Abebe Bikila 1960, 64& Feyisa Lilesa 2016

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Monday, June 11, 2012

The Return of Tirunesh Dibaba - NYTimes.com


Tirunesh Dibaba after winning the 10,000-meter event at the Prefontaine Classic on June 1.Ted S. Warren/Associated PressTirunesh Dibaba after winning the 10,000-meter event at the Prefontaine Classic on June 1.
One of the most anticipated entrants at this year’s Adidas Grand Prix track meet in New York on Saturday is Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, the defending women’s Olympic champion at 5,000 and 10,000 meters and quite possibly the fastest finisher in the history of women’s distance running.
Dibaba, 27, is recovering from shin splints so severe they kept her out of competition every day of 2011 except the last, when she won the San Silvestre Vallecana 10-kilometer road race on New Year’s Eve, in Madrid. Last week, at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., she continued her comeback, running — and winning — her first outdoor track race in almost two years, at 10,000 meters, and she did it in dramatic fashion.
The race was effectively the Ethiopian Olympic trials at the distance. Dibaba was the favorite, but her stomach cramped two-thirds of the way through, causing her to clutch her side. “I’ve had that kind of discomfort in the past,” she said in an interview this week, “but this was worse. In fact, with about three laps left I began to wonder how I was going to finish.”
The thousands of fans in the stands might have wondered the same thing. With less than a mile left, Dibaba dropped back into third place. At the sound of the bell signifying the last lap she crept into the lead, but she did so without the speed and authority she usually has had in the past. On the backstretch, she held off challenges from both of her competitors — Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat and Ethiopia’s Beleynesh Oljira — and as the three of them turned the corner into the final 100 meters, Dibaba finally let loose her eye-opening finishing kick. She beat Kiplagat by 10 meters and posted the fastest time in the world this year. It took Dibaba another 15 seconds before she could flash a smile, and then her face, weathered from the effort, showed the same youth and gentleness that at the beginning of her career earned her the nickname Baby-Faced Destroyer.
“I like the name very much,” she said when asked about it. She was sitting on a metal chair on a concrete island in the middle of Times Square. She wore a Nike zipper sweater in fluorescent yellow and black and white, and designer jeans with gold beaded pockets. She held her hands — her fingers in pink nail polish — gently in her lap, and she spoke in Amharic through a translator, every now and again calmly looking around at the giant billboard video screens flashing  advertisements and at the throngs of tourists who barreled past, completely unaware of the superstar in their midst.
When asked what would happen if we had been in Addis Ababa, where Dibaba lives and trains, instead of New York, she said modestly: “Because people are really fans of athletics, everyone knows me. I think a lot of people would have surrounded us.”
That seems safe to say. Her wedding in the fall of 2008 to the two-time Olympic silver medalist Sileshi Sihine was broadcast live on the country’s only television station, and hundreds of thousands of people crowded Addis Ababa’s Meskel Square to watch the couple carried through on a chariot. The celebrations spread over the course of two weeks and included a dinner hosted by the Ethiopian president and a piano serenade from the distance-running legend Haile Gebrselassie. “Because she did a traditional marriage ceremony, it added to the respect people have for her,” Teferi Debebe, who covers Ethiopian track for Letsrun.com, said. “She showed her respect for the culture. This is what everybody wanted to see.”
Around the same time, the government named a $13 million hospital gifted to the country by the Chinese government after her. And “many people started to name their children Tirunesh,” Debebe said.
Dibaba comes from a family of Ethiopian long-distance royalty. Her older sister Ejegayehu won the silver medal in the 10,000 meters at the 2004 Olympics, her younger sister Genzebe is among the favorites in the 1,500 meters at this summer’s Olympics, and her cousin Derartu Tulu has two Olympic gold medals and a bronze.
“We began running because of Derartu,” Dibaba said of her and her sisters. Each of them, at a young age, followed Derartu Tulu to Addis Ababa, and they all quickly found success on the track. “From the beginning I’ve only ever run,” Dibaba said. “That’s the only job I’ve had.”
In Dibaba’s absence from the track last year, Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot, who finished fifth in the 5,000 meters at the 2008 Olympics, stepped into her shoes, winning both distance races at the world championships. Dibaba took note. “Vivian has been running very well,” she said. “I know that she’s going to be my strongest competitor.”
On Saturday, Dibaba will run her first 5,000-meter race in nearly two years. Though Cheruiyot won’t be in the race, Dibaba’s countrywoman, friend, and longtime rival Meseret Defar will, and she should be a good test for Dibaba. Defar lost both of her last two races to Cheruiyot — by a combined total of eight-hundredths of a second.
“My primary focus has been on the 10,000 meters, and I’ve also been away from competition for quite a while,” Dibaba said. “I think I’ll be a little bit nervous, but I expect it’ll be a good race.”

About Me

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Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change &  Liberation  in Europe, Africa and Americas. He has obtained  Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva.   A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies.  He wrote on the  problematic of  the Horn of  Africa extensively. He Speaks Amharic, Tigergna, Hebrew, English, French. He has a good comprehension of Arabic, Spanish and Italian.