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TIRUNESH DIBABA – Keeping Olympic Gold Medal streak for Ethiopia’s women alive

Tirunesh Dibaba

Tirunesh Dibaba

Over the weekend, Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba used her “trademark blistering kick” to run the second-fastest 10,000 meters ever by a woman, setting an Olympic record en route to a Gold Medal.  As the bell sounded for the 25th and final lap, she blew past Ethiopian-born Elvan Abeylegesse (competing for Turkey) and beat her to the finish line by just under 1.7 seconds.  Dibaba’s winning time was 29:54.66.  As a footnote, her older sister Elegayehu finished 14th, and both Dibaba’s are cousins of Derartu Tule (see below).  Tirunesh, 23, stands 5’3″ and weighs 104-lbs.

Dibaba then became the first Ethiopian woman to take home two Golds by romping to victory in the 5,000 meters a few days later. All three medalists in that contest were born in Ethiopia, with Abeylegesse taking home the Silver medal for Turkey, and Meseret Defar (see below) earning the Bronze.

Meseret Defar

Meseret Defar

In 2004, 20-year-old Meseret Defar, with just 95-lbs on her 5’3″ frame, passed Kenya’s Isabella Ochichi in the final turn and won the 5,000 meters by just over 2.5 seconds with a time of 14:45.65.  The bronze medalist in the race?  None other than Tirunesh Dibaba! Defar was a Bronze medalist in the 5,000 in 2008.
Fatuma Roba

Fatuma Roba

Bright and early in the morning after the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta in 1996, Fatuma Roba began her historic marathon run on a hilly course.  The 23-year-old, 5’3″, 108-pounder seized control around the 20 km mark, and powered her way to a 2-minute margin of victory in 2:26:05, a time considered quite fast considering the course and the Southern heat.
Derartu Tulu (L) with South Africa's Elana Meyer

Derartu Tulu (L) with South Africa's Elana Meyer

No woman from sub-Saharan Africa had ever won a Gold Medal before Tulu did it in 1992.  Adding to the drama, with South Africa returning to the Games after a ban of more than a quarter-century, she ran outraced South Africa’s Elana Meyer to prevail in the 10,000 meters by nearly six seconds in 31:06.02.  Many were hopeful that it symbolized the beginning of a new era for the continent of Africa when Tulu and Meyer shared a victory lap together, hand-in-hand.

Eight years later, after missing time with knee injuries and to give birth around a medal-less effort in the 1996 Games, Tulu returned stronger than ever to reclaim her 10,000 Meters Gold Medal in 2000.  This time, she won in 30:17.49 with another Ethiopian, Gete Wami, finishing almost five seconds behind her for the Silver Medal. 

Tulu also earned a Bronze Medal in the 10,000 in 2004.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at Ethiopia’s Golden Girls.

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