The Most Famous

ATHLETES from Ethiopia

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This page contains a list of the greatest Ethiopian Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,055 Athletes, 38 of which were born in Ethiopia. This makes Ethiopia the birth place of the 21st most number of Athletes behind Japan and Netherlands.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Ethiopian Athletes of all time. This list of famous Ethiopian Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Ethiopian Athletes.

Photo of Abebe Bikila

1. Abebe Bikila (1932 - 1973)

With an HPI of 77.69, Abebe Bikila is the most famous Ethiopian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 55 different languages on wikipedia.

Shambel Abebe Bikila (Amharic: ሻምበል አበበ ቢቂላ; August 7, 1932 – October 25, 1973) was an Ethiopian marathon runner who was a back-to-back Olympic marathon champion. He is the first black African Olympic gold medalist, winning his first gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome while running barefoot. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he won his second gold medal. In turn, he became the first athlete to successfully defend an Olympic marathon title. In both victories, he ran in world record time. Born in Shewa, Abebe moved to Addis Ababa around 1952 and joined the 5th Infantry Regiment of the Ethiopian Imperial Guard, an elite infantry division that safeguarded the Emperor of Ethiopia. Enlisting as a soldier before his athletic career, he rose to the rank of shambel (captain). Abebe participated in a total of sixteen marathons. He placed second on his first marathon in Addis Ababa, won twelve other races, and finished fifth in the 1963 Boston Marathon. In July 1967, he sustained the first of several sports-related leg injuries that prevented him from finishing his last two marathons. Abebe was a pioneer in long-distance running. Mamo Wolde, Juma Ikangaa, Tegla Loroupe, Paul Tergat, and Haile Gebrselassie—all recipients of the New York Road Runners' Abebe Bikila Award—are a few of the athletes who have followed in his footsteps to establish East Africa as a force in long-distance running.On March 22, 1969, Abebe was paralysed due to a car accident. He regained some upper-body mobility, but he never walked again. While he was receiving medical treatment in England, Abebe competed in archery and table tennis at the 1970 Stoke Mandeville Games in London. Those Games were an early predecessor of the Paralympic Games. He competed in both sports at a 1971 competition for the disabled in Norway and won its cross-country sleigh-riding event. Abebe died at age 41 on October 25, 1973, of a cerebral hemorrhage related to his accident four years earlier. He received a state funeral, and Emperor Haile Selassie declared a national day of mourning. Many schools, venues, and events, including Abebe Bikila Stadium in Addis Ababa, are named after him. He is the subject of biographies and films documenting his athletic career, and he is often featured in publications about the marathon and the Olympics.

Photo of Mamo Wolde

2. Mamo Wolde (1932 - 2002)

With an HPI of 63.85, Mamo Wolde is the 2nd most famous Ethiopian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Degaga "Mamo" Wolde ({lang-amh| ማሞ ወልዴ}}; 12 June 1932 – 26 May 2002) was an Ethiopian long distance runner who competed in track, cross-country, and road running events. He was the winner of the marathon at the 1968 Summer Olympics.

Photo of Haile Gebrselassie

3. Haile Gebrselassie (1973 - )

With an HPI of 63.40, Haile Gebrselassie is the 3rd most famous Ethiopian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 57 different languages.

Haile Gebrselassie (Amharic: ኃይሌ ገብረ ሥላሴ, haylē gebre silassē; born 18 April 1973) is a retired Ethiopian long-distance track and road running athlete. He won two Olympic gold medals over 10,000 metres and four World Championship titles in the event. He won the Berlin Marathon four times consecutively and also had three straight wins at the Dubai Marathon. Further to this, he won four world titles indoors and was the 2001 World Half Marathon Champion. Haile had major competition wins at distances between 1500 metres and the marathon, moving from outdoor, indoor and cross country running to road running in the latter part of his career. He broke 61 Ethiopian national records ranging from 800 metres to the marathon, set 27 world records, and is regarded as one of the greatest distance runners in history.In September 2008, at the age of 35, he won the Berlin Marathon with a world record time of 2:03:59, breaking his own world record by 27 seconds. The record stood for three years. Since he was over the age of 35, that mark stood as the Masters Age group world record until 29 September 2019, when fellow Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele ran 2:01:41 at the age of 37. Gebrselassie's 10000 m Masters record has not been challenged since 2008. Haile was cited as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2011.

Photo of Miruts Yifter

4. Miruts Yifter (1944 - 2016)

With an HPI of 62.99, Miruts Yifter is the 4th most famous Ethiopian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Miruts Yifter (Amharic: ምሩፅ ይፍጠር, affectionately known as "Yifter the Shifter", 15 May 1944 – 22 December 2016) was an Ethiopian long-distance runner from Tigray and winner of two gold medals at the 1980 Summer Olympics. His date of birth is often given as 15 May 1944, though there is some uncertainty about this. His name is also sometimes spelled as Muruse Yefter.

Photo of Kenenisa Bekele

5. Kenenisa Bekele (1982 - )

With an HPI of 60.28, Kenenisa Bekele is the 5th most famous Ethiopian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 49 different languages.

Kenenisa Bekele (Oromo: Qananiisaa baqqalaa; Amharic: ቀነኒሳ በቀለ; born 13 June 1982) is an Ethiopian long-distance runner and was the world record holder in both the 5000-metre and 10000-metre from 2004 (5,000m) and 2005 (10,000m) until 2020. He won the gold medal in both the 5000 m and 10,000 m events at the 2008 Summer Olympics. At the 2004 Olympics, he won the gold medal in the 10,000 m and the silver medal in the 5000 m. He is the most successful runner in the history of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, with six long (12 km) course and five short (4 km) course titles. He won the 10,000 m title at the World Championships in Athletics in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009 (matching Haile Gebrselassie's four in a row win streak). Kenenisa was unbeaten over 10,000 m from his debut in 2003 until 2011, when he failed to finish at the World Championships final. At the 2009 World Championships in Athletics he became the first man to win both 5000 m and 10,000 m title at the same championships. Over 5000 m he has also won an Olympic silver (2004), World Championship bronze (2003), two African Championship titles and one All-Africa Games gold medal. He also won the 3000 metres title at the 2006 World Indoor Championships. On 6 April 2014, he produced the sixth fastest marathon debut ever on a record-eligible course with his victory at the Paris Marathon, in a course record time of 2:05:04. On 25 September 2016, Kenenisa won the Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:03:03, a new personal best, then the third-fastest marathon of all time. On 29 September 2019, he again won the Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:01:41, two seconds slower than the world record of 2:01:39 set by Eliud Kipchoge in the 2018 Berlin Marathon. Considering his accomplishments in cross country, track, and road racing, many consider him to be the greatest distance runner of all time.

Photo of Tirunesh Dibaba

6. Tirunesh Dibaba (1985 - )

With an HPI of 54.13, Tirunesh Dibaba is the 6th most famous Ethiopian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 43 different languages.

Tirunesh Dibaba (Amharic: ጥሩነሽ ዲባባ ቀነኒ, Oromo: xirunesh Dibaabaa Qananii; born 1 June 1985) is an Ethiopian athlete who competes in long-distance track events and international road races. She was the 5000 metres (outdoor track) world record holder. She has won three Olympic track gold medals, five World Championship track gold medals, four individual World Cross Country (WCC) adult titles, and one individual WCC junior title. She is nicknamed the "Baby Faced Destroyer."At the 2005 IAAF World Championships in Helsinki Finland, she became the first woman to win the 5000 m and 10000 m at the same championship. She is the one of two women (the other Sonia O'Sullivan) who won the short and long course World Cross Country title at the same championship (2005 in Saint Galmier, France). With her 2003 World championship title, she became the youngest World Champion at the age of 18 years and 90 days.

Photo of Derartu Tulu

7. Derartu Tulu (1972 - )

With an HPI of 52.25, Derartu Tulu is the 7th most famous Ethiopian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Derartu Tulu (Amharic: ደራርቱ ቱሉ; Afaan Oromo: Daraartuu Tulluu; born 21 March 1972) is an Ethiopian long-distance runner, who competed in track, cross country running, and road running up to the marathon distance.

Photo of Eshetu Tura

8. Eshetu Tura (1950 - )

With an HPI of 52.13, Eshetu Tura is the 8th most famous Ethiopian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Eshetu Tura (Amharic: አሸቱ ቱራ; (born January 19, 1950) is an Ethiopian retired long-distance runner from Ethiopia. He won the bronze medal in 3,000 metres steeplechase at the 1980 Summer Olympics.

Photo of Genzebe Dibaba

9. Genzebe Dibaba (1991 - )

With an HPI of 49.37, Genzebe Dibaba is the 9th most famous Ethiopian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Genzebe Dibaba Keneni (Oromo: Ganzabee Dibaabaa Qananii); (Amharic: ገንዘቤ ዲባባ ቀነኒ; born 8 February 1991) is an Ethiopian middle- and long-distance runner. She won the gold medal in the 1500 m at the Beijing World Championships and a silver medal in the 1500 meters at the 2016 Olympics. Genzebe is the current world record holder for the 1500 m (both indoor and outdoor), the indoor 3000 m, the indoor 5000 m, and the indoor mile. Her 2000 m indoor women's world's best time is the absolute world record, as it is faster than the previous women's outdoor mark. Genzebe holds the distinction of possessing the most world records by one individual in track history, with her current haul of seven, plus one world best. Genzebe was the 2012 World Indoor Champion for the 1500 m and the 2014 World Indoor Champion in the 3000 m. She represented Ethiopia at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics and has competed at the World Athletics Championships on five occasions. She was highly successful as a junior (under-20) athlete, having won two junior World Cross Country titles and one world junior 5000 m gold medal. She was named Laureus Sportswoman of the Year for 2014 and IAAF World Athlete of the Year in 2015.She is from a sporting family several Olympic medalists, which includes her sisters Tirunesh and Ejegayehu, and her aunt Derartu Tulu.

Photo of Fatuma Roba

10. Fatuma Roba (1973 - )

With an HPI of 49.17, Fatuma Roba is the 10th most famous Ethiopian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Fatuma Roba (Amharic: ፋጡማ ሮባ; born 18 December 1973) is an Ethiopian long-distance runner, best known for being the first African woman to win a gold medal in the women's Olympic marathon race at the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics and for winning three successive Boston Marathons.

Pantheon has 38 people classified as athletes born between 1932 and 1994. Of these 38, 35 (92.11%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele, and Tirunesh Dibaba. The most famous deceased athletes include Abebe Bikila, Mamo Wolde, and Miruts Yifter. As of October 2020, 4 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Eshetu Tura, Tesfaye Tola, and Lelisa Desisa.

Living Athletes

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Deceased Athletes

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Newly Added Athletes (2020)

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Which Athletes were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 3 most globally memorable Athletes since 1700.