Feature17 Jun 2024

Selemon Barega: defiance


Selemon Barega (© Dan Vernon)

Despite his parents not wanting him to pursue a career in running, Selemon Barega defied the odds to become one of the best in the world. 

As the reigning Olympic 10,000m champion, the Ethiopian 24-year-old knows that just focusing on training won't guarantee him another gold medal, and that running is as much of a mental game as it is physical.

World Athletics Inside Track joins Barega at home and during a training session in the Ararat forest area to hear about his preparations for the Olympic Games in Paris – for which he recently qualified – and his journey so far.

Click the thumbnail to watch:Selemon


“Now there are many up-and-coming athletes from where I was at, and being an inspiration for them, I feel immense happiness. They ask a lot of questions. They ask how they can start their running journey, how they can be like me,” says Barega.

“Back then, the villagers didn’t have awareness about running. Parents wouldn’t allow you to run, they used to strongly encourage us to only pursue education. But now, when they see evidence through media, radio and television, they have awareness. Now parents allow their children to run. 

“Many people have started this journey and I tell those who have already started that if they work hard, they can achieve success. There are a few who are studying and also running, and I tell them that if they keep working hard on both paths, they will succeed.

“Many people would like to be an Olympic medallist, and I’m one of them. You don’t win just because you have good skills. The weather conditions, psychological readiness and other factors must be stable at that moment. For example, when I prepare for the Olympics, I must ready my mind beforehand to win the gold medal, and I work hard to turn that thought into reality. 

“By evaluating what I did at the Tokyo Olympics to win the gold medal, analysing the preparation process, and discussing with my coaches about what I should do this season to replicate my success in Tokyo.”

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