Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Most Athletic Family in the World

It must be hard to be Ejegayehu Dibaba.

At the 2004 Athens Olympic Games she won the silver medal in the women's 10000m run. The next year, she won bronze medals in the 5000m and 10000m at the World Championships. But after all that, she is still only the 4th most accomplished professional distance runner in her family.

From left to right: the illustrious sisters Ejegayehu, Genzebe, and Tirunesh.

First meet her cousin, Derartu Tulu: she has 5 World Championship medals in the 10000m, three of which are gold. But how close are most cousins, really? If the two only crossed paths at the occasional family reunion, Ejegayehu could still be the star athlete of the clan any other day.

That is, if it weren’t for Ejegayehu's sister, Tirunesh Dibaba. In addition to 13 Olympic or World Championship gold medals at 5000m and 10000m, she even has one standing World Record performance: a blistering 14 minute 11 second 5000m. Sounds impressive? It is.

Until, of course, you hear about the third sister, Genzebe Dibaba. The baby of the family already has 4 Olympic or World Championship gold medals and the current World Record in 6 events: the 1500m (both indoor and outdoor), the indoor 3000m, the indoor 5000m, the indoor mile, and the indoor two mile. Just watch her go:

If you think this is the sort of thing that looks more impressive on TV with the help of dramatic camera angles and slow motion replays, think again; it's more impressive in person. I was in Portland this winter for the World Indoor Championships and I saw Genzebe win the 3000m with my own eyes. And halfway through the race when she pulled away from the pack it looked like the other runners were standing still.

But perhaps the most impressive thing about the youngest Dibaba girl is her age—at just 25 years, she is actively setting new personal bests, and is sure to win more championships and break more records throughout her career.

So, yeah, it’s gotta be a little hard to be Ejegayehu. But if this is one of those families that gets together on Thanksgiving to run the local Turkey Trot, you can bet I’d watch that race.