Third of six children. Older brother is 2008 double Olympic champion Kenenisa. Parents live in Bekoji after retiring from a life on the farm; finished twelfth year of school in 2005.
Tariku Bekele is the younger brother of the great Kenenisa Bekele, the triple Olympic and former World 10,000m champion and multiple former World Cross Country champion. Much like Kenenisa, Tariku started running in primary school in his home town, Bekoji, in 1999. He grew up helping the family till the land twice a year for Ethiopia’s staple crops, teff, wheat, and barley.
The formal start of Tariku’s running career was in 2002, when he was enrolled in an Ethiopian youth development project. He trained half a day with his project mates and spent the other half with Kenenisa. By the end of the year, he was talked of as Ethiopia’s hope for the future, having won a well-known talent-spotting cross country race in Addis Ababa.
He narrowly missed qualifying for the 2003 World Cross, finishing 9th in Ethiopia’s trials. But, on the track, Tariku comfortably beat his contemporaries in the Ethiopian youth development project championships and booked a place in the squad for the World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, Canada, where he took silver in the 3000m behind Kenya’s Augustine Choge.
He started 2004 with 7th place in the junior race at the East African Cross Country Championships in Addis Ababa, and made his senior track debut at the Ethiopian nationals, finishing 4th in a competitive 5000m that saw Kenenisa set an Addis Ababa stadium record.
Tariku’s performance earned him selection to the Grosseto, Italy World Junior Championships team, and he took 5000m bronze (13:30.86), behind Choge. Tariku raced in Europe, recording an impressive 13:11.97 PB for 7th in the Zürich Golden League 5000m and notching his first overseas win in Rovereto, Italy (13:15.86).
After the 2004 track season, Tariku joined a select group of runners under his brother’s coach at the time, Tolossa Kotu, and the move quickly paid dividends in Tariku’s performances on the European cross country circuit, where he defeated Kenya’s World Marathon record holder Paul Tergat and Ethiopia’s 2004 World Cross Country bronze medallist Maeregu Zewde. After that, Tariku suffered a minor leg injury, but he nevertheless paced Kenenisa over two miles indoors one week before the Ethiopian cross country trials.
Tariku looked tired coming home 6th in the junior race at the 2005 World Cross Country trials and the injury continued to give him trouble at the World Championships, in Saint-Etienne/Saint-Galmier, France, where a strong Kenyan junior team led by Augustine Choge took the first five places and Tariku, the top Ethiopian in 6th, left the field limping.
On the track, Tariku ran 13:14.15 to finish behind Choge over 5000m in Hengelo. Running behind Kenenisa, Tariku ran impressive PBs in July, breaking 13 minutes for 5000m at the Paris Golden League meeting (12:59.03), and placing 2nd in 7:38.18 over 3000m in Lausanne.
In a tactical World Championships 5000m, in Helsinki, Tariku was 7th. At the Brussels Golden League, Tariku paced Kenenisa to a phenomenal 26:17.53 10,000m World record, taking him through the halfway point in 13:09.19. Tariku was 5th over 3000m at the World Athletics Final, in Monaco, and later the same month, he was led by Kenenisa to a 7:36.63 personal best ahead of Kenya’s Boniface Songok in Shanghai. In cross country, Tariku employed a decisive last-kilometre kick in Llodio, Spain, to defeat Uganda’s World Junior 10,000m champion Boniface Kiprop.
After merely pacing his brother indoors in 2005, Tariku ran for himself in 2006, competing over two miles and placing 4th in Boston (8:27.56) and 2nd in Birmingham (8:13.32) behind the near-World record 8:05.12 of Kenenisa. He joined his brother in the World Indoors 3000m, in Moscow, where Kenenisa won in 7:39.32 and Tariku placed 6th in 7:47.11.
At the Ethiopian World Cross Country trials, Tariku suffered an upset at the hands of his Muger club-mate and the 2005 World Youth 3000m silver medallist Ibrahim Jeilan Gashu in the junior men’s 6km, but at the World Cross Country Championships, in Fukuoka, Japan, Tariku took junior bronze and led Ethiopia to a team silver.
Tariku had one of his best years in 2006, when he took his first global title and clocked Ethiopian junior records, including the Rieti 7:29.11 3000m that remains his personal best. He took 5000m bronze at the nationals before winning the Ostrava 3000m and clocking national junior records on the Golden League circuit (12:55.69 in Paris then 12:53.81 in Rome for 5000m). At the World Junior Championships, in Beijing, Tariku took command of the race and sprinted past team-mate Abraham Cherkos with half a lap left to clinch gold (13:31.34). Tariku also won the World Athletics Final 3000m in Stuttgart ahead of Kenya’s Edwin Soi and Isaac Songok.
Tariku ran well on the 2006-2007 international cross country circuit but was 6th in the national trials (won by newcomer Tadesse Tola) and, along with his five-time defending champion brother Kenenisa and other teammates, he dropped out of the World Cross Country Championships, in Mombasa, a casualty of the heat and humidity.
He pulled out of the Carlsbad 5km a week later, and a relatively inauspicious season followed in terms of time, except for an 8:04.83 two-mile PB in Eugene behind Craig Mottram. He did register some 5000m podium finishes, winning in New York and taking bronze at the All Africa Games. At the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Tariku won his 5000m heat, but in a competitive final won by in-form Bernard Lagat, he took 5th.
2008 got off to an impressive start when Tariku clocked the fastest 3000m time of the year to win in Stuttgart in 7:31.09 and lead his Beijing runner-up compatriot Abraham Cherkos to a 7:38.03 indoor debut. Tariku was 3rd in Valencia on 9 February (7:37.09) behind Kenenisa and Soi, and returned to the Spanish city for the World Indoors, accompanied by Abraham in the absence of Kenenisa who was focusing on the World Cross. Taking the lead with two laps to go and holding off Kenya's Paul Kipsiele Koech, Tariku kept the 3000m crown in the family.
At the Addis Ababa African Championships, Tariku did much of the pacing in the 5000m, and finished out of the medals in 4th, while Kenenisa took gold and compatriot Ali Abdosh bronze.
Tariku took his form to Berlin a month later and put it to good use, running a personal best 12:52.45 for 2nd place behind Kenyan Moses Masai and ahead of Ugandan Moses Kipsiro.
At the Olympic Games in Beijing, the 2006 and 2008 World Junior champions, Tariku and Abraham, accompanied the newly-minted Olympic 10,000m champion Kenenisa in his pursuit of the elusive distance double. Kenenisa’s mid-race injection of speed and blistering last lap secured his 5000 gold ahead of Kipchoge and Soi, while Tariku finished 6th behind Kipsiro and Abraham.
Tariku’s remaining outings for the year also resulted in top ten finishes, at the World Athletics Final 5000m (6th) and his 15km debut on the roads in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, followed by a personal best 44:03 for that distance in the New Year’s Eve São Silvestre de Luanda race in Angola.
Tariku 2008-2009 cross country season began with several top-two finishes in Spain. He took a decisive 7-second victory in Llodio, becoming the race’s first three-time winner, and then lost twice in a sprint finish, by one second to 2004 double World Cross medallist Gebregziabher Gebremariam in Alcobendas and to Moses Kipsiro in Sevilla.
Gebregziabher’s victory in Europe foreshadowed the February Ethiopian trials, where he won in a fast finish and Tariku was 4th. Injury sidelined almost the entire rest of Tariku’s 2009 season but for a 9km cross-country outing in Oeiras, Portugal in November where he took 8th.
Tariku returned to action indoors in 2010 taking 2nd in Stockholm, but in a blazing fast race won in a world-leading 7:31.75 by Choge, who became the 5th-fastest performer of all-time, with Tariku closing fast to finish just .03 of a second later. Tariku’s 7:31.09 PB from 2008 meant he was already the 4th-fastest ever for the distance behind World record holder Daniel Komen, three-time former World champion Haile Gebrselassie and his own brother the 2006 World champion Kenenisa, with whom he trains. But Tariku’s Stockholm 7:31.78 season best was the second-fastest time of 2010 and the 15th-fastest ever mark.
At the World Indoor Championships in Doha, Tariku displayed a strong kick during the 3000m heats but led for much of the final, in which 2004 champion Bernard Lagat of the U.S. kicked past him with over a lap to go, and a tiring Tariku finished 4th.
Outdoors, Tariku ran a 12:53.97 5000m season best for 2nd place in the Oslo Diamond League meet where his in-form compatriot Imane Merga snatched victory in the home straight. Tariku then clocked the first ever sub-13 minute race on U.S. soil when he ran 12:58.93 at the Eugene Diamond League, with a last lap timed at 54.82. (The previous all-comers mark was 13:07.83.) He faltered at the African Championships in Nairobi, where the crown last held by Kenenisa - who was out for the season with an injury - went to Edwin Soi at the head of a Kenyan medal sweep, and Tariku could only manage 6th.
But for the rest of August, Tariku was impressive, most notably over 3000m, the distance he was to contest at the Split Continental Cup. He won the final Diamond League 5000m (in 12:55.03) in Zürich, finishing the Diamond Race in 2nd place, two points behind Imane. Tariku clocked world leading times on two successive weekends over 3000m, lowering his 7:29.11 personal best to 7:28.99 in Berlin, only to better it a week later in Rieti, where his 7:28.70 new PB was followed by an American record 7:29.00 for Lagat, with Soi 3rd in 7:29.75.
With the two fastest times of 2010 (and the 17th fastest ever) under his belt, Tariku faced Lagat again in the Split 3000m. Tariku and Ugandan Moses Kipsiro were in front at the bell but Lagat slipped past on the inside after the final turn, and Tariku eventually finished 4th.
Tariku had to wait a little longer to earn a berth at the major championship of 2011. He started his season slowly and had only run a 5000m season best of 13:06.06 – in 3rd at the New York DL – by mid-July, and he needed to run fast to make the Deagu team. “I’m getting into shape and in my next races I’ll try to run better,” he said in New York. Tariku pulled out a fast performance just in time, running 12:59.25 at the last DL 5000m before the World Championships, in Monaco, where Mo Farah clocked a world leading 12:53.11.
However, by the time of the August World Championships in Daegu, Tariku was not fit and the team’s reserve ran in his place. On New Year’s Eve, Tariku won the São Paolo 15km in 43:35 in a downpour ahead of Kenyans Mark Korir and Mathew Kisorio.
Tariku made his 10,000m debut in Hengelo in 2012 along with several compatriots hoping to make the London Olympic team in the event, including Beijing silver medallist Sileshi Sihine and Haile himself, as well as former African champion Gebregziabher. The debutant stole the show, winning in 27:11.70 in a long sprint ahead of Lelisa Desisa and Sileshi. Haile was 7th in 27:20.39.
Tariku joined Kenenisa in the 10,000m at the UK Trials in Birmingham on 22 June, where the defending Olympic champion needed a swift finish to make the London team. This time, it was the elder Bekele who led his countrymen, clocking the 3rd-fastest time in the world, 27:02.59, followed by Tariku in 27:03.24, the year’s 4th fastest, despite the day’s windy conditions
Tariku’s quest for one of the fastest Ethiopian 5000m times for consideration in that London-bound team were thwarted by 2011 World bronze medallist Dejen Gebremeskel and newcomer Hagos Gebrhiwet twice, in Oslo and eventually in Paris. Tariku ran 13:00.41 for 4th place in Norway on 7 June and 12:54.13 for 7th in France on 6 July, where the first six men ran under 12:50, led by Dejen’s 12:46.81 with Hagos in 2nd (12:47.53) and Yenew Alamirew (12:48.77) in 4th making the team.
But in the 10,000m, Tariku may have found his stride. Kenenisa has been on a gradual comeback this year after injuries kept him out of competition much of the last couple of years and while he looks to defend his 10,000m title in London, Tariku will be hoping to take a senior outdoor global medal.
3000m: 7:28.70 (2010)
5000m: 12:52.45 (2008)
10,000m: 27:03.24 (2012)
3000m: 7:31.09 (2008)
3000/5000: 2003 – 7:54.71/-; 2004 – 7:45.23/13:11.97; 2005 – 7:36.63/12:59.03; 2006 – 7:29.11 NJR/12:53.81 NJR/; 2007 – 7:42.35/13:01.60; 2008 – 7:31.09i/12:52.45; 2009 – -/-; 2010 – 7:28.70/12:53.97; 2011 – 7:33.50/12:59.25; 2012 – -/12:54.13.
2003 2nd World Youth Championships, Sherbrooke 3000m 7:54.71
2004 3rd World Junior Championships, Grosseto 5000m 13:30.86
2005 6th World Cross Country Championships, junior race
2006 6th World Indoor Championships, Moscow 3000m 7:47.67
2006 3rd World Cross Country Championships, junior race
2006 1st World Junior Championships, Beijing 5000m 13:31.34
2007 3rd All Africa Games, Algiers 5000m 13:13.43
2007 5th World Championships, Osaka 5000m 13:47.33
2008 1st World Indoor Championships, Valencia 3000m 7:48.23
2008 4th African Championships, Addis Ababa 5000m 13:53.03A
2008 6th Olympic Games, Beijing 5000m 13:19.06
2008 6th World Athletics Final, Stuttgart 5000m 13:24.75
2010 4th World Indoor Championships, Doha 3000m 7:40.10
2010 6th African Championships, Nairobi 5000m 13:42.41A
2010 4th Continental Cup, Split 3000m 7:55.79