The Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza in Elgoibar last month had two special guests.
Mamo Wolde’s son and daughter, Tabor and Addis, finally achieved one of their dreams of visiting the venue where their father won four times back in the 1960s.
“I was aware of his history in the race and that he had a statue built to honour his name,” said 23-year-old Tabor, who, like his sister, is now based in Minnesota, USA. “But prior to our trip to Spain, I had no idea there was a junior category held under Mamo Wolde’s name.
Mamo Wolde, the 1968 Olympic marathon champion, died in 2002 at the age of 69. “Unfortunately we didn’t get to spend much time with my father before he passed away,” said Tabor. “I mostly remember him through stories and memories from people who knew him.
“From what I heard and the little time I got to spend with him, he had a very likable character, very kind, and loyal to his country. He himself has said he has turned down many gifts and payments after he won races to show his loyalty to his country.”
Shortly after Wolde’s death, his family had the chance to move to the US from their native Ethiopia. “The Buttons family gave us the chance to move to America and pursue a higher education,” said Tabor. “The Flecks family collaborated with the Button family to help us settle in America. They have made our transition much easier in the United States and we consider them as our family.”
Tabor himself is keen on sports, although not necessarily athletics, at least not any more. “In the US at the moment I’m looking for a job and I play soccer,” he said. “I won many races in track and field as a youth, but I have always loved soccer. So far I have had a successful soccer career but at the moment I am looking to play for a professional team.
“I have completed my two-year college degree and I’m hoping to go back in the near future to finish my four-year degree in psychology,” he added. “My older sister Addis has completed her four-year degree. She is happily married with two children, Jayda and June, who are two years old and six months old respectively. She is a stay-at-home mother with a part-time job.
“We – my mother, sister, and me – always talked about getting in touch with someone in the organisation,” said Tabor, explaining how they were able to make the trip to Spain for the IAAF Cross Country Permit race. “But my sister Addis was the one who finally decided to make something happen and exchanged emails and finally reached Zigor, the organiser.”
The invitation from the organisers to stay in Elgoibar for several days came at an opportune moment. “I have always wanted to visit Elgoibar, I just didn’t know when it would be possible,” said Tabor. “It definitely happened sooner than I imagined.
“I think the opportunity presented itself at the right moment as it happened during the time I was taking time off from school to work and save up money for school expenses. Once my sister and her husband were on board with the plan to go to Spain, my decision was easy.
“The experience from the trip was definitely worth it all and beyond anything we all imagined. Firstly, the people are amazing; they were polite and willing to share any memory of our father. We really enjoyed the stories of our father and how he interacted with the locals.”
One encounter in particular stands out for Tabor.
“An elderly lady outside the town hall in Elgoibar said that my father once told her he came to Elgoibar for the bread, wine and to hang out with his friends. The race was just an added bonus.
“The event was great, from receiving a present from the mayor of the city to giving out awards for the first-place finisher in the junior race,” he added. “We’ve never had so much seafood, bread and wine before – it was excellent. We must give a special thanks to Zigor and everyone else that made our visit the best.”
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF