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Bekoji, the land where runners never stop blooming

AIPS
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Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia wins gold in the Women's 3000 Metres Final during day four of the IAAF World Indoor Championships at Oregon Convention Center on March 20, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

by Haileegziabher Adhanom, AIPS Young Reporter, Ethiopia

 

DOHA, May 2, 2017 - It is called “Town of Runners” and many people may not even know it. The city is one of the secrets about Ethiopian athletics success: a tiny town named Bekoji at the center of a high-altitude land, mainly a rural community.

 

 

Bekoji is home to the likes of Derartu Tulu, the first African woman ever to win a Gold medal at the Olympics in Barcelona 1992 in the 10,000m, and Fatuma Roba, the first African woman to win a Marathon in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Also from the “Home if Runners” are Triple Olympic Champions and long distance runners Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba plus her two talented sisters Ejigayehu and Genzebe Dibaba, who will be one of the main attractions in Doha Diamond League on Friday, taking place for the first time in the 800m starting lineup. The 2012 Olympic Marathon winner Tiki Gelana is also from Bekoji.

 

“Like for any other athlete the first thing in making them into champions is the level of dedication and effort they put in their training,” explains to AIPS Sintayehu Eshetu, 59, a physical educator in Bekoji, and a renowned talent poacher.

 

“Of course there are other reasons - continues Eshetu - like the quality of the food that in Bekoji naturally consists of carbohydrates, protein and other useful nutrients. Examples includes maize, barley, milk and beso, a local power drink made up of barley, flour, water and sugar.”

 

Bekoji is located 250 km south of the capital Addis Ababa, but despite having a population of just around 20.000 (compared to the country’s 100 million) has produced more than a dozen Olympic medalists and double of that amount in World Championships and Cross Country awards.

 

Sintayehu Eshetu did not have to travel much to spot talent of the caliber of Derartu Tulu, Fatuma Roba or Kenenisa Bekele: he just picked them from the local school program.

 

“The altitude of 2,800 meters above sea level, has also its own advantages – explains Eshetu -. If running is a culture in Ethiopia, in Bekoji it’s a way of life. You do running for everything, to go to school, to work, to deliver a message.

 

Everything. Athletics in Bekoji is more than sport, it is a way to escape poverty which undeniably causes athletes to even work harder”.

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