She jumped from school for not participating in running competitions: now an Ethiopian wins the gold medal at the World Athletics Championships

From our sports correspondent
Konstantin Muscau
July 19, 2022

Were it not for the irreconcilability of a school leader, today, Letensebet Gidey would not be a world athletics star, and Ethiopia would not have been able to boast of the first gold medal at the World Athletics Championships taking place in Eugene, Oregon (USA) from 16 to 25 July. An event that in the first days experienced a crowded Ethiopia, a glorious Uganda, a very disappointing Kenya.

The amazing Ethiopian Letensebet Gidey at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, USA

In middle school, Letensebet Gidey refused to attend classes of physical education: he did not like running. And the principal expelled her from school. “You will return to the class – decreed the inflexible director – only if you agree to practice gymnastics and above all to participate in running competitions”.

It was 2011, Letensebet was 13 years oldwas about to finish secondary school in the native village of Endameskel, in the Tigray region, on the border with Sudan and Eritrea, where there is a relentless war between the Ethiopian Federal Army and the local forces of the TPLF (Tigray Liberation Front).

Gidey, fourth child of a peasant family with two brothers and a sister, for the sake of education and culture (which he still preserves), he bowed his head. The stubborn girl returned to the headmaster with her parents and with her tail between her legs, the legs that since 2011 began to swirl, to cover kilometers and kilometers to become the queen of middle distance: world record holder of 5,000, 10,000 and the half marathon . And on July 16, in Eugene, he won in an exciting final his first world title after silver in Doha 2019.

He did it in 30’09 ”94, the fastest time on Yankee soil. He preceded Kenyan Hellen Obiri, 32, and Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, 29, as well as – no less – the 2019 world and Olympic champion, the Dutchman (naturalized), of Ethiopian origin.

His achievement is even more admirable if you think about it for the whole of 2020 she was unable to leave her country. Both because of the Covid 19 pandemic and the war situation: waiting in Valencia for a half marathon in December, since November all traces had been lost. And the sports world was anxious for her.

Finally, in 2021, it returned to normalcy and last Saturday, he reaffirmed the Ethiopian superiority in the middle distance. And at the bottom. Dominates the two marathons. The next day, July 17, compatriot Tamirat Tola, (31 years old on August 11) defeated his opponents at the great distance. And 24 hours later, his compatriot Gotytom Gebreslase imitated him in the women’s challenge.

At the 34th kilometer, or 8 kilometers from the finish line, Tamirat Tola greeted everyone, loosened the reins and flew alone with the remarkable time of 2h05: 36, the record for these world championships. A horse, more than a man … Second in 2019, Mosinet Geremew, 30, also from Ethiopia, a country that scored a brilliant double. Gold and silver!

Tola, already silver medal in 2017 in London, he left the Kenyans and above all, Geoffrey Kamworor, 29, twice king of the New York marathon, only number five. Tola is as strong as she is reserved about her privacy: even on the Worldathletics website, the bible of the sector, there is no biography.

A confidentiality that he wants not as the one others wanted, and which surrounds the new champion of the women’s competition: Gotytom Gebresslase, 27, also Ethiopian, was yesterday crowned queen of the “queen race” of the road program.

After 10 years, Gotytom brings the title back to Addis Ababa. With a fantastic time: 2h18’11 ”only 70 seconds from the world record. Less than 2 kilometers from the conclusion, he said “goodbye, see you after the banner”, to Judith Jeptum Korir, 26, from Kapsait in Elgeyo Marakwet County (Kenya), with whom he competed shoulder to shoulder for many kilometers.

Third, an Israeli came (so to speak), Lonah Korlima Chemtai married Salpeter, born 33 years ago in Kenya. A babysitter became a marathon runner: she arrived in Israel in 2008 as a nanny for a Kenyan diplomat’s three children. In Kenya she ran barefoot, In Israel she found her future husband and coach, Dan Salpeter. And many pairs of shoes! Gebreslase did not start favorably in the challenge to the very strong Korir when she first made her marathon debut in September last year, when she raised her arms to the sky at the Brandenburg Gate at the Berlin marathon.

She is one of the fastest athletes on the planet “Yet very little is known about her because female runners are discriminated against – accused Alison Wade, a former American gymnast, scholar at Bowdoin College (Bronswick, Maine), who on her website FastWomen since 1999 she has fought in defense of women who run – Athletes often have humble origins, do not speak English and are not exalted and made known sufficiently. We almost never know their background to them. “

Gotytom is actually a unique figure, but not celebrated as it deserves. Also born in Tigray from a poor peasant family, she has always been supported by her parents and sister, with whom she lives in a modest house in Kotobe, a suburb of Addis Ababa. With the success in Berlin, she has earned some money that will allow her to buy a larger and more comfortable apartment. His luck was to have met Haji Adilo Roba, 52, Ethiopian, a former marathon runner who has become one of the best coaches in the field. Hadilo discovered and appreciated the young woman’s extraordinary talent.

Ugandan Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei

To the rings, to the overwhelming power of Ethiopia in the first days of these world championships in athletics, Uganda responded in a fantastic way, but not surprisingly: Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei, 26, won the final of 10,000 meters and made an extra number after the gold won in Doha in 2019. Behind him by Cheptegei, a policeman with a degree in language, ( -5 tusinde-meter /), other of 9 children, born and raised in the eastern district of Kapchorwa, Kenyan Stanley Waithaka Mburu, 22, was placed while the bronze medal went to the neck of another Ugandan, Jacob Kiplimo, only 21 years old.

But you know that appetite comes on an ongoing basis: Chepetegei now aims to manage the double also on the 5 thousand meters, dominated by the Olympics in Tokyo last year.

Konstantin Muscau

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