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HagosGebrhiwet, the double world 5000m medalist and 2016 Olympic 5000m bronze medallist from Ethiopia, pinpoints an outstanding performance as a U20 athlete and injury hammer blow for his high and low moments.
For my high moment, I’m selecting for my first major athletics success, which was setting the world U20 5000m record of 12:47.53 in Paris in 2012.
I had only started running seriously two seasons earlier having started my sporting life as a goalkeeper in football. But I made a rapid ascent in my running career after joining the Mesfen Engineering club in the North of Ethiopia. At the beginning of 2012 – in my first full season on the international stage – I felt ready to perform.
I opened up at the Shanghai Diamond League with a surprise victory, when I managed to beat a top-class field in the rain in 13:11.00. Then in Oslo I ran my first sub-13-minute 5000m time of 12:58.99 to place second. It was a performance which gave me great encouragement.
It was an Olympic year and I knew to make the Ethiopian team for London I would have to run quickly in Paris. I was up against a field of high-class Kenyan and Ethiopian runners and I recall it was run at a very fast pace. During the race, I was aware of the time – it was very exciting.
I was some way behind the winner (Dejen Gebremeskel) but managed to win the sprint for second. As soon as I crossed the line, it quickly flashed up that I had set a world junior record. I knew I had made history and that I had made my mark internationally, and that is why it was such a special moment for me.
My low moment came last year after I picked up an injury. I had high hopes for the season in 2016. I had won Olympic 5000m bronze in Rio and I had been automatically selected for the World Championships in London. Unfortunately, I picked up an achilles tendon injury during a training session in April. I tried to rest the injury but it took some six months or so to come right and it proved very frustrating.
It was the first serious injury of my career and I so desperately wanted to compete in London. Yet following a training run just three days before the start of the 5000m heats, I knew I was in no shape to perform. I hadn’t competed since April, so I had to abandon all attempts to race at the World Championships.
It was a decision made even more difficult by the fact I’d earned the right for automatic selection, which is no easy feat in Ethiopia. Instead, I had to console myself with the fact my Ethiopian teammate Muktar Edris won the 5000m gold in London. I was very happy for him.