Mamo Wolde (1931-2002)

Mwolde.gif (26888 bytes)Mamo Wolde was born in the village of DreDele in the Ad-A district about 60 Km from Addis Ababa from his parents Ato Wolde Degaga and W/O Geneme Gobena.

Mamo grew up in a traditional upbringing spending most of his childhood in DreDele where he attended a "qes" schooling. In June of 1951, he was hired by the Imperial Body Guard. While at the prestigious armed forces, Mamo was able to further his education. In 1953, he was transferred to the Second Battalion of the Imperial Guard and was sent to Korea as part of the UN peace-keeping mission. Mamo spent 2 years in Korea where he had a distinguished military service. After returning from Korea, Mamo got married and pursued his passion of athletics quite regularly.

Mamo easily qualified to be a member of the Ethiopian Olympics team that participated in the Melbourne Olympics in 1962. He had the overall best performance of the national Olympics team by becoming 4-th in 1500 meter race. In 1968, Mamo competed in the 10000 meters race along with the then favorite Kenyan athletes Kip Keno and Naphtaly Temo. 200 meters before the end of the race, Mamo went to the lead. He maintained the lead until almost the end whence he was overtaken by Naphtaly Temo of Kenya. Mamo won his first Silver Olympic medal. One day before the marathon race, the team trainer Negussie Roba approached Mamo and informed him that the legendary Abebe may not be able to finish the marathon race due to bad health. Coach Negussie told Mamo that he was the nation’s only hope for the next day’s marathon race and orders him to prepare. The next day, October 20, 1968 72 athletes from 44 countries started the long anticipated race. Abebe Bikila, Mamo Wolde and Demssie represented Ethiopia. Abebe later dropped out of the race at the 15-th Km after leading for the whole duration. Mamo later would muse: "At the 20-th Km, Coaches Negussie and Major Niskanen got out of their car and told me ‘You are Ethiopia’s only chance, Ayzoh Berta.’ "

Solomon Tessema, a legendary Sports journalist, was on one of the cars assigned for journalists and was furiously waving the national tri-color and encouraging Mamo with songs and words to complete the race with victory. With the departure of Abebe, the world had expected Australian and Japanese athletes to win the marathon. At the 25-th km, the Australian athlete quit the race. At the 30-th km, Mamo and his nemesis at the 10,000 meter race, the Kenyan Temo were running neck to neck. At the 33- rd km, Mamo took the lead. Solomon Tessema, from the journalist’s car, was shouting to Mamo telling him that he was the only one with the chance of winning. Mamo Wolde completed the race victoriously giving his country a third gold medal in Marathon. Mamo became an instant hero just like Abebe. Mamo was 35 when he won the Mexico City Marathon race. In 1972, Mamo participated in the Munich Olympics at the age of 39 where he won a bronze medal in the 10000 meter.

In his athletic career, Mamo had participated in a total of 62 international competitions. The great athlete, Mamo died on 26th May 2002 aged 69.

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