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2022 A Hopeful Season for Eritrean Athletics

By Habtom Tesfamichael

Editor’s Note, “The article about the accomplishments of the Eritrean athletes in 2021 was published on the sports page of ‘Hadas Ertra’ by Tesfaldet Mebrahtu; the following are excerpts of the article.”

Last year, Eritrean athletes registered incredible results, especially in the marathon category. Despite the problems that the outbreak of the global pandemic posed, they participated in a number of competitions and garnered the attention of the athletics community for their outstanding results.

Athlete Yonas Kifle is one of the best Marathon athletes in Eritrea. The Olympian athlete finished at 2:07:54 in 2007 in Amsterdam and he had held on to the Eritrean national Marathon record until 2011. This record was broken when Athlete Samuel Tsegay finished the race which was organized again in Amsterdam at 2:07:28, but this national record was short-lived as yet another Eritrean Olympian athlete Yaried Asmerom managed to finish another marathon organized that same week at a very narrow clocking of 2:07:27. Athlete Yaried Asmerom surpassed the record which was set by athlete Samuel Tsegay by one second.

This national record has remained unbroken for years until 2019. From 2019 onwards, however, this record has been advanced three times by three athletes. That year, athlete Ogbay Tsegay broke the record which was held by athlete Yaried Asmerom for eight years when he clocked 2:06:54 in an event held in Sevilla, Spain. This was again improved by ten seconds by athlete Ouqbe Kibrom in an event held in Valencia in that same year. The Year 2021 was not an easy year for Eritrean athletes for different reasons s including the pandemic and injuries.

Eritrean athletes commenced the year 2021 with the competitions that were held in Italy in April. Five athletes took part in this competition. All of these five athletes recorded their own personal best time and three of them finished with the top ten in the competition. In this race, athlete Yohannes Habtegergish improved his personal best from 2:08 to 2:06, finishing in fourth place at the race. Athlete Samuel Tsegay improved his personal best time from 2:07:27 to 2:06:54. Athlete Nguse Amlesom and Athlete Henok Tesfai finished at 2:10:57 and 2:10:08 respectively.

In April 2021, in an event that held in Hamburg, Germany, led by the Kenyan world Marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge, Eritrean athlete Goitom Kifle finished in third place. One month after this event, Eritrean athletes took part in an event that was held in Milano, Italy, to set a new chapter in Eritrean athletics history. At this event, athlete Nazriet Weldu and athlete Kokob Tesfagaber participated in the women’s category and athlete Oqbay Tsegay took part in the Men’s category.

This race was an important chapter in the Eritrean marathon history. Athlete Nazriet Weldu improved the Eritrean women’s national record for the third time when she participated in the races that were held in Beirut and Gold Coast Marathon in Australia. Athlete Kokob Tesfagaber improved her personal best time by over three minutes and was able to secure the second position as the fastest marathon athlete in Eritrea in the women’s category. Based on the time they have recorded during the previously mentioned events, they were able to participate in the 2020 Olympic Tokyo and World Athletics Championship.

Eritrea was given a quota of three athletes to participate in the 2020 Olympic Games. Therefore, the Eritrean Athletics Federation was compelled to choose only three from the eleven athletes who recorded the needed qualifying time to participate at the 2020Tokyo Olympics. Although, all of the athletes were in good condition at that time, based on the selection process by the Federation, athlete Ouqbe Kibrom, Goitom Kifle, Yohannes Habtegergish, and Ouqbay Tsegay (as a substitute) were selected to represent Eritrea. Athlete Ouqbay Tsegay finished 14th in this event. And Eritrea was represented by two female athletes for the first time that year.

A number of Eritrean athletes have participated in different races in the year 2021. In Oct 2021, Athlete Mogos Shumay finished fifth in Holland in a race that was named Eindhoven Marathon. According to the Eritrean Athletics Federation, he was able to improve his personal best time by over five minutes. The 2021 athletics season was ended with incredible results in the Amsterdam Marathon which is considered as one of the major marathon races in that same month.

In this race, the Olympian athlete Hizqiel Tewelde, who has been away from any competition for three years due to injuries, clocked 2:04:22 to set a new record time in the Marathon history of Eritrea. At the same event, athlete Afewerki Berhane finished at 2:05:22 to become the second-fastest finish after Hisqiel.

Hizkel Tewelde (ERI) celebrates during the Half Marathon Paris 2019 on March 10, 2019 in Paris, France.
(Photo by Aude Alcover/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

Eritrean Marathon athletes have also made an appearance at the Barcelona cross-country Championship Race which was held 0n Dec 7, 2021. In this race athlete, Filmon Ande finished fourth with 2:06:38 time. Also at the Sebastian Marathon, athlete Kibrom Gebregziabhier finished second. In another event, the Olympian athlete Goitom Kifle achieved the third-fastest time when he finished at 2:05:24.

The 2021 athletics season for Eritreans was ended with the event athlete Nguse Amlesom raced in Valencia, Spain. He finished second in this race and improved his personal best time by over three minutes.

According to the Eritrean Athletics Federation, the number of athletes who have managed to clock below 2 hours and 10 minutes in the marathon races have increased from the previous years significantly, while the athletes believe that the 2021 results are good signs for even better success in the marathon fixtures for 2022.

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