23rd May 2024

Miruts Yifter: The shifter

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Miruts Yifter

Yifter the Shifter

Former Ethiopian distance runner Miruts Yifter is an interesting personality and no less than a mystery.

He won the bronze medal in 10,000 m in the 1972 Munich Olympics, but could not arrive on time to compete in the 5,000 m final. His country labelled him a traitor, and even imprisoned him for missing the race. His absence, however, still remains a mystery.

In 1976 Ethiopia boycotted the Montreal Olympics due to apartheid-related politics. Still, on his return in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Yifter lifted gold, in both 5,000 m and 10,000 m. His sudden transition in speed during the 5000 m final earned him the nickname ‘Yifter the Shifter’.

‘I told journalists who saw me to count my enthusiasm, not my age. I told them you need an Ethiopian motivation to win races.’

Yifter’s age has always remained a secret and yet another topic of mystery. When he won the long distance double in Moscow, someone said, ‘he looks like 47, runs like 27.’ His age was supposedly between 33 and 42. On being asked he refused to give a definitive answer; he said, ‘Men may steal my chickens; men may steal my sheep. But no man can steal my age.’

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