Family: Ethiopian running legend Miruts Yifter dies at 72

FILE - In this July 19, 1980 file photo Ethiopia's Miruts Yifter (191) leads the field during the 10,000 Meter Race at the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia. Miruts Yifter, an Ethiopian running legend who inspired world-class athletes like Haile Gebreselassie, has died in Canada at age 72, his family and Ethiopian Athletics Federation officials told the Associated Press on Friday Dec. 23, 2016. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this Friday, August 1, 1980 file photo Bronze medal winner Kaarlo Maaninka of Finland, left, congratulates Miruts Yifter who won the gold medal in the Men's 5,000 meter Race at the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia. Miruts Yifter, an Ethiopian running legend who inspired world-class athletes like Haile Gebreselassie, has died in Canada at age 72, his family and Ethiopian Athletics Federation officials told the Associated Press on Friday Dec. 23, 2016. (AP Photo)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Miruts Yifter, an Ethiopian running legend who inspired world-class athletes like Haile Gebreselassie, has died in Canada at age 72, his family and Ethiopian Athletics Federation officials told the Associated Press on Friday.

The athlete known widely by the nickname "Miruts the Shifter" won two gold medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics at age 40 and won bronze medals earlier at the 1972 Munich Games.

"Miruts has been everything to me and my athletics career," said Haile Gebreselassie, the double Olympic 10,000-meter champion, who struggled with his tears while talking to the 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."

Miruts' son, Biniam Miruts, said his father had been suffering from respiratory problems.

Miruts Yift was the subject of much criticism during Ethiopia's former military regime, especially for not winning gold medals at the Munich Games, and he was thrown into jail upon his return home. He was soon released but left Ethiopia in 2000 for Canada.

Family members said he was never accorded the dignity and privileges he deserved in Ethiopia, and they called on all Ethiopians to give him a heroic welcome when his body arrives for burial in Addis Ababa next week.

Miruts has seven children, most of whom live outside Ethiopia.

Haile recalled listening to the radio as a little boy during Mirut's victory in Moscow.

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

People also read these

Salah takes on Egyptian federation over World Cup...

Aug 30, 2018

Salah seeks better security, discipline for national team after World Cup debacle, touches off spat...

Cameroon faces being dropped as African Cup host

Sep 29, 2018

Cameroon faces being stripped of its hosting duties for next year's African Cup of Nations soccer...

Egypt Olympic committee wants legal action...

Sep 30, 2018

Egypt's Olympic Committee is appealing to the country's parliament to lift the immunity of the...

Mohamed Salah leaves Egypt match with injury

Oct 12, 2018

Egypt's assistant coach says Mohamed Salah's injury "doesn't look serious" after the Liverpool...

Egypt's retired soccer star sentenced to 1 year...

Nov 13, 2018

Egyptian court sentences Aboutrika, country's all-time soccer great, to year in prison for tax...

Sign up now!

Daily Sprinter delivers the cutting-edge content from game reports to viral videos for our audiences worldwide. Our passionate writers strive to deliver a unique approach to the hottest sports news.

Contact us: sales[at]dailysprinter.com