Tirunesh Dibaba at a ceremony in Addis Ababa (© Kassahun Yilma)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia The list of honours Ethiopian runner Tirunesh Dibaba has earned in her short, but illustrious career already has many of her rivals running for minor positions when they line up against the double Olympic 5000m/10,000m champion: double World 5000m and 10000m champion; world indoor and outdoor 5000m record holder; and three-time World Cross Country long course champion.
The latest addition to Dibaba’s incredible CV came yesterday evening when her club, the Prisons Police, bestowed the rank of Chief Superintendent for her services to club and country.
Aged just 23, Dibaba, who will this year marry long-time fiancée and fellow club mate Sileshi Sihine, has not only amassed major titles and World records, but has also quickly risen up prisons police ranks.
She may be nicknamed the Baby Faced Destroyer, but there was nothing “baby faced” about the manner in which Dibaba received her latest honour.
Dibaba marched all the way from her seat to the podium at a ceremony held on Thursday evening saluted Maeregu Habtemariam, State Minister for Federal Affairs, who bestowed the new rank on her shoulders. She then saluted Habtemariam and marched back to her seat to the amusement of guests and the media.
She has now surpassed distance running ace Haile Gebrselassie, who is a Major with the Omedla Police club, and is equal in rank with Derartu Tulu, who is also a chief superintendent. Sihine, meanwhile, also moved up a rank going up to Major Officer. She has also achieved more in six years than both Tulu and Gebrselassie managed in careers spanning two decades.
Also included in the awards were other athletes who represented the Prisons Police club at the 29th Beijing Olympics. African 1500m champion Gelete Burka rose to Deputy Officer, African 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Mekdes Bekele and Yacob Jarso, fourth in the men’s 3000m Steeplechase final in Beijing, both move up to Warden. Their club coach Hussein Shebo, who is also the assistant coach of the national team, moved up to Superintendent.
A week earlier, Tsegaye Kebede, bronze medallist in the Olympic marathon and winner of this year’s Paris Marathon, earned the military rank Deputy Sergeant from his club, Defence forces.
Street named to honour Bekele
In a busy week of awards and commemorations, Ethiopia’s Olympic double 5000m/10,000m champion Kenenisa Bekele had an avenue in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa named after him by the city’s administration. “The Kenenisa Avenue” will run in one of the city’s major sections and will bear his name for visitors.
On the other hand, Dibaba has a hospital on the outskirts of the city named after her. “The Tirunesh Dibaba Hospital” is currently under construction in a joint collaboration between the Ethiopian and Chinese governments and is located in the Akaki-Kaliti sub-city in the suburbs of Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia’s Beijing medallists have also been raking up cash prizes and gifts over the past week. Both Bekele and Dibaba received a Toyota Corolla 2000 (current market value USD 40,000) each from the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi two weeks ago. In addition, Bekele was awarded ETB 100,000 (USD 10,000) from his club Muger Cement for his outstanding services to the club.
The awards ceremonies are expected to continue with regions and regional administrations across the country also awarding the athletes.
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF