Photo Essay - August 15, 2004 - MediaETHIOPIA
Tryst with Destiny
August 7, 2004: A rainy Saturday afternoon in the Entoto mountains along the Gojam road almost 9000 ft above sea level finds our elite athletes doing their last minute preparations for the highly anticipated races of the Athens 2004 Olympics. These are mountains that challenge even some of the well-maintained all-terrain vehicles of the country. The air is Kremt-crisp, with a whiff of the smell of wet red volcanic mountain soil and the tingling and penetrating aroma of the ever-present Eucalyptus tree pervading the country-side. Kenenisa - the rising super star of Ethiopian athletics leads the group at a constant and amazingly smooth pace as the altitude keeps on increasing. It is perhaps 9500 feet by now. Among the elite athletes, Sihin and Gebre Mariam from the men and Ijigayehu Dibaba, Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar from the women effortlessly negotiate the mountains as if these mountians were the plains of Jan Meda down in Addis Ababa. The only sound in this piece of tranquil Ethiopia is that of the Kremt birds, occasional cracking of Jiraf of shepherds/Iregnas from the distant and the well-paced but noticeably heavy and clear breathing of these athletes. We take pictures careful not to attract attention; but the athletes smile and keep on running. In their eyes we see determination, strength, inspiration and a destiny-in-waiting. What is Kenenisa thinking, we muse. Perhaps the gold medal in 5K and 10K, his anticipated race with the Emperor himself Haile, his tryst with destiny, the immense pressure building, or may be just nothing but his routine exercise of today? We photograph Tirunesh Dibaba. She smiles and keeps on running. Perhaps, she is thinking that the Entoto mountains have to be conquered just like yesterday, the day-before yesterday and the many days of this training regimen of the past many months. Perhaps like Ras Kenenisa she is thinking of just todays race and her improving time. Or maybe, she is thinking of her sister Ijigayehu and her aunt Derartu who were running only a few meters ahead of her. This is a golden family having a routine family outing; or at least they make it look like such a moment.. An hour into the training, the altitude is now at 10,000 feet above sea level! We are photographers and webmasters mere mortals. The small adventure is already too much for our bodies. Suddenly our minds drift to the plateau below Addis Ababa! Thoughts of tiqus injera Qategna and Tibis and cold beer fill up our minds. We wave the athletes good-bye and descend to the Addis Ababa plateau. Kenenisa and his friends continue their march and their preparation for their tryst with destiny. With luck and a little help from our patron Saint, Kidist Maryam at Entoto, we hoped, these incredible people of our country will sweep all the middle and long-distant events in Athens. On our way down, just like Itege Taytu Bitul may have done 108 years ago on her way to Adwa - with her husband and the soldiers, we cross our-selves and bow our heads in respect, reverence and hope to the distant shadow of Entoto Maryam.
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