Miruts Yifter
Yifter (#191), Nyambui (#649), and Maaninka (#208) at the 1980 Summer Olympics
Personal information
Born(1944-05-15)15 May 1944
Adigrat, Ethiopia
Died22 December 2016(2016-12-22) (aged 72)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Event(s)5000 m, 10,000 m
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)5000 m: 13:13.82[1]
10,000 m: 27:40.96[1]
Medal record

Miruts Yifter (Amharic: ምሩፅ ይፍጠር, affectionately known as "Yifter the Shifter",[2][3] 15 May 1944 – 22 December 2016) was an Ethiopian long-distance runner and winner of two gold medals at the 1980 Summer Olympics. His date of birth is often given as 15 May 1944, though there is some uncertainty about this. His name is also sometimes spelled as Muruse Yefter.

Early life

Born in Adigrat, in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, Yifter spent early parts of his youth working in different factories and as a carriage driver. His talent as a long-distance runner was noticed when he joined the Ethiopian Air Force.

Running career

Yifter was called to the Ethiopian national team for the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, but he made his Olympic debut four years later in Munich Olympics where he won a bronze medal in 10,000 metres. However, he arrived too late for the 5000 metres final.

In the 1973 All-Africa Games he won one gold medal (10,000 m) and one silver (5000 m). At the 1st African Championships in 1979 he won two gold medals (5000 and 10,000 metres).

Yifter was unable to participate in the 1976 Summer Olympics because his nation boycotted the event. Four years later in Moscow, Yifter made up for his disappointments by winning gold in both the 10,000 and 5000 m.[4] In the final of the 10,000 m he sprinted into the lead 300 m from the finish and won by ten metres. Five days later, in the 5000 m final, Yifter was boxed in during the last lap. But with 300 m to go, his Ethiopian teammate, Mohamed Kedir, stepped aside and Yifter again sprinted to victory. Due to his abrupt change in speed when executing his kick to the finish, Yifter acquired the nickname "Yifter the Shifter."

At Coamo, Puerto Rico on 6 February 1977, Yifter ran a World Best for the half-marathon of 1:02:57.

At the Moscow Olympics, part of the mystery surrounding Yifter was the question of his age, which was reported to be between 33 and 42. Yifter refused to give a definitive answer, telling reporters:

"Men may steal my chickens; men may steal my sheep. But no man can steal my age."

The most common versions of his date of birth are 1 January 1938 or 15 May 1944 (see IAAF Profile).

Yifter continued to compete into the early 1980s, running on Ethiopia's gold medal winning team at the 1982 and 1983 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.


Yifter's grave in the Holy Trinity Cathedral cemetery
Yifter's grave in the Holy Trinity Cathedral cemetery

Miruts Yifter died at age of 72 on 22 December 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, where he had lived since 2000.[5] According to family members, he had been suffering from respiratory problems.

He was buried in Addis Ababa, in the Holy Trinity Cathedral cemetery.

International competitions

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  Ethiopia
1979 African Championships Dakar, Senegal 1st 5000 m 14:14.0
1st 10,000 m 29:08.0


  1. ^ a b IAAF. "Profile of Miruts Yifter".
  2. ^ "Miruts YIFTER | Profile". www.worldathletics.org.
  3. ^ Miruts Yifter at Sports Reference
  4. ^ "IAAF: Turning the clock back to Moscow 1980| News | iaaf.org". iaaf.org. May 16, 2013. Retrieved 2017-11-19.
  5. ^ "Miruts Yifter 'the shifter' dies". December 23, 2016.
Sporting positions Preceded byJuan Rafael Pérez Men's half marathon best year performance 1977 Succeeded byTony Simmons Preceded bySuleiman Nyambui Men's 5000 m best year performance 1980 Succeeded byHenry Rono Olympic Games Preceded byRobel Teklemariam Flagbearer for  Ethiopia Beijing 2008 Succeeded byRobel Teklemariam