Meseret Defar

5000m, 10000m, Half Marathon

Quick Facts

Date of Birth: November 19, 1983
Hometown: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Residence: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Personal Bests

1500m 4:02.00 (2010)
3000m 8:23.72i (2007)
2 Miles 8:58.58 (2007) WR
5000m 14:12.88 (2008)
10000m 29:59.20 (2009)
5km Road 14:46 (2006) WR
Half Marathon 1:06:09 (2013)

Career Highlights

  • 2012 Olympic Champion, 5000m
  • 2004 Olympic Champion, 5000m
  • 2013 IAAF World Champion, 5000m
  • 2007 IAAF World Champion, 5000m
  • 2008 Olympic silver medalist, 5000m
  • 4-time IAAF World Indoor Champion, 3000m
  • 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships silver medalist, 3000m
  • 2-time IAAF World Championships bronze medalist, 5000m


Unlike most of Ethiopia’s legendary runners who hail from the countryside, Meseret Defar grew up in Addis Ababa. Instead of running to and from school, Meseret would borrow her brother’s shoes so that she could run before school each morning. Interested in racing, Meseret began her career in Ethiopia’s club system, and before long, earned herself multiple global medals, including double golds at the IAAF World Junior Championships in 2000.

After failing to advance to the final of the 2003 World Championships, Meseret was entered into the 2004 Olympics as a last minute replacement. At Athens, Meseret laid down a devastating kick, relegating the then-world record holder to silver and making herself only the third Ethiopian woman in history to win an Olympic gold medal.

The seasons following her win in Athens confirmed her place among the all-time great distance runners: between 2006 and 2010, she won four world championships and set eight world records and in 2012, she became the first woman to win a second Olympic gold medal at 5000m. 

Following her gold medal run in Athens, Meseret was appointed as the United Nations Goodwill Population Fund Ambassador for Ethiopia. Since then, Meseret has consistently used the celebrity she has earned winning gold medals and breaking world records to highlight the needs of malnourished and impoverished children in the developing world.

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