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10,000m to repeat the double he first accomplished at the inaugural World Cup two years earlier in Dusseldorf.
The 1979 World Cup was my first international meet as a journalist and I remember well those astonishing races and his press conferences but it wasn’t until 1997, when he asked for political asylum in Canada, that I would actually meet him.
Members of the tight-knit Ethiopian community of Toronto provided him with an apartment, furniture and a lawyer upon his arrival. Eventually, I was offered an exclusive interview for the New York Times. We met once over coffee and with a translator so he could feel comfortable with me before meeting again for a formal interview.
After my story was published, as a token of gratitude, he gave me a key chain; a medallion from the 1960 Rome Olympics which he said reminded him of his countryman, Abebe Bikila, the 1960 Olympic marathon champion.
Yifter himself was an inspiration to a generation of Ethiopian distance runners including Haile Gebrselassie, who recalls listening to his hero’s Moscow triumph on the family radio. Whenever I’ve interviewed Gebrselassie he would ask me about Miruts.
Our paths would cross again though the conversations were short. Yifter spoke little English. He was the Ethiopian f lag bearer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and I was working for the cbc there. One day I found him seated in the Bird’s Nest Stadium and showed him I was still carrying the key chain. He grinned proudly.
Occasionally, I bumped into him in Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market area where he lived. One night last winter, he turned up at an Ethiopian restaurant owned by his good friend Michael Kidus. Michael had told him I would be there. Immediately he ordered shots of whisky and we toasted each other. Ever so humble he then asked me to pose for a picture with him.
Two thousand mourners attended a memorial service in Toronto on Dec. 27 before his body was sent back to Addis Ababa for burial in a ceremony on Jan. 1. Miruts Yifter was a national hero in Ethiopia and a fondly remembered Canadian.— Paul Gains POP-UP RUNNING HAT The legendary outdoor brand releases a decidedly urban hat designed specifically for running. Its close-fitting knit construction is comfortable yet ultra-stylish. The North Face uses its patented FlashDry material for a breathable hat that’s usable in pretty much any conditions. This clever design, not dissimilar to Montreal-made caps by Ciele Athletics. allows you to wear the brim up or down. Its tailored fit and flexible brim will keep you cool and dry, moving the moisture to the surface of the FlashDry fabric for fast-drying performance. The Pop-Up Running Hat comes in a variety of sizes, and also sports a stretchy elastic back for a perfect fit.