25 of the Best and Most Famous Ethiopian Athletes

ethiopian athletes 25 best

Ethiopian Athletes

For over half a century, Ethiopian athletes have been consistently breaking records in world events and providing an already proud nation with even more sources of joy.

The pioneering and legendary Abebe Bikila gave the world a portrayal of what Africans are capable of in athletics; his humble presence amplified his sportsmanship and grace.

With a clearly displayed pride in his country and skills, Abebe ran barefoot on the streets of Rome to win the Olympics marathon; a feat that lent credence to the falsehood of the derogatory image given to Africans at the time.

His victory marked the beginning of the east African's dominance in long distance running, and to this day, his victory can be felt.

With that being said, it must be admitted that Ethiopians are somewhat limited in the variety of sporting events they take part in.

Even though long-distance running Ethiopian athletes are considered to be the cream of the crop in international sporting competitions, the events Ethiopians take part could have more variety.

Who knows, maybe the next generation of athletes from Ethiopia could become the next "fastest person" in the world, just like the Jamaican runner, Usain Bolt or even world class boxers.

But in the meantime, we can take pride in the numerous championship level athletes from Ethiopia, who are taking sporting events to another level.

The following is a list of 25 of the best and most famous Ethiopian athletes.

1. Haile Gebrselassie Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete haile gebrsellasie

Haile Gebrselassie (born April 18, 1973), is a long distance road and track athlete. He is widely seen as the best long distance runner in history.

For the over 10,000 meters event, he has 2 Olympic gold medals and 4 World Championship titles.

Haile has also won the Berlin Marathon an incredibly 4 times in a row and the Dubai Marathon, 3 times consecutively.

Haile also won 4 world titles for indoors and was named 2001's World Half Marathon Champion. He won many international titles for the distances of 1500 meters and the marathon, but chose to move away from outdoor/indoor and cross country running, opting for road running.

In his illustrious career, Haile has broken 61 Ethiopian national records, for distances of 800 meters to the marathon; he has also set 27 world records.

2. Kenenisa Bekele Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete kenenisa bekele

Kenenisa Bekele (born June 13, 1982), is a long distance road and track athlete. Many believe he is the greatest distance runner of all time, pitting him against his countryman, Haile Gebrselassie.

He is the current world and Olympic record holder for both the 5,000 meters and the 10,000 meters.

In 2004 Olympics, he won the gold for the 10,000 meters event, while still managing to get the silver for the 5,000 meters.

In the 2008 summer Olympics, Kenenisa did what he failed to do in 2004, and that was to get the gold for both the 5,000 meters and the 10,000 meter events.

Aside from the Olympics, Kenenisa is the most successful athlete in the history of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

In the 2009 World Championship Athletics, Kenenisa became the 1st man to win both the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters at the same competition.

He also won World Championship bronze in 2003, 2 African Championship titles, and 1 Africa Games gold medal, and gold at the 2006 World Indoor Championships for the 3000 meters.

In 2016, he won the Berlin Marathon, making him the 3rd fastest marathon runner of all time.

3. Abebe Bikila Marathon Runner

ethiopian athlete abebe bikila

Abebe Bikila (1932-1973), fondly referred to as the "barefoot runner", is most famous for the gold medal he won for Ethiopia at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, while setting a new world record.

Abebe is a pioneer who laid the foundation for and acted as an inspiration to today's unstoppable East African long-distance runners.

He participated in 16 marathons and won 12 of them.

Abebe also received his second gold medal at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, while breaking his own world record.

He unfortunately was plagued by injuries throughout his career, and in 1969, a car accident would prevent Abebe from ever walking again.

Never one to quit, he would participate in the predecessor of the Paralympics Games and win the cross-country sleigh-riding event.

He is remembered today as one of the greats in long distance running; schools, events, and also a stadium use his name to honor him.

4. Saladin Said Footballer

ethiopian athlete saladin said

Saladin Said (Salah El Din Ahmed Said) born on October 29, 1988, is a footballer who plays for the Ethiopian national team and the Ethiopian club Saint George FC.

Salahdin was recognized as the top scorer in the 2017 CAF Champions League and his ability to step up his game during critical moments has made him one of the best footballers in east Africa.

At the 2011 Kagame Inter-Club Cup against AS Port of Djibouti, Salhadin scored an incredible 5 goals.

He became the highest paid Ethiopian footballer in 2011 when he was paid over 2 million birr or about $240,000, by the Egyptian club Wadi Degla FC.

In 2014, he transferred to Al-Ahly and also became Ethiopia's highest scorer in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification.

5. Mamo Wolde Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete mamo wolde

Degaga "Mamo" Wolde (1932-2002) was a long distance road and track athlete who is most famous for winning the gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics, continuing Ethiopia's dominance started by Abebe Bikila in 1960 and 1964.

In 1972, Mamo won his third Olympic medal finishing third at the 1972 Olympic marathon, he blamed the shoes he was forced to wear by Ethiopian officials.

Mamo also won the marathon competition at the 1973 All-Africa Games.

He is known as being the second person in Olympic history to win medals in successive Olympics, the first being his country man Abebe Bikila.

6. Tirunesh Dibaba Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete tirunesh dibaba

Tirunesh Dibaba born June 1, 1985, is a long distance road and track athlete, nicknamed the "Baby Faced Destroyer". She is currently the 5000 meters world record holder for the outdoor track.

Tirunesh has won 5 World Championship track gold medals, 3 Olympic track gold medals, 4 World Cross Country adult wins, as well as a World Cross Country Junior title.

Members of her family are very athletic and have won numerous awards.

Ejegayehu her older sister won an Olympic silver medal, Genzebe her younger sister holds many world records, and her cousin Derartu Tulu has won gold medals at two Olympics, among other titles.

Tirunesh and Genzebe made history by being the only siblings that hold concurrent world records.

7. Derartu Tulu Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete derartu tulu

Derartu Tulu born on March 21, 1972 is a long distance road and track runner who is most famous for being the first ever black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

She won this at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games in the 10,000 meters race.

Derartu also won gold at the 1995 IAAF World Cross Country Championships and silver at the World Championships that same year.

In 2000, she won an Olympic gold medal for the 10,000 meters event making her the first and only woman to have won gold for the event twice.

Derartu won 6 gold medals at the Olympics and world competitions.

Later in life, Derartu opted to focus on marathons and she was successful at it, by winning various titles.

While all her old competitors had already retired, Derartu kept competing well into her late thirties until 2011.

8. Meseret Defar Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete meseret defar

Meseret Defar born on November 19, 1983 is a long distance road and track athlete who has destroyed world records and won numerous gold medals at various international competitions.

She is mostly focused on the 3,000 and 5,000 meters races, which she dominated.

In 2006, Meseret beat the world record in the 5,000 meter event, and beat it again in 2007 and held it till Tirunesh Dibaba beat it in 2008.

In 2007, she became the only woman in the world with a two mile run clocked at less than nine minutes.

Among her many medals for the 5,000 meters event, Meseret won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and silver and gold at the World Championships.

She has also won 4 consecutive gold medals for the 3,000 meters event at the IAAF World Indoor Championships from the year 2004 through to 2010.

Furthermore, Meseret was a 2 time champion at the All Africa Games, 2 time gold medalist at the World Junior Championships and 4 time medalist at the African Championships.

9. Getaneh Kebede Footballer

ethiopian athlete getaneh kebede

Getaneh Kebede born on April 2, 1992 is a footballer who plays in the Ethiopian Premier League and for the Ethiopian national team.

Before settling with the Dedebit club, Getaneh used to play for the Debub Police.

In 2013, Getaneh became the top scorer of the Ethiopian Premier League.

The same year, he signed a 3 year contract with Bidvest Wits and by 2016 he returned to his old club Dedebit.

In 2018, Saint George SC club signed Getaneh with a two year contract.

While with the Ethiopian national team, he began with the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier, in which his goal scoring skills helped put Ethiopia into the second round.

His two goals against Algeria in 2017 denied their advance to the African Cup of Nations.

Although Ethiopia failed to advance any further, Getaneh is remembered for his superb skills and also being the top scorer at the World Cup qualifiers with 6 goals behind only El Arabi Hillel Soudani of Algeria who had 7.

10. Gete Wami Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete gete wami

Gete Wami born on December 11, 1974, is a long distance road and track athlete and is mostly known for her amazing marathon victories.

In 1999, she won a gold medal at the World Championships, creating a new African and Championships record.

That same year Gete won the 10,000 meters gold medal at the All African Games.

She is also a 2 time winner of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, with the long race title in 1996 and short in 2001.

Gete won the Berlin Marathon, two years in a row in 2006 and 2007.

Only 35 days later, she would compete against one of the world's best marathoners, Paula Radcliffe at the New York Marathon, and finish second, but winning herself $500,000.

11. Adane Girma Footballer

ethiopian athlete adane girma

Adane Girma, born on June 25, 1985 is a footballer who plays for the successful Saint George S.A. football team and the Ethiopian national team.

Adane was chosen receive the best player of the Ethiopian Premiere League in the 2010/11 season.

In the same year he finished with 20 goals tying with Getaneh Kebede, and both receiving the highest scoring title.

Adane was also an important member of the Ethiopian national team during the qualification of the 2013 African Cup of Nations.

In total he scored 8 goals for the Ethiopian national football team, before retiring from the team in 2015.

12. Genzebe Dibaba Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete genzebe dibaba

Genzebe Dibaba born on February 8, 1991 competes in the middle to long-distance track and road events, she is known primarily for being the first person in history to hold the most world records all at the same time.

Genzebe is believed by many to be the greatest female miler in history.

She won eight medals in the 1500 meters (out and indoor), 3,000 meters indoor, 2,000 meters indoor, 5,000 meters indoor, the indoor mile, and the indoor 2 mile.

Due to all the medals Genzebe won, she was named the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year for 2014 and IAAF World Athlete of the Year in 2015.

She also won a gold medal victory in the Beijing World Championships and the silver medal for the indoor and outdoor 1500 meters events at the 2016 Olympics.

13. Addis Hintsa Footballer

ethiopian athlete addis hintsa

Addis Hintsa born on July 30, 1987 is a footballer who plays for Al-Ahly Shendi, which is part of the Sudan Premier League.

Addis is known for his achievements during the 2011/12 year, when he was a midfielder for Dedebit a club in the Ethiopian Premier League.

In the same year, he was awarded as the Player of the Season by Passion Sports magazine and also began his career in the Ethiopian national team.

Representing Ethiopia, Addis was instrumental in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations games, even if the team failed to qualify.

14. Fatuma Roba Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete fatuma roba

Fatuma Roba born on December 18, 1973, she is a long distance track and road runner who is known as the first African woman to win a gold medal in the marathon event at the Atlanta Summer Olympic games of 1996.

Also, she won the arduous Boston Marathon 3 times in a row from 1997 through to 1999.

15. Mohamed Kedir Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete mohamed kedir

Mohamed Kedir born on September 18, 1954 is a long distance track and road runner best known for his amazing 25 year long career in which he amassed 60 gold, 40 silver and 30 bronze medals in the 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, and cross country races.

He won the bronze medal in the 10,000 meters at the Summer Olympics of 1980.

Mohamed's last international competition was in Finland at the 1983 inaugural World Athletics Championships.

16. Youssouf Hersi Footballer

ethiopian athlete youssouf hersi

Youssouf Hersi born on August 20, 1982 is an Ethiopian born Dutch footballer, who has played for many international teams.

In 2013, Youssouf broke the Australian football record for having the most consecutive wins for a player.

As an attacking midfielder he has played for the Australian Perth Glory, the Dutch teams of Ajax, NAC Breda, NEC, Heerenven, DeGraafschap, Vitesse Arnhem, and Twente, as well as for the Greek AEK Athens.

17. Feyisa Lilesa Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete feyisa lilesa

Feyisa Lilesa born on February 1, 1990 is a long distance road and track runner, who is best known for becoming the youngest man to run under 2:06, which he did at the 2010 Rotterdam Marathon.

Feyisa has won the Dublin Marathon (2009), Xiamen International Marathon (2010), bronze medal at the World Championships Marathon (2011), and a silver medal at the Rio Olympics Marathon (2016).

He is also popular because of the political statement he made at the Olympics to protest the abuse inflicted upon his ethnicity in Ethiopia.

18. Meselech Melkamu Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete meselech melkamu

Meselech Melkamu born on April 27, 1985 is a long distance track and road runner, who is best known for her 2009 run of 29:53.80 at the 10,000 meters, which made her the second on the all time list.

Meselech is also one of 7 women to have ever broken the 30 minute barrier, and only the fourth Ethiopian.

In 2008, she famously defeated Meseret Defar to win the 5,000 meters gold medal at the 2008 African Athletics Championships.

Meselech also set a course record at her win in the 2012 Frankfurt Marathon.

19. Yordanos Abay Footballer

ethiopian athlete yordanos abay

Yordanos Abay born on March 28, 1984 is an international footballer who has played in Ethiopia, the Netherlands, and in Yemen.

As a striker he played for Al-Saqr, Ethiopian Coffee, Dire Dawa Railway, Vitesse Arnhem, and his current team EEPCO FC.

Yordanos has also played at the FIFA World Youth Championship in 2001 as well as in the FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.

20. Miruts Yifter Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete miruts yifter

Miruts Yifter (1944-2016) was long distance track and road runner, best known for his 2 gold medals at the 1980 Summer Olympics.

Given the nickname "Yifter the Shifter" and he is also sometimes called, Muruse Yefter.

He won a bronze medal for the 10,000 meters at the Munich Olympics in 1972, a gold medal at the All Africa Games in 1973, and 2 gold medals at the 1st African Championships in 1979 (5,000 & 10,000 meters).

In the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Miruts won gold for both the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters.

Miruts was also plagued by a controversy surrounding his age at the Moscow Olympics which was estimated at between 33 years of age to 42.

21. Ejegayehu Dibaba Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete ejegayehu dibaba

Ejegayehu Dibaba born on March 21, 1982 is a long distance track and road runner, known for being the elder sister of international long distance stars Tirunesh Dibaba and Genzebe Dibaba.

She beat her cousin Derartu Tulu, another long distance star, to win the silver medal in the 10,000 meters event at the Summer Olympics games in 2004.

Ejegayehu also won two bronze medals at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics second only to her sister.

In 2011, she won the Chicago Marathon in her debut marathon race.

22. Berhane Adere Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete berhane adere

Berhane Adere born on July 21, 1973 is a long distance road and track runner, who is known best for being world champion for the 10,000 meters in 2003 and world champion for the half marathon in 2002.

In 2003, she also won the gold medal for 3,000 meters at the IAAF World Indoor Championships and in 2006 and 2007 Berhane won the Chicago Marathon.

She would go on and also win the Dubai Marathon in 2008 and the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in 2007.

Berhane would also win the Rock 'n' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon with the fastest ever recorded half marathon in the US, breaking her own record by 25 seconds.

23. Benjamin Kibebe Footballer

ethiopian athlete benjamin kibebe

Benjamin Kibebe born on August 13, 1981 is an Ethiopian born Swedish footballer, who is best known for having played on the Swedish national team.

Benjamin began his career with Hammarby, then moved to AIK, where he stayed for five seasons, before going to play for Tromso IL in Norway's Tipeligaen.

This gave him the opportunity to play in the 2006 UEFA cup.

Benjamin would later move to Aalesunds FK, then move to Denmark to play for FC Nordsjaelland, where he helped the team win the Danish Cup in 2010.

The day after this victory he was sold to the Swiss team Swiss Club FC Luzern for a three year contract.

24. Sileshi Sihine Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete sileshi sihine

Sileshi Sihine born on January 29, 1983 is a long distance road and track runner who is best known for his 10,000 meters silver medals at the 2004 Atlanta Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Sileshi also won the silver medal for the 5,000 meters event in the World Championships of 2005.

Throughout his career, he had to run under the shadow of the long distance great Kenenisa Bekele, pushing him to receive mostly silver medals.

In 2015, he became the first president of the newly formed Ethiopian Athletes Association; he is also married to the long distance superstar runner, Tirunesh Dibaba.

25. Kebede Balcha Long-Distance Track and Road Running

ethiopian athlete kebede balcha

Kebede Balcha (1951-2018) was a long distance road and track runner who is best known for his victory in the World Championships of 1983, in which he took a silver medal.

He is also the world record holder for the Montreal International Marathon, which he did in 1983.