Right after I finished college, I got a job at a state enterprise. Given a chair with a table in an office with two other professionals, I asked where I could find the keys to the table drawers. But the seat had been vacated years ago, and no one knew with whom the ex-occupant had left the keys. Later on, it was with a big surprise that I learned I took over the seat of Giovanni Rico, with the news of how his dedicated service was missed at the office. Someone whose song I enjoyed listening to with my friends or at home on the radio was sitting where I sat.

Giovanni was first a member of Ibex Band, which had a unique soundtrack. Yet, it was through experience and leadership which breathed longevity through consistency to Roha Band. The latter has always been uncharacteristic of music bands here, over and above team members’ individual ego, which helped it excel in the music scene, and helped new musical talents flourish. The band left an indelible mark in the local music industry.

Many used to complain of the stubbornly adhered-to band policies of Roha, yet it produced musical heritages vis-a-vis the challenges of the recording realities of the day. Arguably, it did not receive the due respect and recognition it deserved at the time. Yet, it started to be felt as decades went by and the new millennium arrived. Today, its influence is carried by musical legends of the likes of Elias Melka.

The athletes can take some inspiration from this piece of history. It came to my mind with what many thought was a poor performance by Ethiopia at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. For many of us, the Olympics are milestones, with expectations whose bar is lifted by the long-distance stars, among them such as Derartu Tulu now at the helm of leadership in athletics.

Most sad was seeing Ethiopians who were no longer Ethiopians, who are second-generation non-nationals, engaging in the sporting event for other countries. In one 10,000m running event, third place was Letesenbet Gidey. But the first and second places also went to athletes of Ethiopian origin, running for the Netherlands and Bahrain, respectively.

Long-distance running has always been the forte of East Africans: Ethiopia, Eritrea and Kenya. It is a sport all about perseverance.

”It's about the sweat in your hair and the blisters on your feet. Its the frozen spit on your chin and the nausea in your gut. It's about throbbing calves and cramps at midnight that are strong enough to wake the dead. It's about getting out the door and running when the rest of the world is only dreaming about having the passion that you need to live each and every day with,” Paul Mauer wrote in ’The Gift – A Runner’s Story.’ ”It is about being on a lonely road and running like a champion even when there's not a single soul in sight to cheer one on.”

It is not a sport for the faint-hearted. Many people that exercise properly only have a semblance of understanding of the sacrifices and the physical punishment exacted by long-distance running.

Understanding this essence and at which stage we welcome our athletics hopefuls and train and incentivise them determines which jersey dominates the podiums. Ethiopia has been handing the baton of excellence between generations of runners before but not to a level that is satisfactory. It is all about how hard we look for talent, the quality of the leadership at sports’ institutions and how we incentivise them that matters greatly – that is how we should show our appreciation. It is a lesson that can be taken, and received by,  from how generations share techniques and styles and how they improve with each outing from the subsequent eras of music.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 21,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1112]

Tadesse Tsegaye (seetadnow@gmail.com), a polyglot with experience in multicultural-cum-institutional settings in resources management.

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