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Tough times ahead for long distance athletics

Tough times ahead for long distance athletics

Dominant over the past half a century, in both male and female categories, Ethiopian long distance athletes have made history time and time again. Dominating the track, long-distance and cross-country disciplines for the past 50 years, both athletes representing Ethiopia and the other athletics power-house, Kenya; are the usual winners and record holders in most long-distance races However, this is under threat as the IAAF has recently moved to cancel the 5000 meter race from the top-flight athletic event, Diamond League, spelling bad news for East African long-distance athletes.

On Monday, March 11, 2019, IAAF stated that, the IAAF diamond league board together with the IAAF has been reviewing the future of the competition, especially after 2020. The statement goes on to say that, the IAAF council approved the decision to cancel the 5000m race starting from 2020 Diamond League tournament.

The IAAF also unveiled that the upcoming 2020 tournament will include only 12 meetings based on the criteria developed in 2018. According to IAAF, 12 males and 12 female participate in the meetings and the final, with the longest discipline being the 3000m race.

Nevertheless the decision to cancel the 5000m race from the Diamond League meeting has not gone without opposition.Several sport personalities have complained over the unexpected decision by the IAAF council.

Haile Gebersilassie, a legend in long distance running and an icon has vehemently opposed IAAF’s decision insisting, “It is unacceptable.”

“I am really amazed by the decision made by the IAAF regarding the elimination of 5000m from the Diamond League competition,” Former Ethiopian Athletics Federation president, Haile Gebresillassie, told The Reporter.

According to Haile, this decision will hamper the growth of long distance runners and the young generation.

“The decision will force our athletes to only run marathon races and this is harmful for youngsters. It is not possible to run easily in a marathon directly without experiencing long distance meetings,” He added.

Nonetheless, IAAF has been cut off 10k from Diamond League race and now the decision again removed 5000m from meetings.

Former long distance runner and current vice president of Ethiopian athletics federation, GebreEgziabher Gebremedhin, explain the next target to beIAAF’s World Championships and Olympic games.

“It is the time that we Africans stand together and oppose the decision. If we accept the decision, the next decision will be the removal of World and Olympic competitions,” He told The Reporter.

Former Ethiopian athletes believe that the decision mainly affects Ethiopia and Kenya and will help the IAAF focus on middle and short distance running.

The Athletics Kenya (KA) officially opposed the decision on Thursday, March 14, 2019. According to Reuters, Athletics Kenya president, Jackson Tuwei said that it was “totally unfair” to drop the events in which African athletes have been doing very well in.

“I will raise the issue at the African Athletics Confederation Congress in Abdijan (Ivory coast) next month, because this is totally unfair to our athletes,” Tuwei told reporters.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, 14 2019, the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) also called for the reconsideration of the decision. The statement elaborated that the decision is a great shock for the federation.

The IAAF stated that the decision has been made after a year–long review, which included detailed researches and discussions with athletes, coaches, fans and broadcasters. The idea was to bring together the very best in a one day meetings in a high quality annual international circuit, giving athletes a compelling and rewarding reason to compete. Furthermore,it said that that each meeting will be broadcasted globally ata faster pace 90 minute television events.

However, the federation opposed the statement, and said, “There is no record showing a platform which was provided for long distance athletes particularly from East Africa to have a say in these matter.”

“The federation also noted that 10k was cancelled and now the 5000m.” Hence, the federation calls for the reconsideration of the decision again. Furthermore, the EAF also claimed that they are facing obstacles in finding competitions for 10k athletes to check their minima for major events like the IAAF World championships and Olympics.

The IAAF is expected to answer to calls for the reconsideration of the decisions for both East African athletics federations.