Miruts Yifter Dead: Tributes Pour in for one of Ethiopia’s Greatest Athletes who Died in Exile at 72

Several people have extended tributes and messages of condolences to the family of Miruts Yifter after the Ethiopian Athletics Federation confirmed the death of the two-time Olympic gold medalist on Friday.

Ethiopia’s Miruts Yifter, considered one of the greatest middle distance runner in history, died at a Canadian hospital where he was being treated for respiratory ailments, the IAAF reported.

He was initially hospitalized in Toronto after reportedly suffering from a collapsed lung.

Tributes from Ethiopians and running enthusiasts across the world have been pouring in for Yifter on social media.

The Ethiopian government has also paid tribute to Miruts Yifter whose historic performance at the 1989 Olympics in Moscow earned him two gold medals and a nickname ” Miruts the Shifter,” Addis Standard reported.

Miruts Yifter is among the list of Ethiopia’s greatest athletes including Abebe Bikila and Mamo Wolde. These athletes went on to inspire another generation of Ethiopian runners including the likes of Haile Gebrselassie, the retired running great who was inspired by Yifter’s exploits at seven, Athletics Weekly reported.

“Miruts has been everything to me and my athletics career,” Gebrselassie, who is now president of Ethiopian Athletics, told AP by phone. “When I started running, I just wanted to be like him. He is the reason for who I’m now and for what I have achieved.”

“I used to doubt that he was a human being after all for achieving what he achieved back then. For me, he is the best-ever athlete Ethiopia ever had after the great Abebe Bikila,” Gebrselassie added.

Miruts Yifter’s family say although he achieved several feats for Ethiopia, he never got the privileges and respect he deserved from his country.

Yifter was reportedly imprisoned by Ethiopia’s former military regime and labeled a “traitor” in the 1970s for failing to compete in the 5000m race in the Munich Olympic games. There are several reports as to why Yifter missed the race; they include him being late and getting lost on his way to the stadium.

After his release from prison, Yifter reportedly went on an exile, leaving Ethiopia for Canada in 2000.

The running great is scheduled to be buried in Ethiopia next week. His family has reportedly called on Ethiopia to give his body a hero’s welcome when they arrive for the funeral in Addis Ababa.

[Photo by Valeriy Shustov/RIA Novosti]

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