Meet the Dibaba Sisters from Ethiopia; the world’s fastest family

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Who are the Dibaba Sisters? Why are they regarded as the fastest family in the world?

The Dibaba sisters — Tirunesh, Genzebe, Anna, and Melat — are the only siblings in recorded history to hold concurrent world records, and they come from low-income families.

They were raised in a round mud hut in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia’s capital, without electricity. Their parents farmed wheat, barley, and teff as a means of subsistence.

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There are seven Dibaba siblings in total, and all of them run. Tirunesh, on the other hand, is the most decorated, having won three Olympic gold medals. She had planned to attend school, but instead joined the Corrections (Prisons Police) sports club.

Tirunesh Dibaba, an Ethiopian distance runner, made history at the 2008 Beijing Olympics by becoming the first woman to win gold in both the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter races.

Tirunesh Dibaba
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She won gold in the 10,000 meters for the second time in a row at the 2012 London Olympics, becoming the first woman to do so.

She was inspired by a runner’s family. She and her sisters have excelled at long-distance running.

She made her international debut at the age of 15 on Ethiopia’s junior squad at the 2001 World Cross-Country Championships, where she finished fifth. In 2002, she added junior-level silver medals in cross-country and track.

In 2003, she won the world junior cross-country title, set a 5,000-meter junior world record, and won gold in the 5,000 meters at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) world track and field championships, making her the sport’s youngest-ever world champion.

Her sister, Genzebe, does well in sports. Their older sister, Ejegayehu, is also an Olympian who won silver in Athens. Derartu Tulu, their cousin, became the first Black African woman to win Olympic gold in 1992. In Sydney in 2000, she won her second Olympic gold medal.

Genzebe Dibaba

“It’s not a stretch to say they are the world’s fastest family”, Ato Boldon, NBC’s track analyst, told Vogue in 2016. The sisters have remained a household name in Ethiopia, a country that has produced some of the world’s greatest runners, alongside Kenya.

The Dibaba sisters’ mother told Vogue that their success is due to the environment in which they were raised, particularly the ready supply of milk from the family cows.

According to Vogue, author David Epstein claims that much of Ethiopia and Kenya are in an altitude “sweet spot” where the air is thin enough to cause physiological changes but not so thin that hard training is impossible.

Meet the Dibaba Sisters from Ethiopia; the world's fastest family
The Dibaba Sisters from Ethiopia; the world’s fastest family

The runners’ success is also attributed to their diet, particularly teff, which is high in iron and calcium, and their “small lightweight frame.” Analysts believe the Dibaba sisters have a good body type for sports. Boldon stated in 2016 that if the sisters were a car, they would be a Ford Focus.

The Dibabas are good at sports, but they don’t enjoy watching them. They prefer movies, particularly Amharic films, according to Tirunesh, who married fellow track and field Olympic medalist Sileshi Sihine in a nationally televised ceremony in 2008.

And, like other successful athletes, the Dibabas have returned the money to their communities. The sisters, along with their in-laws, are real estate tycoons who own a number of buildings in Addis Abeba. Nonetheless, the sisters continue to shine brightly in the world of sports.

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