Kenenisa Bekele and 9 More Ethiopian World Record Holders

Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele concentrates before the beginning of the 2014 Paris Marathon
Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele concentrates before the beginning of the 2014 Paris Marathon | © Marie-Lan Nguyen / WikiCommons
Photo of Serkalem Tafesse
19 June 2018

Ethiopia is known for its record-breaking athletes, such as Haile Gebreselassie, who won four world championship titles before his retirement; Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenenisa Bekele are also renowned for constantly raising the bar in their quest to become the world’s greatest runner. However, these giants in their fields are not alone. Here are some other notable Ethiopian record holders.

Kenenisa Bekele

Ethiopian-born Kenenisa Bekele holds three world records as the fastest male runner in the world. He won the accolade for the 5,000-metre (3.10-mile) indoor race held in Birmingham and the outdoor race in the Netherlands in 2004, which took him a little more than 12 minutes to finish. A year later, Kenenisa became one of the biggest stars in the athletics world by breaking another International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) world record, this time in the 10,000 metres (6.21 miles) in a race held in Belgium.

Ethiopian athlete Kenenisa Bekele | © Ian Robertson / WikiCommons

Ataye Eligidagne

At 59.5 centimetres (23.42 inches) in circumference and 19.5 centimetres (7.67 inches) in diameter, Ataye Eligidagne’s lip plate is the largest facial decoration in the world. The lip plate was measured by Guinness World Records in 2014. For Ataye, a tribeswoman from the Surma people in Southern Ethiopia, the lip plate, which is made out of clay, is a sign of beauty – the larger the plate, the more beautiful a woman in considered to be. This also means that more dowry will be given to her parents in return for her hand in marriage.

The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye)

The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, a Canadian singer of Ethiopian descent, holds two Guinness World Records. His second studio album, Beauty Behind the Madness, became the most-streamed album on Spotify in one year, with 60 million unique listeners in 2015. The Weeknd also holds the record for the most consecutive weeks in the Top 10 Billboard’s Hot 100 by a solo male artist, having stayed on the chart for 45 consecutive weeks.

The Weeknd in Bumbershoot Festival 2015, Seattle | © Kayla Johnson / WikiCommons

Belachew Tola

The largest cowboy boot in the world was made by Belachew Tola. The enormous handmade boot measures 2.50 metres (8.2 feet) long and 2.38 metres (7.8 feet) wide and can, surprisingly, fit a person inside it. Belachew who has been making shoes since he was 13 years old, and spent seven years creating the cowboy boot that broke the world record in 2008.

Tameru Zegeye

Tameru Zegeye is unable to walk, but his condition hasn’t stopped him from participating in sports. In fact, he works as a circus performer. As a child, Tameru developed the skill of using his hands to move around. In 2015, Tameru managed to cover 100 metres (328 feet) in 57 seconds, using forearm crutches balanced in a handstand position.

Tameru Zegeye during a circus performance in Nuremberg | © Tameru Zegeye

Kirubel Yilma

Spraying water from his mouth for an uninterrupted 56.36 seconds, Kirubel Yilma gives an astonishing performance. Right before he performs the act, the world record holder gulps down several bottles of water. As a medical student at Addis Ababa University, Kirubel says he has learned ways of controlling his muscles and breathing techniques that leads to this result. He broke the previous world record in 2016.

Tirunesh Dibaba

Breaking a record that has been maintained for over 22 years, Tirunesh Dibaba cemented herself a spot in the Guinness World Records when she ran 1,500 metres (4,921 feet) in just over three minutes, in a race held in Monaco in 2015. Tirunesh also holds the world record for the fastest 5,000-metre (3.10-mile) run, finishing at 14 minutes and 11 seconds in a race held in Oslo, Norway, in 2008.

Tirunesh at the IAAF World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki, Greece | © Tirunesh Dibaba

Abebe Bikila

Double Olympic marathon champion Abebe Bikila is a pioneer in Ethiopia’s successful athletic history. He holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon run in bare feet, which he set in 1960. Abebe crossed the finish line in two hours, 15 minutes and 16.2 seconds, at the Olympic Games in Rome, Italy.

Amanuel Michael and Samuel Afeka

Showing an amazing performance, Ethiopians Amanuel Michael and Samuel Afeka of Ethio Circus performed 40 consecutive foot-juggling flips in 30 seconds. They presented their performance on the set of Guinness World Records – Rekorlar Dunyasi in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 12, 2013.

Selam (Australopithecus)

This world record holder is quite unique. Discovered by Ethiopian paleoanthropologist Zeresenay Alemseged in the Afar Depression in the Northern part of Ethiopia, Selam is the oldest human ancestor infant to ever be discovered and has the most complete skeleton of her species. Selam was dug out by archaeologists in 2000 after being buried for around 3.3 million years.

A reconstitution of Selam's face from the skull discovered in Ethiopia | © Highrey / WikiCommons

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