Dejen Gebremeskel

Athlete Profile

  • COUNTRY
    Ethiopia Ethiopia
  • DATE OF BIRTH
    24 NOV 1989
Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia leads Bernard Lagat of the United States and Yenew Alamirew of Ethiopia in the Men's 5000m Round 1 Heats on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic on 08 August 2012 (Getty Images)

Personal Best - Outdoor

Performance Wind Place Date
3000 Metres 7:51.02 New York City (Icahn), NY 30 MAY 2009
5000 Metres 12:46.81 Paris Saint-Denis (Stade de France) 06 JUL 2012
10,000 Metres 26:51.02 Sollentuna 27 JUN 2013
10 Kilometres 27:45 San Juan 27 FEB 2011
Half Marathon 1:02:36 Philadelphia, PA 21 SEP 2014

Personal Best - Indoor

Performance Wind Place Date
2000 Metres 5:06.22 Boston (Roxbury), MA 02 FEB 2013
3000 Metres 7:34.14 Stockholm 23 FEB 2012
5000 Metres 13:11.78 Boston (Roxbury), MA 06 FEB 2010

Progression - Outdoor

3000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2009 7:51.02 New York City (Icahn), NY 30 MAY

5000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2016 12:59.89 Somerville, MA 17 JUN
2015 13:00.49 Roma (Stadio Olimpico) 04 JUN
2014 13:09.73 Oslo (Bislett) 11 JUN
2013 13:31.02 New York City (Icahn), NY 25 MAY
2012 12:46.81 Paris Saint-Denis (Stade de France) 06 JUL
2011 12:55.89 Roma (Stadio Olimpico) 26 MAY
2010 12:53.56 Stockholm (Olympiastadion) 06 AUG
2009 13:03.13 New York City (Icahn), NY 30 MAY
2008 13:08.96 Carson, CA 17 MAY
2007 13:21.05 Brasschaat 21 JUL

10,000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2013 26:51.02 Sollentuna 27 JUN

10 Kilometres

Performance Place Date
2011 27:45 San Juan 27 FEB

Half Marathon

Performance Place Date
2014 1:02:36 Philadelphia, PA 21 SEP

Progression - Indoor

2000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2013 5:06.22 Boston (Roxbury), MA 02 FEB

3000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2016 7:38.03 Boston (BU), MA 28 FEB
2015 7:48.19 Boston (Roxbury), MA 07 FEB
2014 7:34.70 Boston (Roxbury), MA 08 FEB
2013 7:43.32 Boston (Roxbury), MA 02 FEB
2012 7:34.14 Stockholm 23 FEB
2011 7:35.37 Boston (Roxbury), MA 05 FEB
2010 7:44.26 Doha (Aspire Dome) 12 MAR

5000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2010 13:11.78 Boston (Roxbury), MA 06 FEB

Honours - 3000 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF World Indoor Championships 2014 3 7:55.39 Sopot (Ergo Arena) 09 MAR 2014
IAAF World Indoor Championships 2012 5 7:42.60 Istanbul (Ataköy Arena) 11 MAR 2012
13th IAAF World Indoor Championships 10 7:48.69 Doha (Aspire Dome) 14 MAR 2010

Honours - 5000 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
The XXXI Olympic Games 12 13:15.91 Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico) 20 AUG 2016
The XXX Olympic Games 2 13:41.98 London (Olympic Stadium) 11 AUG 2012
13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 3 13:23.92 Daegu (DS) 04 SEP 2011
12th IAAF World Junior Championships 3 13:11.97 Bydgoszcz (Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak) 13 JUL 2008

Honours - 10,000 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
14th IAAF World Championships 16 27:51.88 Moskva (Luzhniki) 10 AUG 2013

Honours - U20 Race

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships 18 23:34 Edinburgh (Holyrood Park) 30 MAR 2008


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Updated 28 February 2014 

DEJEN Gebremeskel, Ethiopia (3000m, 5000m, 10,000m)

Born: 24 November 1989, Gulo Mekeda, near Adigrat, Tigray region, Ethiopia

Lives:  Addis Ababa

Height: 1.78m            

Weight: 53kg

Club:  Commercial Bank

Manager: Mark Wetmore

Coach: Yilma Berta, Hussein Shibo

 

Dejen Gebremeskel first made headlines with his 2011 Boston indoor 3000m victory, in which his shoe came off in the first lap but he ran the entire race in one shoe and defeated a strong field. That victory earned greater significance when the man he beat, Great Britain’s Mo Farah, went on to be almost unstoppable. Prior to the 2011 Daegu World Championships 10,000m where he took silver, the Boston 3000m was Farah’s only defeat in 2011. In the Daegu 5000, Farah got the gold as anticipated but, behind former World Champion Bernard Lagat of the U.S. who took silver, was Dejen with the bronze.

 

The Ethiopian looked to top the London Olympic 5000, but had to settle for silver after being boxed in before the bell. At the 2013 World Championships, Dejen hoped to challenge Farah again, this time competing over 10,000m, after running only one race at that distance, but his challenge never materialized and he finished outside the top 10. Farah will not be at the 2014 World Indoor Championships, but the 3000m Defending Champion Lagat and Dejen’s teammate Hagos who has bested him twice this season will.

 

Dejen grew up in the rural Gulo Makeda district of Tigray in northern Ethiopia, near the town of Adigrat. He ran as a student representing his school and later the district and zone in competitions at Welwalo Stadium in Adigrat, a venue associated with soccer games rather than its dirt track. Dejen came to Addis Ababa representing Tigray and after successful races there, joined the Banks athletics club, whose members include World Indoor champion Meseret Defar and Dejen’s fellow Tigray native Gebregziabher Gebremariam, the 2010 New York City marathon champion, who gave the young Dejen advice. (The former Ethiopian Banks or simply “Banks” club is now known as the Commercial Bank club.)

 

In his first year of international competition, Dejen placed 6th over 5000m in 13:21.05 in Brasschaat, Belgium and was selected for the 2007 African Junior Championships in Burkina Faso, where he earned a silver medal in 14:14.96 behind Kenyan Mathew Kisorio.

 

Dejen was 4th in the 2008 cross country nationals junior race behind Ibrahim Jeilan, Ayele Abshero and Hunegnaw Mesfin. Ibrahim went on to win the corresponding race at the Edinburgh World Championships, where Dejen was 18th. Dejen ran 13:08.96 for 5000m behind Ayele in Carson, California, and took bronze at the 2008 Bydgoszcz World Junior Championships behind Ethiopian Abraham Cherkos Feleke and Kisorio. 

 

The next three years, Dejen made significant breakthroughs each season. In 2009, he won the 5000m in Carson in 13:16.52 ahead of Alastair Cragg before running the New York Grand Prix 3000m against a stellar field. “I didn’t have a fast time,” said Dejen, who knew he was outmatched by then-reigning World Champion Bernard Lagat and Kenyan Micah Kogo, who had previously run 13:00.07. Dejen chased after them anyway, almost to the line. He was rewarded with a 3rd place finish in 13:03.13, behind Kogo’s 13:02.90 and Lagat’s 13:03.06, beating Ethiopians Imane Merga and Gebregziabher. “It was my best time and it was very encouraging,” said Dejen, who then took 4th in London behind Farah the following month.

 

Several of Dejen’s major accomplishments have come in races with the Kenyan-born Lagat, whose successful American record attempt in the indoor 5000m in Boston on 6 February 2010 led his runner-up Dejen to a 13:11.78 PB behind the winner’s 13:11.50. After a 7:45.42 2nd place in Birmingham ahead of Brimin Kipruto, Dejen made his first senior World Championships team headed to the Doha Indoors, where he was second in his heat, but only 10th in the final.

 

Except for that race, Dejen placed 2nd in every competition in 2010, including the Carlsbad 5000 road race won by Eliud Kipchoge; the Eugene Diamond League Pre Classic 5000m where Tariku Bekele won and Dejen ran his first sub-13 clocking of 12:59.30 to beat eventual 2010 Diamond Trophy winner Imane and Kipchoge; and the Stockholm DL DN Galan 5000 where Dejen ran 12:53.56 behind Mark Kiptoo and ahead of Imane and Kipchoge.

 

Next came the famous 5 February 2011 Boston one-shoe run. Dejen hoped to chase the meet record of 7:34.50 and lined up alongside the favored double European champion Farah and Kenyan Nixon Chepseba, but shortly after the start, one of Dejen’s shoes came off. He kept on running, in one shoe and one sock, staying with the leaders and kicking at the bell. Dejen took the victory in 7:35.37 to the Briton’s 7:35.81. Ethiopian fans compared Dejen to barefoot 1960 Olympic marathon champion Abebe Bikila and feted him during an intermission at a concert that evening by Ethiopian international recording artist Aster Aweke. Back home, Dejen was greeted by praise from all quarters. “Family, athletes, coaches, everybody,” he said. “They told me ‘You have done what Abebe did’.”

 

Dejen ran the World’s Best 10K in Puerto Rico on 27 February and placed 2nd to Sammy Kitwara in 27:45. “I went from running 5000m races to that so I was very happy,” said Dejen, who beat compatriot Lelisa Desisa and Kenyans Leonard Patrick Komon, Joseph Ebuya and Moses Masai. Returning to the Carlsbad 5000 where he had lost to Kipchoge a year earlier, Dejen turned the tables on the Kenyan, winning in 13:11.

 

In a fast Rome Diamond League 5000 won by Imane in a then-world leading 12:54.21, Dejen took 4th in a season best 12:55.89, beating Ethiopian Sileshi Sihine, Kenyans Mark Kiptoo, Thomas Longosiwa and Ugandan Moses Kipsiro. That finish secured Dejen’s selection to the Ethiopian Daegu team, and he remained the second-fastest in the nation for 2011.

 

Dejen has a core group of athletes he works with on the national team, including Imane, Tariku, Hunegnaw Mesfin and Abera Kuma, though prior to championship preparation periods, he works alone a good deal of the time as well. “We work on the track a few times a week,” said Dejen. “The remaining days we train in the woods individually.”

 

Another key race in Dejen’s career featuring Lagat was the Diamond League 5000m on 11 June  at New York’s Randall’s Island, where Dejen headed with Tariku. “From the beginning, if there had been anyone who took the pace out hard, I planned to follow whoever was there, but because of the rain and wind, a fast time wasn’t possible,” said Dejen, who stayed tucked in the pack. “At the bell, Tariku and I kicked.” Lagat gave chase, passing Tariku and gaining on but not catching Dejen, who won in 13:05.22 to the American’s 13:05.46. Others defeated in that race include Kenyans Isiah Koech, Edwin Soi and Mike Kigen.

 

“I felt very happy,” said Dejen, whose win placed him in a tie with compatriots Imane and Yenew Alamirew in the early lead of the Diamond race. But it was Farah who emerged thoroughly dominant throughout the season remaining undefeated on the European circuit, including taking a 12:53.11 world leading victory in the Monaco DL in July after topping the year’s 10,000m list earlier in Eugene.

 

Dejen’s last race before Daegu was the Lausanne 5000m on 30 June, won by Kenyan Vincent Chepkok, where Dejen was fifth. “I had a stitch,” said Dejen, whose main goal after that was preparing in Addis Ababa for Daegu. “I hope to be a medalist,” he said.

 

Farah took silver behind surprise victor Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia in the World Championships 10,000m, but remained a heavy favorite in the 5000m. In a final that included the also favored 2007 World 1500 and 5000 Champion Lagat, as well as Imane, Abera, Longosiwa, Koech, Kipchoge and American Galen Rupp, Dejen ran conservatively for much of the race. “I told myself I had to move up with two laps remaining,” he said, and started doing just that, before moving into the lead after the bell, with Farah, Imane, Lagat and Longosiwa in pursuit. Dejen and Farah ran stride for stride on the backstretch before the Briton prevailed on the final turn, as did the fast-finishing Lagat and Imane on the homestraight, leaving Dejen just out of the medals, until Imane was disqualified for stepping in the infield. “Even if it isn’t gold, bronze at the World Championships is something special,” said Dejen.

 

He aimed to defend his Boston indoor 3000m title on 4 February 2012 and improve on his 7:35.37 there, but was outkicked by World Junior 1500m Champion Caleb Ndiku of Kenya, though he held off Ndiku’s Daegu 1500m silver medalist compatriot Silas Kiplagat. “I had wanted it to be faster because these guys are 1500m runners,” said Dejen, who ran 7:38.97 to Ndiku’s 7:38.29, and pursued a World Indoor Championships berth. “I have the qualifying time, but Tariku and one or two other guys are also going for it,” said Dejen, who took care of that obstacle in Stockholm, when he ran 7:34.14 to surpass Tariku on the year list, beating 2012 world leader Augustine Choge, Ndiku, Longosiwa and Tariku in the race.

 

With the duo of Farah and Lagat in the Istanbul 3000 field along with the year’s sub-7:30 runners Choge and Soi of Kenya, Dejen was again challenging more favored contenders. But he did not look as sharp in his races in Turkey and kept reaching for his nose, and wound up fifth in the final, all of which became clear when he later explained, “I had a bit of a cold. It was after I returned to Addis Ababa that I felt better. I had hoped to make the podium.”

 

Dejen nevertheless found a silver lining in his preparation and the experience when he said he felt it helped him run fast in his next race, where he defended his Carlsbad 5000 title in 13:11 over the new Madrid 10km champion Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia and 2010 Carlsbad champion and former World 5000 champion Kipchoge, despite less than favourable conditions. “It was windy,” he said. “Kipchoge was leading and I made a move with 1km remaining.”

 

In the outdoor track season, the meets where Dejen and his compatriots pursued fast clockings in order to be selected for the London Olympics produced two of the year’s three fastest 5000 races. In Oslo on 7 June, Dejen ran a fast last lap to finish in 12:58.92, leaving in his wake a star-studded list of names: Hagos (12:58.99), Imane (12:59.77), Tariku (13:00.41), Kenenisa (13:00.54), Kipsiro, Sileshi Sihine, Emmanuel Bett, Abera, Lucas Rotich and Teklemariam Medhin.

 

Season bests being the chief selection criterion for London, Kenenisa, Dejen and others entered in the Paris DL on 6 July had to make the race count. “Today is the last day to be selected for the Ethiopian Olympic team,” said Dejen. Kenenisa ran a 2012 season best in 12:55.79, but the line-up at the front of the race was almost the same as in Oslo: Dejen and Hagos in front, and the Bekele brothers the 4th and 5th Ethiopians (behind Yenew). Dejen also defeated Kenyans Koech, Longosiwa, John Kipkoech, Kipchoge, Soi and Masai.

 

“I had already won in Oslo, but I wanted a better time and to win, to be in even better position to be selected,” said Dejen, who accomplished all his goals in spectacular fashion, for he not only bettered his 2012 best, but set the world’s fastest time of the year (and fifth best of all-time), clocking 12:46.81, following an under 55-second bell lap duel with Hagos (12:47.53). In fact, as Dejen, after first modestly stating, “I ran a personal best,” later pointed out, “It’s the Diamond League record, it’s the world-leading time, and not just from this year, but it’s faster than anyone has run in [several] years.”

 

“I was very surprised,” added Dejen, who had thought he might run a sub-12:55 world lead. “I didn’t expect a time like that. I’m very pleased, especially considering it’s just before the Olympics.” Not only was the Ethiopian team clearly decided in that race, but the man to beat in the event in London -- favored at least as much as Farah in some calculations and more in others – had been identified. Ethiopia named Dejen, Hagos and Yenew to the team, with Tariku focusing on the 10,000 and therefore 5th-ranked Kenenisa the 5000 reserve.

 

In his London heat that included London Olympic 1500 bronze medalist Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco and Yenew, Dejen won in 13:15.15 – the fastest ever in an opening round in Olympic history. “I am the fastest 5000m runner of the season, but the Olympic Games is different,” said Dejen afterwards. “My target is winning the gold medal.”

 

Dejen seemed primed to challenge the new Olympic 10,000 champion Farah for the top 5000 spot in the final. He was well-positioned in second place on the inside lane behind Farah in the penultimate lap when several athletes moved up in quick succession, leaving Dejen boxed in and in eighth place as the last lap got underway. He moved to the outside and began to weave his way forward, overtaking the fast kicker Lagat and everyone else except for Farah, who completed a golden double. “I could have kicked a little bit earlier to get away from the group,” said Dejen. “This is the first time I've run in the Olympics so I'm more than happy with silver.”

 

In 2013, Dejen (7:43.32) was upstaged by Hagos (7:32.87) as well as London 10,000m silver medalist Rupp indoors over 3000m in Boston, but he notched victories over 5k on the road in April in Carlsbad in 13:20 and in Boston. Dejen's first outdoor track race saw him again trounced by Hagos and others, when he faded to sixth at the New York Diamond League 5000 in 13:31.02. “I prepared really hard for that race, and I think I overtrained,” said Dejen.

 

He had hoped to attempt the world championships distance double in Moscow and made a very impressive 10,000 debut in Sollentuna, Sweden on 28 June, when he took the lead a third of the way into the race and won in a world-leading 26:51.02. Ethiopia’s Abera Kuma and Imane booked their Moscow berths behind Dejen, who had to abandon hopes of doubling in Moscow and focus on the longer event.

 

Dejen felt the 10,000 had a key similarity to the 5000: “I'll be running against the same guys I've been competing with,” he said. Indeed, his Ethiopian competitors were the same teammates he beat in the Daegu 5000, and after preparing for the Moscow 10,000 at home in Addis Ababa, Dejen arrived in Russia set to do battle, yet again, with the event's world and Olympic reigning champion Farah.

 

When the halfway point of the Moscow final was reached in 13:49.95 with Kenya’s Paul Tanui at the front, Dejen was in fourth position behind his teammates Abera Kuma and Imane, while Farah remained mid-pack. But as Defending Champion Ibrahim, Farah and others moved to the front, Dejen did not respond, and when Farah held off Ibrahim for the win, Dejen took a disappointing 16th in 27:51.88. “I think I trained too much,” said Dejen, who in Russia wrapped up his year in which he’d twice felt he made that mistake.

 

In 2014, Hagos repeated his 2013 defeat of Dejen in the Boston indoor 3000, as well as winning in Birmingham. Dejen took the lead with five laps left in Boston and successfully held Hagos off with a lap and a half to go, but Hagos launched an attack on the straight heading into the bell, taking the win in a world-leading 7:34.13, while Dejen was second in the second-fastest time of 2014, 7:34.70. “I was expecting to not only win, but I wanted a fast time, like a world lead,” Dejen, who felt he used up his finishing kick too early as a result, told reporters after the race. “This is my first race after Moscow, so it’s good preparation for me.”

 

In the UK, Dejen was in fourth position with 400m to go behind Choge, Hagos and Kenyan Paul Kipsiele Koech. Hagos took the lead after the bell and was never headed, and Dejen moved into second on the backstraight, finishing in 7:36.53 to Hagos’ 7:35.73 (the final 1000m having been run in 2:29.17). Their compatriot Yenew Alamirew was third, making him the alternate for Sopot. In Poland, Dejen will be looking to reverse his fortunes against Hagos, and hold off the fast-finishing 2012 World and 2014 US Champion Lagat.

  

Personal Bests

Outdoor

3000m:   7:51.02 (2009)

5000m: 12:46.81 (2012)

 

Indoor

3000m:   7:34.14 (2012)

5000m: 13:11.78 (2010)

 

Yearly Progression

3000/5000/10,000:  2007 – -/13:21.05/-; 2008 – 13:08.96/-; 2009 – 7:51.02/13:03.13/-; 2010 – 7:44.26i/12:53.56/-; 2011 – -7:35.37i/13:11.78i/-, 12:55.89; 2012 – 7:34.14i/12:46.81/-; 2013 – 7:43.32i/13:11.78i, 13:31.02/26:51.02; 2014 – 7:34.70i/-/-.

Career Highlights

2007

2nd

African Junior Championships, Ouagadougou

5000m

2008

18th 

World Cross Country Championships, Edinburgh (junior race)

 

2008

3rd

World Junior Championships, Bydgoszcz

5000m

2010

10th

World Indoor Championships, Doha

3000m

2011

3rd

World Championships, Daegu

5000m

2012

5th

World Indoor Championships, Istanbul

3000m

2013

2nd

Olympic Games, London

5000m

 

Note on Ethiopian names: Ethiopians are customarily referred to by first name only, or first and second name together, the second name being the father's first name.

(The grandfather’s first name is sometimes added as a third name, and is optional in much the same way that a Western middle name is frequently omitted; however, it is mandatory on all new Ethiopian passports.)

 

Prepared by Sabrina Yohannes for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2011-2014.