Woldemeskel Kostre, the Ethiopian long-distance running coach who trained greats like Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele and was renowned for his strict disciplinarian approach, has died. He was 69.
Woldemeskel died early Monday in Addis Ababa. The cause of death was not announced.
Woldemeskel was considered by many to be the architect of Ethiopia’s phenomenal success at longer distances from the mid-1980s onwards.
“We have lost Dr Woldemeskel but he had been ill for a long time,” said Ethiopian distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie on Monday. "Dr Woldemeskel was a very strict man but he showed me how to behave. He gave discipline a top priority. It very sad he has now left us."
Runners he coached included Olympic champions Haile, Kenenisa, Tirunesh Dibaba and Derartu Tulu.
Woldemeskel was a promising middle-distance runner himself before studying sports science in Hungary during the 1960s.
In addition to being a fluent English speaker, on the occasions he returned to Hungary in recent years – such as at the 2004 IAAF World Indoor Championships and the 2006 IAAF World Road Running Championships – he surprised many by still being able to converse comfortably in the language. Among the first to pay public tribute to Woldemeskel on Monday was the Hungarian Ambassador to Ethiopia.
Woldemeskel was appointed as an assistant coach of the Ethiopian athletics team at the 1972 Olympic Games and for more than 30 years after Munich he was a familiar face among the Ethiopian delegation at major championships.