Ethiopia: Miruts Yefter – the Shifter – by Yohannes Gebresellsie (Ph.d)

When one talks about 10,000 meters run, one talks about mirutse; when one talks about 5000 meters run, one talks about Miruts; when one talks about athletics in general, one talks about Miruts and when one talks about athletic courage, stamina, endurance and determination, about morale to winning gold medals in athletic arena, then one talks about the one with legs of athletic machine with shifting, lightening and speeding gear: The legend, the Hero and the one and only Miruts Yefter, popularly known as The Shifter.

Miruts had it all, he was a winner. A double gold medalist at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, an Olympic gold prior to that in Montreal, Canada and then the rest is recorded in gold in Olympic history books with many more trophies after trophies locally, nationally and internationally.

He made history by putting his name and the name of our nation in many athletics competition by winning medals after medals and made not only his nation and his people but also the continent of Africa as a whole proud, by representing the continent in world athletics completions. As a result, the name Miruts became synonymous with athletics in general and the events he specialized in i.e. the 5000 and the 10000m run in particular, both at home and abroad.

Therefore, when one talks about athletics, one talks about this great man, the legendary Miruts Yefter: The Shifter. He is called The Shifter because of his striking speed and lightening finish. He dashes the last 100 or 200 meters like one is running the 100 meter and that became his trade mark. That trade mark is now replicated by known international athletes, although not quite like him.

Miruts did not become a success through extensive training. In fact, he was simply gifted; a God given athletic talent with tremendous and remarkable courage and morale. Few years back in Toronto, Canada; I met Miruts and asked him how he became such a great athlete. This was his response: ‘When I was a kid, I used to run against a rabbit in my neighborhood and tried to outrun it. I also run against a rushing flood around my neighborhood and tried to bit it. That is how I became a fast runner beginning from childhood and then the legendary Abebe Bikila caught my talent and he was instrumental in recruiting me to the Ethiopian Air force where I got training and became a good athlete”.

As I got more squinted with him, I used to meet him there in Toronto and came to know him better. He was a very quiet, kind and not quite outspoken person. I guess he always expressed himself with action: the job he did best; running, running he did exceptionally well. Another character I came to know about Miruts was his kindness, sharing what he had with anyone who happens to know him and I tell you millions know him. He gets some money and he shares it, he spends with anyone around him. He was that generous. That may not necessarily be nice but Miruts was Mirutse; that was him: A very kind and humorous human being.

Miruts has another great talent different from athletics as well and that is his exceptional skill with traditional drum and his tremendous ability in traditional “Eskesta”. He was a master in that and everybody wants his presence in any festivity to see and admire his skill. I was one of his admirers having the chance to see him perform many times.

I remember people showering him with gifts when he gets the drum or goes to the dancing floor to do the “Eskesta”. Miruts was always popular with people and he adores his people and his country. People of any background love and admire him. At times, they call him “Jegna”, “our Hero, our pride”. To him, his country and his people stand number one from anything and everything else. He lived for his people and for his nation. Ethiopia stands first and foremost to this Grand person. Miutse was a giant and grand pillar of Ethiopian athletics with a unique and extraordinary athletic talent.

The one and only Miruts Yefter, a great Ethiopian passed away lately in Toronto, Canada. His death brought deep sorrow to all Ethiopians at home and abroad. Miruts Yefter was a symbol of Ethiopian athletics. His legacy overflowing the heart and soul of every Ethiopian in unprecedented manner for decades. His athletic performance; and what a performance it has been; knocked every door, he was admired by everyone. In fact, the name Miruts has always been synonymous with Ethiopian athletics.

He was our household hero for decades putting an unforgettable spot with his defining athletic mark. As a result, we all cherish his talent; we all admired him and we all loved him and at the end when he left us, we all are mourning his death because we all wanted him to be with us. But then even he has to die for he is only human.

This great man and this great Ethiopian had no match to his talent, to his Olympic performance because he loved his profession dearly and put the highest respect, standard and bench mark to his profession as no one else has done before and that made him truly unique in the history of Ethiopian Athletics. Many even go as far as believing that his talent is simply a gift from God and there is nothing one can do about it; He was simply perfect. This extremely talented athlete has left us for good now but he and his legacy will always remain with us and will pass for generations to come.

Miruts is an Ethiopian athletics legend; indeed, he is an Ethiopian hero. Ethiopians everywhere simply do not want to accept his death because Ethiopians want him to be on their side as he has always been.

This honorable Ethiopian deserves our love and appreciation and we shall cherish his talent. This grand Ethiopian athlete is a legend who has done everything in his capacity that goes beyond generations; transformed the standard of Ethiopian athletics with his legacy of perfection and we all thank him for his tireless service and dedication to his country and the people he passionately loved. As he leaves us, his gift will remain within our heart and soul, remembered and loved forever. We owe him a lot and as we say goodbye to this extraordinary man, we say thank you, and May God bless him and may God give strength and courage to his family.

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