MESERET, TIRUNESH BACK TO THEIR BEST
Despite the emergence of new medal hopefuls, London 2012 was meant to be a case of whether Ethiopia's superstar trio of Kenenisa Bekele, Meseret Defar, and Tirunesh Dibaba can regain some of the form that saw them romp to world beating status. On this case, Meseret and Tirunesh truly delivered with vintage performance of the top order to win, just fewer than one-half of Ethiopia's medal tally, three, in London. Tirunesh dominated the women's 10,000m to take a surprisingly-easy victory of joint pre-race favorite Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya. She returned a week later for an unprecedented attempt to "double-double", but found Meseret in red-hot form. The 2007 World Female Athlete of the Year rolled back the years to her blistering finishing taking the women's 5,000m title in simply scintillating fashion with Tirunesh forced to settle for bronze. The duo have now won a total of eight medals between them with Tirunesh closing in on Kenenisa Bekele's record tally of three gold and one silver medal with three gold and two bronze medals.
SOFIA SHOWED HOW IT'S DONE
It took seven years to come true, but Sofia Assefa's bronze in the women's 3,000m steeplechase was Ethiopia's first in a major championship and represents a major coup for the country. It took quite a lot of experimentation including bringing athletes from other sports and various near misses before finding the right athlete who can run, jump, and finally obtain a medal in a major championship. Bronze for Sofia and a fifth place finish for Hiwot Ayalew is a testament to the continuous improvement, while Roba Gari's fourth place finish in the men's event was another step in the right direction.
WOMEN WIN THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES
One of the distinct features of Ethiopia's London 2012 was the total domination of female athletes in the battle of the sexes. While Dejen Gebremeskel (5,000m silver) and Tariku Bekele (10,000m bronze) were able to salvage some male pride, Ethiopian women, helped by Tiki Gelana's surprise victory in the marathon, roared to a total of five medals with the men winning no gold for the first time since the 1992 Olympic Games. It was also the first time in Ethiopian Olympic history where women matched men in participation in all events.
TACTICS, TACTICS, TACTICS!
Seven medals from 35 athletes competing in just two sports is a decent return considering the amount of money other nations spend on their teams and end up with no or fewer medals than Ethiopia; a case in point is Nigeria. But with every medal won comes the frustrations of medals lost, especially in events where Ethiopia is expected to excel. Had Dejen Gebremeskel found a way out of the 'box' earlier than the last 80m of the men's 5,000m; had Abebe Aregawi better positioned herself for the penultimate lap in the women's 1,500m; had Tariku Bekele taken the cue from Gebregziabher Gebremariam to move to the front in the men's 10,000m much earlier than the last lap; had Mekonnen Gebremedhin and Mohammed Aman found the wit to win the battle for bronze than succumb to the battle of gold; Ethiopia might have actually met the 12 medal target set by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) before the start of the Games. But, conditionalities never got anyone anything. But, again, it is a lesson learned for the athletes and the technical team behind them to invest time and resources in doing their homework before the start of their races.
DOCTOR, WHERE ARE YOU?
With the every medal celebration in London came the sight of Ethiopian athletes floored to the ground with a multitude of injuries ranging from Achilles heel to ulcer. Some like Fantu Magiso in the women's 800m could not make it to the start line, even though they travelled to London with the team. Others like Gebregziabher Gebremariam had to take painkillers just to make it to the race line in the men's 10,000m. Others like Genzebe Dibaba were weeping and floored in pain after the women's 1,500m first round, while yet others like Berhan Getahun needed to be taken off the field of play in a wheelchair following a fall during the men's 3,000m semifinals. No matter the ailment or its cause, the state of health was a major factor in preventing athletes from performing in London 2012 and should be a major strategic issue for the technical team at the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF).
MORE THAN JUST SPECTATORS
Thanks to Mohammed Aman, Yanet Seyoum, and Mulualem Girma, Ethiopian fans had an active interest in the 800m and the 50m freestyle, something previously unheard of. Participation in these events was a breakthrough and Mohammed Aman's sixth place finish and national record was a hallmark to his continuous improvement.
A KEMBOI DANCE TOO!
We all know the grit, determination and tears Ethiopian athletes show when they romp to Olympic gold and world championship titles in the past. But Kenya's men's 3,000m steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi showed our athletes how to savor your victory by dancing topless in front of a capacity crowd at the London Olympic stadium. While his dancing may not be enough to earn him a place in Hollywood shows like "Dancing with the Stars", it went a long way to show the human side of what many consider a sport for nerds. It is now three Olympic Games and counting since we had Million Wolde's like moment of unbridled joy and memorable fun. It is now time to ask for more fun from our athletes.
GAINS DON'T COUNT
Apart from medal winning exploits, the Olympic Games are a great chance for countries to showcase their brand to a global audience. In this case, Ethiopia could count London 2012 as an opportunity missed with virtually limited footprint of Ethiopian success on the worldwide web, very limited activity on social networks, such as facebook and twitter, and very limited on the ground showcase with the planned "African Village" initiative closing down in London after the organisers failed to settle arrears. London 2012 could have been a big milestone for the country's bid to shrug off its image as a country known for famine and war, and attract viewers who could later become foreign investors and tourists, but it was an opportunity missed.
By Elshadai Negash,
SPECIAL TO FORTUNE
Elshadai Negash is the 2009 CNN Multichoice African Journalist of the Year high commendation winner for Sport and a regular contributor to Fortune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.