based on that. Therefore, based on the requirement and qualifications that athletics needs we will recruit professionals and equipped them with all the necessary facilities.
Another controversial issue in Ethiopian athletics is associated with training and selection of coaches before competitions. There are athletes who are trained by themselves while representing the national team; and there are also those who are trained by the coaches of the national teams. In this regard there are claims that this training pattern affected the team spirit of the national team. What is your stance on such claims?
Well, I believe that athletes should indulge in teamwork, especially when they are competing under the umbrella of the national team. This is mainly because a strong team spirit plays a very big role to become competent and winner in the international athletics competitions. So, in this regard, if an athlete takes part in the national team, it is a must to work and train with members of the team, whereas if it is an individual race it’s up to the athlete to do the training in a way that he/she feels right.
But, initially we have to workout training program schedule in order to understand and the fulfill the need of athletes.
According to the new EAF executive committee, the training session of the athletes for the national team should be conducted out of the capital. What is the rationale behind this decision?
It is mainly because professional athletes should conduct their training in relaxed environment. In this regard it would be better for the athletes if they conduct their training sessions outside the capital. The air that our athletes inhale in Addis Ababa is not helping them to keep their performance consistently. There are several services givers such as managers, visa and license facilitators in Addis, so these are the main reasons for regional athletes eying Addis Ababa. However, these things will be improved in the future. Therefore, for the time being, it is a great choice to make the athletes perform their training outside the capital.
What are the next activities of the EAF Executive Committee and the major challenges that you expect?
Now, we just concluded the election of the president and the executive committee members, subsequently we will appoint different professionals in several positions and put in place some goals to be achieved by the executive committee. Secondly, by recruiting coaches, athletes, professionals and experienced sports personalities, we will launch the national team ahead of different races. Almost 80 percent our challenges are resolved. The remaining challenges will be in the office if the existing management refuse to implement the restructure whether what we want to implement in the future.