Skip to main content

Africans Among Us: Meet Aspiring Olympian Leul Gebresilasie of Ethiopia

http://mainichi.jp/area/saitama/news/20131203ddlk11040228000c.html

translated by Brett Larner
video courtesy of Ekiden News



With Kawagoe's Tokyo Kokusai University set to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016 its ekiden team, founded in just 2011, hopes to qualify for the Hakone Ekiden for the first time that year.  The driving force behind the team's rapid development is Ethiopian Leul Gebresilasie, 20.  Since arriving at the school's Sakado Campus in April last year, each morning he has arisen early in the team dormitory to head out for morning training.

Morning practice kicks off each day at 5:30 a.m.  Gebresilasie does light warmups together with the other 45 members of the ekiden team before leaving to run 10-15 km at a varying pace.  In his specialty distane, the 5000 m he had a best of 14:06 before coming to Japan, but not long after arriving he showed that he possesses extraordinary talent when he improved this to 13:31.52.  His coach Shuji Oshida, 51, has high expectations, saying, "His true growth is only just getting started.  He has beautiful form and excellent balance."

At the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai qualifier in October Tokyo Kokusai University placed 17th, outside the bracket of thirteen qualifying places for Hakone, but in individual performance Gebresilasie placed 3rd just behind two Kenyans from other universities.  Coach Oshida commented, "He is adapting well to the training environment and is strongly motivated to do his best for the sake of his teammates."

At 171 cm tall, Gebresilasie weighs 56 kg.  His home is in an agricultural area 300 m from the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa.  His father has passed away, leaving his mother Golphe Haile, 60, to take care of both the family farm and raising Gebresilasie, his four brothers and two sisters by herself.  At the age of 16 he began training as a member of the Ethiopian national team, doing the serious training necessary to become a world-class long-distance runner for the first time.  Two years later came his chance to come to Japan. "My mother told me the chance to go to Japan was a great opportunity and that I should make the most of it," he says.  Once a week he and his "darling mother" talk on the phone. "For the sake of my family as well," he says with determination, "I want to accomplish big things here in Japan."

After practice Gebresilasie took us on a tour of his room in the team dormitory.  The room he shares with another team member is roughly 12 square meters.  His bed and desk are lined up neatly next to each other, will his only possessions being a computer and clothes that fit into two bags.  On the small table next to Gebresilasie's bed is a Bible written in Ethiopia's official language Amharic.  A gift from his late father, it is the belonging he holds most dear.  As a devout follower of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church he never fails to pray regularly many time each day.

After graduation Gebresilasie hopes to find a position with a Japanese corporate team and pursue a career as a jitsugyodan runner.  He does not hesitate to put his ultimate dream into words: "To run in the Olympics."

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Aoyama Gakuin Back on Top of Izumo Ekiden

Leading start to finish, 2015-2016 Izumo Ekiden champ Aoyama Gakuin University overcame last year's winner Tokai University and a tough challenge from Toyo University to win Izumo's 30th anniversary edition.

In hot and sunny conditions that followed the passing of Typhoon #25 AGU's Taisei Hashizume got things rolling, opening a six-second lead over Toyo's Akira Aizawa on the 8.0 km First Stage. Tokai's Yuichiro Nishikawa was 20 seconds back in 6th.

Takato Suzuki increased AGU's lead on the 5.8 km Second Stage with a 16:26 stage win. Indoor mile national record holder Ryoji Tatezawa was next-fastest in 16:29, running down four teams including Toyo to put the defending champs into 2nd. The lone crack in Toyo's armor, Kazuya Nishiyama ran only 16:54 to drop Toyo back to 3rd some 34 seconds off the lead.

Back in 4th place, Takushoku University captain Workneh Derese ran a 25:17stage best on the 8.5 km Third Stage to overtake both Toyo and Tokai, but with AGU…

Kisaisa Wins Second-Straight Yosenkai Half Marathon in 1:00:44, Komazawa University Averages Ten Men Under 1:03

The Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai is the qualifying race for Japan's most prestigious road race, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden. University men's teams in the Tokyo area that didn't make the top ten at Hakone the year before square off in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park with teams of up to twelve. The top ten score, their cumulative times determining the team's placing with the top eleven teams advancing and high-placing individuals from schools that don't make the cut rounded up to form a select team.

The Yosenkai has long been the world's #1 20 km road race by a wide margin, with winning times among the fastest in the world for the distance and the same kind of incredible depth seen at November's Ageo City Half Marathon and March's National University Men's Half Marathon. In light of changes in the IAAF's ranking system and the level of performance at the Yosenkai, this year organizers took the historic step of changing it from its traditional distance to …

Osako Brings Japanese National Record Back to Chicago

Just over seven months since Yuta Shitara broke Toshinari Takaoka's longstanding 2:06:16 national record from the 2002 Chicago Marathon with a 2:06:11 in Tokyo in February, U.S.-based Suguru Osako brought the record back home to Chicago with a 3rd-place finish in 2:05:50.

Running the same pattern as in his first two marathons, Osako sat back in the lead men's pack, never exerting himself as it whittled down to the core members. Just past the turn into Chinatown near 35 km his Nike Oregon Project teammate and 2017 Chicago winner Galen Rupp fell off the front group to leave Osako in contention with former NOP member Mo Farah, 2:04 Ethiopian Mosinet Gemerew, former Asahi Kasei runner Kenneth Kipkemoi and 2017 world champion Geoffrey Kirui.

As in Boston and Fukuoka last year, when the real move came, this time in the form of a surge by Farah and Gemerew, Osako was left behind to battle it out for 3rd. While Farah kicked away for the win by 13 seconds in a European record 2:05:11,…