By Bereket Kidane,
Having conquered the French Alps, Eritrea’s super cyclists Daniel Teklehaymanot and Merhawi Kudus were given a hero’s welcome in Asmara upon their triumphant return from the Tour de France.
It seemed as if the whole town had turned out to welcome them. The parade honoring them started from Airport Road and went all the way down on Godena Harnet before it stopped at the President’s Office briefly. President Isaias received both cyclists in the reception room for honored guests and diplomats and could be heard uttering, “Mama Mia!” just before he pulled Daniel Teklehaymanot in by his arm and gave him a “bro hug.”
Whether they’re sports heroes or military heroes, the parade route for honoring returning Eritrean heroes is Godena Harnet, Asmara’s palm-lined boulevard. Many of Eritrea’s sports heroes have had Asmara’s version of New York City’s ticker-tape parade. The biggest heroes’ welcome Asmara has ever seen was on May 24, 1991 when the returning tegadeltis proudly walked down Godena Harnet to shouts and cheers after many years in the Sahel Mountains. Today, Eritrea proudly welcomed back its King of The Mountains.
After a brief stop at the President’s Office, the parade continued onto Bahti Meskerem square for a raucous public gathering. Both Daniel and Merhawi went on stage to thank Eritreans at home and the diaspora for all the moral support and encouragement they provided them.
Daniel Teklehaymanot, who is a man of a few words, said he was struggling to find words to describe the overwhelming support he received from Eritreans around the world and how much it meant to him. Merhawi came across as a very well-composed young man for his age. A giant poster of Daniel wearing a polka dot jersey and Merhawi in his MTN-Qhubeka uniform was unveiled at Bahti Meskerem square during the rally.
Daniel Teklehaymanot’s stage victories have apparently inspired a polka dot fashion craze in Asmara because many in the audience were spotted wearing all kinds of polka dot t-shirts, shirts and outfits.
Daniel and Merhawi are very deserving of the heroes welcome they received in their home town today. They have represented our country as well as any of us can ever hope to represent Eritrea. The King of the Mountain gave one of his four polka dot jerseys as a gift to President Isaias, a man who spent much of his youth in the mountains so that future Eritrean generations can proudly live in a sovereign nation of their own.
Daniel, Merhawi and their MTN-Qhubeka teammates can be proud of how far they have come and how many fans they brought along with them. Their performance has inspired young African cyclists to dream big. The future is indeed bright for African cycling.
Well done boys!