Ethiopia: Kenenisa and Feyisa face off in London

Ethiopians may suffer from conflicting allegiances Sunday as two Ethiopian elite runners Feyisa Lelisa and Kenenisa Bekele take to the streets of London for the 36th edition of the London Marathon.

Both Feyisa and Kenenisa hail from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, Oromo. But what sets them apart is politics; Feyisa is a dissident athlete who lives in exile in Arizona, while Kenenisa has refused to criticize the Ethiopian regime, despite its ongoing persecution of citizens of Oromo heritage.

At the Rio Olympics last summer, Feyisa Lelisa made himself a political exile when he showed solidarity with protesters in Ethiopia by displaying their protest sign after he crossed the finish line to claim a silver medal.

Three weeks after Feyisa’s protest, Kenenisa Bekele criticized Feyisa’s gesture and called for a separation of sport from politics.

Kenenisa, 34, is the most decorated Ethiopian athlete of all time, holding numerous world records and four Olympic medals. At the end of an illustrious career on the track he began running marathons. Last September, Bekele won the 2016 Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:03:03 — the second fastest marathon of all time.

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