Ethiopia were first represented at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games by a 12-man team but it was at the Rome 1960 Olympic Games that they began a tradition of supreme long distance runners.
Marathon runner Abebe BIKILA ran barefoot to win Olympic gold and successfully defended his title at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games. An Imperial guard at the palace of Ethiopia's emperor, he is considered one of the greatest runners of all time. He was left in a wheelchair after a car accident in 1969 and died aged only 41.
Mamo WOLDE won the marathon at the Mexico 1968 Olympic Games, a week after taking silver in the 10,000m. He completed his set of medals with bronze in the marathon at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games. WOLDE's first Olympics had been in 1956 when he took part in the 800m, 1500m and 4x400m relay.
Miruts YIFTER was inevitably dubbed "Yifter the Shifter" after he completed the 5,000m/10,000m double at the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games. He was reputed to have been 36 years old at the time.
In 2008 he was chosen to carry the Ethiopian flag in Beijing. Deratu TULU became the first Ethiopian woman to take Olympic gold when she won the 10,000m at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. She also won gold at Sydney 2000. In four Olympic Games at the distance, she never finished lower than fourth.
Fatuma WOMA was the first Ethiopian woman to win the Olympic marathon at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. Haile GEBRSELASSIE dominated the men's 10,000m in 1996 and successfully defended his title at Sydney 2000.
He has competed in four Olympic Games at the distance. With three gold medals, Kenenisa BEKELE is the most successful Ethiopian runner to date. He won the 10,000m at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and took silver over 5,000m. He followed it up with the 5,000m/10,000m double at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.