Derartu (ዻራርቱ ቱሉ), a member of the Oromo ethnic group, grew up tending cattle in the village of Bekoji in the highlands of Arsi Province. The same village as Kenenisa Bekele, the male running sensation.
In 2004, she declined to enter the New York Marathon, where she would have been likely to face marathon World Record holder Paula Radcliffe, whom she has had a great rivalry with over the years, and focused instead on the Olympic Games, where she won the bronze medal.
Tulu is the first Ethiopian woman to win a medal in the Olympic Games. She is also the first woman from sub-Saharan Africa to win an Olympic gold medal. Her 1992 Olympic gold medal launched her career. She sat out 1993 and 1994 with a knee injury and returned to competition in the 1995 IAAF World Cross Country Championships where she won gold, having arrived at the race only an hour before the start. She was stuck in Athens airport without sleep for 24 hours. The same year she lost out to Fernanda Ribeiro and won silver at the World Championships 10,000.
1996 was a difficult year. At the IAAF World Cross Country Championships she lost her shoe in the race and had to fight back to get 4th place. She also finished 4th at the Olympic Games where she was nursing an injury. In 1997 she won the world cross country title for a third time but did not factor in the 10,000 meter World Championships. 1998 and 1999 she gave birth, but came back in 2000 in the best shape of her life. She won the 10,000 meter Olympic gold for the second time (the only woman to have done this in the short history of the event). She had also won the IAAF World Cross Country Championships title for the third time that year. In 2001 she finally won her world 10,000 track title in Edmonton. This was her third world and Olympic gold medal. She has a total of 6 world and Olympic gold medals.
Her transition to the marathon has been rewarded with victories in London 2001 and at the competitive Tokyo Marathon. At the age of 33 she finished 4th at the 2005 World Championships setting her personal best time of 2:23.
Sixteen years into her running career Derartu Tulu is still running competitively, while some of her rivals are retiring. She is an icon of the Olympic movement and many will recall her victory lap in 1992 with white South African Elana Meyer, symbolically celebrating an African victory and the end of apartheid on the track. She will also be remembered for her speed. Her 60.3 second-last lap at the end of the 10,000 meters at the Sydney Olympics was a sprint of note. A devastating display of speed on top of endurance and a display of her will power.
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