Miruts Yifter, Moscow double winner, one of Ethiopia's greatest athletes, has died, by Bob Ramsak, for IAAF

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yifter_viren_moscu80.jpgMiruts Yifter, Lasse Viren, Moscow 10,000 meters, photo courtesy of JuanJoseMartinez.com.mex

RunBlogRun opines: The 10,000 meters at the Moscow Olympics was one of the toughest, most erracticly paced 25 lappers in the modern history of the event. Viren, Manienka, Yifter, Kedir, Foster, McLeod, were all there.

Miruts Yifter had taken bronze in the 10,000 meters in Munich. His country then boycotted Montreal, taking away a historic chance for the Ethiopian medalist to add to his Olympic medal count. In 1977, at the World Cup, he held off Marty Liquori, as both ran two of the fastest times over 5000 meters of that year. In 1979, at the next World Cup, Yifter won the 10,000m in a very tactical event.

Now, Yifter was dealing with a double Olympic champion with fine tactics, a fine kick and a fine pedigree in Olympic finals. Yifter took him on, and won, over 10,000 meters, with Viren in sixth. In the 5000 meters, Yifter also won, with Viren a DNF. While Yifter had finally defeated his nemesis from 1972, he did get the recognition he should have, like other Ethiopian athletes of his generation. (Remember Mamo Wolde? Mr. Wolde served nine years in Ethiopian prisons.)

Yifter was held in great respect by the next generations of Ethiopian runners and any global fan who understood the sport. Like Emil Zatopek, Miruts Yifter paid for his beliefs, imprisoned by the depraved and despotic Marxists who dictated life in Ethiopia, soon after his 1972 bronze, because the despots did not believe that Yifter tried hard enough to defeat Viren. After Yifter finished his racing, he moved to Canada in 1988.

His brilliant racing lives on YouTube, in an Olympics, that to most Americans, did not exist, as it was not broadcast in the U.S. Remember President Carter's ill-advised boycott of Moscow 1980?

Miruts Yifter died this past week, and Bob Ramsak, a long time writer for the IAAF and friend, wrote the following tribute for the IAAF. org site. We use , giving courtesy to the IAAF.

The IAAF is saddened by the news that Miruts Yifter, a double Olympic champion for Ethiopia at the 1980 Olympic Games, died yesterday (22) in Toronto, Canada, after being hospitalised for respiratory ailments. Yifter, considered by many as one of the greatest middle distance runners of all-time, was 72.

Yifter_10000_Moscu80d.jpgMiruts Yifter, Moscow 10,000m, photo by JuanJoseMartinez.com.mex

Yifter's crowning achievement was his 5,000 and 10,000m double triumph at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow at age 40, where he earned the nickname "Yifter the Shifter" for the rapid injections of speed that helped propel him to victory. In both contests, Yifter surged and slowed to confuse his key opponents. The tactic worked.

"We talked about it with the coaches and I practiced taking off with 300 metres to go in both the 5000 and 10,000m races," he recalled for a 2004 story on the IAAF website.

"300 metres is the ideal mark - not too late, not too early. I listened to the movements of my opponents until five laps remained and then decided on my course of action. The tension start building at the bell, but before they could reassert themselves, I make my move."

The move came off without a hitch in the 10,000m final, but int he 5000 five days later, he found himself boxed in during the start of the final lap. With 300 metres remaining, his teammate Mohamed Kedir stepped aside, allowing Yifter to again unleash his kick.

His Olympic career began eight years earlier at the 1972 Games in Munich where he won the bronze medal in the 10,000m. He was to compete in the 5000m as well but reportedly arrived too late to contest the final.

Ethiopia joined the African boycott the 1976 Games in Montreal, putting his Olympic career on hold. In the interim, he won consecutive 5000 and 10,000m doubles at the IAAF World Cup in 1977 and 1979 in Dusseldorf and Montreal, respectively.

Yifter's heroics inspired the next generation of Ethiopian runners, including the legendary Haile Gebrselassie, who began running after hearing of Yifter's achievements at the Moscow Olympic Games.

yifter_big.jpgMiruts Yifter, 5000 meters, Moscow 1980, photo by JuanJoseMartinez.com.mex

"Miruts has been everything to me and my athletics career," Gebreselassie, a two-time Olympic 10,000m champion and multiple world record breaker, said in an emotional interview with the Associate Press today.

"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."

Following his retirement, Yifter remained involved in the sport as a coach to athletes both in Ethiopia and in Canada, where he's lived since 1998.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

Another fine piece on Miruts Yifter can be read right here! http://www.ethiosports.com/2016/12/08/celebrating-a-living-legend-miruts-yifter/

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