Derartu Tulu – First Black African Female Olympic Champion
The first Ethiopian woman and the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal, which she won in the 10,000m event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
Deraratu was born in 1969 in the village of Bokoji in the Arsi region of central Ethiopia as a seventh child in a family of 10 children. Derartu grew up tending cattle in the village of Bekoji in the highlands of Arsi Province in elementary school, Derartu excelled in horse riding competitions.
When she was 17, Derartu was hired by the Ethiopian Police Force. In 1989, she competed in her first international race of 6 kilometer cross-country in Norway but was 23rd. In a years time, though, she competed in the same race and won the Gold Medal. Derartu won international recognition and success in the 90’s. Her record-setting win in the 10,000 meter race in Bulgaria and her win in the same distance race in Cairo, Egypt are worth mentioning.
Derartu’s first significant win came in a 400 meter race in her school where she out-run the school’s start male athlete. That along with a win in 800 meters race in her district convincingly put Derartu in a path of a successful career in Athletics. In 1988, Derartu represented the region of Arsi and competed in a national 1500 meters race where she won a bronze medal.
Derartu is the first Ethiopian woman and the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal, which she won in the 10,000m event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. The race, where she and Elana Meyer (South Africa) raced for lap after lap way ahead of the rest of the field, 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. Derartu rose to fame and an Olympics history, when she convincingly won the women’s 10000 meters race in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. The scene of this 23 year old Ethiopian young lady winning this race and then draping herself with the national tri-color and doing a lap has placed her in the ranks of the eternal Ethiopian heroes Abebe Bikila, Mamo Wolde and Miruts Yifter.
Derartu’s win in the 10,000 meter race in the Barcelona Olympics goes down in the History Books as the first gold-medal win ever by an African woman. Derartu is still winning races and bringing, the gold, SILVER and bronze medals to her people and country. In her short but on-going career, she has managed to win 35 gold, 12 silver and 15 bronze medals.
The 1996 season was a difficult year for her. At the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Derartu lost her shoe in the race and had to fight back to get fourth place. She also finished fourth at the Olympic Games, where she was nursing an injury. In 1997 she won the world cross country title for the second time, but did not factor in the 10,000 m World Championships. In 1998 she gave birth to a daughter, Tsion, but came back in 2000 in the best shape of her life.She won the 10,000 m Olympic gold for the second time (the only woman to have done this in the short history of the event). She also won the IAAF World Cross Country Championships title for the third time. In 2001 she finally won her world 10,000 track title in Edmonton. This was her third world or Olympic gold medal. She has a total of 6 world and Olympic gold medals. Long live Derartu .You did history.