The Rest of the Pack
Ethiopia has a long tradition of an excellent and winning athletics program that has produced among the finest and most remarkable long-distance runners the world has yet seen. Despite difficult situations, Ethiopian athletes have brought a good name to their country and hosted the national tri-color, the Green, the Yellow and the Red in every major world athletics meet. The pride, hope and unity that these athletes inspire in every Ethiopian child, man, woman is incredibly magnificent.
The following are some of the finest athletes who have run for their people and country the last 4-5 decades.
Basahye Feleke Goshu (1917-)
Bashaye Feleke is among the first Ethiopian long-distance runners to compete in world events. In 1956, he represented Ethiopia in the Melbourne Olympics together with the legendary Mamo Wolde. A very religious and patriotic man, he fought with the Italian invaders in 1936 as a guerrilla fighter along with his father in the Negele Borena region in Southern Ethiopia. He later served in Asmera, northern Ethiopia.
Bashaye Feleke gained a national attention when he refused to run the marathon race because he had heard the story about the Greek hero who run the 26 miles to herald the victory of the Greeks over the Persians only to die upon his arrival. He was later persuaded that he will not die if he runs the marathon and that the then Emperor Haile Selassie will be present as a guest of honor. Bashaye Feleke reluctantly entered the race confessing his belief that if he dies after completing the race, the Emperor will be there to witness such an act of sacrifice.
He went home not only alive and well but also with an award from the Emperor for winning the race.
Bashaye Feleke lives with his wife and seven children in Addis Ababa.
Now almost 80 years old and a father of 12 (in 1998), Wami Biratu was once among the best long-distance runners in Ethiopia. Wami had at one point trained Abebe Bikila. In his career, Wami had won 30 gold, 40 silver and 10 bronze medals and won competitions in Egypt, Japan and Czhekoslavakia.
Wehibs athletic career started with a third place win in a national marathon race in 1960. This result enabled him to join Abebe Bikila and Mamo Wolde in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. He was among the pace-setters in the marathon race. Wehib also participated in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City where he won 6th and 8th place in the 5K and 10K races.
Wehib was nominated as Ethiopias star athlete in 1972 due to his numerous wins. He later rejoined the Ethiopian armed forces where he participated in the war against Somalian aggression in 1977. He is now retired by the government despite his pleas to resume his coaching career.
Shibiru Regassa, who had won, 20 gold, 10 silver, and 15 bronze medals in his 15-year running career is best known in the 800, 5000 and 10,000 meter races.
He had competed and won numerous races in the former Soviet Union, Germany, Canada, France, Switzerland, Italy, England, China and Nigeria.
Shibiru is now 52 years old (in 1998) and lives in Addis Ababa after a forced retirement.
Mohammed Kedir has won 60 gold, 40 silver and 30 bronze medals in 5K and 10K races in a career that span 25 years. Mohammeds career started in the army that trained him also to be a fine athlete.
Yohannes Mohammed, born in the Welo region of north-central Ethiopia had won a total of 32 gold, 18 silver, and 23 bronze medals in addition to 23 cups and 11 certificates of merit. Yohannes memorable moment was in the 1980 Moscow Olympics when he helped his fellow country-man, Miruts Yifter win the 10K race by being his pace-setter and protecting him by the push and shove from the rather aggressive pack of runners.
Yohannes is currently the Secretary of Ethiopian Marshal Arts Bureau in Addis Ababa.
Tolossa is currently the assistant coach of the Ethiopian National Athletic team. Among his trainees are the national sensations Derartu Tulu and Haile G/Selassie.
Tolossa had his own successful career in long-distance running which earned him 18 gold, 3 silver and 12 bronze medals. His rise to national level was as a result of his near win in the 5K race in 1972 which he narrowly lost to Miruts. Tolossa had participated in the Montreal and Moscow Olympics.
Eshetu Tura is a man whose career changed by a song. The famous song written by Solomon Tessema, the legendary sport journalist, to honor Abebe Bikila and Mamo Wolde (marathon li-Ililtwa) was playing on the radio after Mamos victory in Mexico City. Eshetu not only get inspiration but also a determination to be like Abebe and Mamo.
Eshetu joined the armed forces, the breeding-ground of athletics success in Ethiopia. His win in the 3000 meters hurdle earned him the national spot-light. Eshetu had won a total of 30 gold, 19 silver and 13 bronze medals in the 3000 meters hurdle race. Eshetus name will be recorded in the History books as Ethiopias first athlete in the 3K hurdle.
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