29 (Nov. 19, 1983)
Hometown: Addis Ababa
Residence: Addis Ababa
1500m: 4:02.00 (2010)
3000m(i): 8:23.72 (2007) WR
3000m: 8:24.51+ (2008) NR
2 Miles: 8:58.58 (2007) WR
2 Miles(i) 9:06.26 (2009) WR
5000m(i): 14:24.37 (2009) WR
5000m: 14:12.88 (2008)
10000m 29:59.20 (2009)
Half Marathon 1:07:45 (2010)
- 2012 Olympic Champion, 5000m
- 2004 Olympic Champion, 5000m
- 2007 IAAF World Champion, 5000m
- 2007 IAAF Female Athlete of the Year
- 2007 Track & Field News Woman of the Year
- 4-time IAAF World Indoor Champion 3000m, (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010)
- 2010 IAAF Continental Cup Champion, 3000m
- 2006 IAAF World Cup Champion, 5000m
- 2009 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist, 5000m
- 2010 African Championships sivler medalist, 5000m
- Silver Medalist, 2004 World Championships 5000m
- 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, 5000m
- Nine-time IAAF World Athletics Final Champion
- Ranked #1 in the world at 5000m in 2009 by Track & Field News
At the age of 23, Meseret Defar already owned an Olympic gold medal and the title of World Champion. Oh yes, and she has set six World Records.
To say the least, “Mezzy” is a runner on a roll, and at this rate is destined to go down in history as one of the best distance runners – male or female – the world has ever seen. In less than eight months in 2007, the fierce Ethiopian broke world marks for 3000 meters indoors (at the Sparkassen Cup in Stuttgart, Feb. 3), 2 Miles (adidas Track Classic in Carson, Calif., May 20, minutes after vomiting her breakfast and doubting she could run at all) and – in her very next outing – 5000 meters (ExxonMobil Bislett Games, Oslo, June 15). Then, on Sept. 14 at the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels, she shattered her 2-Mile mark even before the ink in the record books had dried.
In Oslo, she shattered her own 1-year-old 5000m mark by almost eight seconds. When she set the previous mark of 14:24.53, at the 2006 Reebok Grand Prix, her effort was named Female Performance of the Year by the IAAF; in 2007 in helped her step up to IAAF Female Athlete of the Year.
And, if Defar has her way, the fireworks aren’t over yet. “Last year I ran 14:24 and this year I ran 14:16,” she told reporters in 2007. “So I think if I do even better training, I can go beyond that." She already has: at the DN Galan in Stockholm in July, she ran 14:12.88, the second-fastest 5000m of all time. "I have lots of World Records and have made some good achievements, but I still have to keep performing, and performing well until I’m 30. There might still be some more records yet,” she said.
They would prove to be telling words. Following Defar's disappointment at coming away with "only" the bronze medal in Beijing, Defar began her 2009 indoor season with a win and world leading mark over 3000m in Stuttgart. From there, Defar went to Stockholm where she ran 14:24.37 to break compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba's 5000m indoor world record by three seconds. Just eight days later, Defar went on to smash her own world best for 2 miles at the Indoor International Meeting in Prague, with a new mark of 9:06.26.
Although it seems as if Defar and countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba have been dominating the women’s distance scene for ages, Defar was still just a junior when she burst onto the world stage just five years ago. That year, 2002, she became the first woman to achieve the 3000m-5000m double at the World Junior Championships. She continued her march to stardom by bringing home a World Indoor Championships bronze medal in 2003, followed by an upset win over defending champion Berhane Adere for the 2004 World Indoor 3000m title.
Remarkably, going into Athens, Defar was merely the alternate on the Ethiopian 5000-meter team (“Our training is much tougher than most of our competitions,” she says of a mind-boggling group that includes her fiercest rival, Dibaba) but proved worthy of her eventual promotion by unleashing a furious kick in the last 200 meters to outsprint Kenya’s Isabella Ochichi for gold.
Despite her laser focus, Defar does have at least one major interest outside of running: children’s charities. “I love children,” said the woman who, along with her husband, has adopted several and is known to donate her World Record bonuses to children’s causes. “I want to help children who are in need and do not have a chance to make their dreams come true, and if I can help in some way I am satisfied.”