By Alula Abraha,
What was hoped as a lunch time (Fadus) triumph today in both the Men and Women Team Time Trial (TTT) fixtures for Eritrean riders at the 11th All African Games in Brazzaville has turned into a massive disaster before it was even began.
Our cycling team almost had to tour half the world for almost 34 hours before landing in Brazzaville two days ago. Congo Brazzaville is located south West of Eritrea but because of lack of direct flights, our riders had to endure first travelling 3 hours North to Cairo and after a 6 hours stop over, boarding a connection flight heading 5 hours North East to Dubai. The end result was that 14 hours after departing Asmara Airport, they ended up further from Asmara than Brazzaville was from Asmara but in a diametrically opposite direction. There wasn’t even half of the gruelling travel itinerary. After 12 hours in Dubai, they flew their last leg to Congo Brazzaville for 8 hours.
After 5 days of intense training back in Eritrea in the run up to the event today, they thought they had gotten over the ordeal but they were wrong. Their racing Bikes and luggage got stuck in Dubai and hasn’t arrived until today.
As a result of that, both our Men and Women TT teams were unable to take part this morning. I’m sure there must have been half a dozen of more cost effective, less time consuming and much cheaper travel plan than the 34 hour ordeal they had to go through for what could instead have been a 5 hour flight from Asmara to Brazzaville.
In the Eritrea-less Men’s TTT, South Africa won Gold, followed by Algeria and Rwanda grabbing Silver and Bronze, respectively. In the Women’s, Nigerian girls won Gold while South Africa and Ethiopia won Silver and Bronze, respectively. They had a field day without Eritrean team on a starting line up. This is a massive disaster for the riders, the team, the fans, the federation and the nation, to say the least. We would have to wait another 4 years for another chance in the All African Games.
Again, we are not sure if the bikes are going to arrive today in time for the Men’s and Women’s ITT (Individual Time Trials) tomorrow morning as well as for the Road Race (RR) in the Women’s on Saturday and Men’s RR on Sunday. If the bikes and their luggage arrive in time, hope our athletes stay upbeat about the next challenge despite today’s organisational disaster.