Parents own a farm outside Sheno. One brother, four sisters.
Began running in school, inspired by Haile Gebrselassie. Won 800m and 1500m representing his school in district competition. Recruited into national team after finishing in top 10 over 10,000m at 2001 National Championships. Selected for 2002 World Cross junior team and finished 6th in Dublin, behind winner and compatriot Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam.
Went on to take silver at 10,000 in World Junior Championships that July in Kingston, again behind Gebre-egziabher. Also won Ethiopia's 2002 National Championships 10,000, and in Europe recorded 27:26.12 for 10,000 (9th) at Brussels GL and 13:21.81 for 5000 (15th) in Berlin to claim the #3 and #4 positions, respectively, in Ethiopia's 2002 national rankings. Ended year by placing 2nd behind Gebre-egziabher at Great Ethiopian Run 10K in November, beating Kenenisa Bekele, who was returning from injury.
In Kenenisa's absence, finished 2nd over 12 km in Ethiopia's 2003 cross country nationals, once again behind Gebre-egziabher, but could only manage 7th in the World Cross in Lausanne. (Gebre-egziabher was 3rd.)
Emerged from Gebre-egziabher's shadow in 2003 national track championships, winning both 5000 and 10,000, beating Kenenisa in the shorter race and Gebre-egziabher in the longer, and shattering stadium and championship records in both (13:35.3 and 28:24.8 at Addis Ababa's 2300m altitude).
The following month he challenged Haile and Kenenisa over 10,000m in the Hengelo GP, winding up an impressive 3rd (26:58.76), and earning a spot on the Paris World Championships team. Went on to record PBs of 13:09.90 and 13:06.53 for 5000 in the Oslo and Rome GL meets, and in the memorable Paris 10,000, nearly equaled his 5000 PB in the second half of the race (13:08.7), as he and teammates Kenenisa and Haile set a furious pace en route to a championship record (26:49.57 for Kenenisa) and an Ethiopian medal sweep. (Sileshi got bronze in 27:01.44.) He wound up his track season with a pair of 10,000m gold medals at the All-African Games in Nigeria (27:42.13) and the Afro-Asian Games in India (27:48.40), both times edging Gebre-egziabher.
He began 2004 with a couple of decisive wins on the European cross country circuit, beating, among others, World 5000 champ Eliud Kipchoge and five time World Cross champ Paul Tergat. At the World Cross in Brussels, his bronze medal performance in the 12 km race contributed to Ethiopia’s stunning team victory, ending Kenya’s 18-year streak. His impressive indoor debut in Stuttgart—a 7:41.18 PB over 3000m—was overshadowed by Kenenisa’s 7:30.77, as was his superb 10,000 win at Hengelo (26:39.69, #8 All-Time) over Haile, which came on the same evening as Kenenisa’s 5000 world record. A month later, Sileshi’s 12:47.04 5000 PB in Rome was also barely eclipsed, just half a second slower than winner Eliud Kipchoge.
In May Sileshi set a new championship record (28:16.3) in winning his third straight Ethiopian national championship at 10,000. That was followed by his Hengelo performance, which ensured his selection for Athens in the 10,000, making up the same team that swept the medals in Paris. Sadly, on this occasion, Haile was off-form and couldn’t keep up with his younger teammates, though they slowed their pace deliberately late in the race to let him catch up. Eventually it became clear that there would be no Ethiopian medal sweep, but gold and silver were never in doubt. Kenenisa took off with about 500 to go and Sileshi was all by himself in 2nd, 13 seconds ahead of bronze medalist Zersenay Tadesse.
Sileshi’s took a step towards emerging from Kenenisa’s shadow when he won his first major event title at the 2004 World Athletic Final, sprinting to a 5000m victory in Kenenisa’s absence. The roads gave Sileshi two victories that autumn, over Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini in a 28:41 10K win in Scicli, Italy, and a near-world record run over 15K in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, where he won in 41:38, nine seconds off the world mark, clocked after running alone for the second half.
A knee injury kept Sileshi out of the 2005 World Cross Country Championships and much of the outdoor track season, but he secured a place in the Helsinki World Championships with a fast 10,000 in Prague in late June, where he won in 26:57.27. Sileshi followed Kenenisa to the podium in a wet Helsinki 10,000 final, taking his third global silver over the distance in 27:08.87 (behind Kenenisa’s 27:08.33), but Moses Mosop of Kenya kept the Ethiopians from repeating their sweep of 2003. Kenenisa did not tackle the distance double, but Sileshi did. He kicked in the bell lap of a slow, tactical 5000m and entered the home straight leading the defending champion Eliud Kipchoge and Australia’s Craig Mottram, but a strong move by Kenya’s Benjamin Limo took all three by surprise and gave the late-charger the gold. Sileshi held off Mottram to emerge from the championships a double silver medallist (13:32.81).
Sileshi won the Rieti Grand Prix 3000m in a PB 7:29.92 later that month, and in September, displayed a strong kick to take another slow, tactical 5000m at the World Athletic Final in Kenenisa’s absence. Back in Ethiopia, he was rewarded for his various achievements with a promotion to the rank of major in the Corrections Police athletic club. Sileshi finished the October 2004-October 2005 IAAF World Rankings year in 7th place for distance track/cross country.
Sileshi’s interest in the event put him on the Ethiopian team for the Edmonton World Half Marathon Championships, and in his first international race over the distance, he lost the bronze medal to Eritrea’s Yonas Kifle on the line, running a PB 1:01:14.
However, Sileshi did lead Ethiopia to the team title, along with 5th placed 2004 Great Ethiopian Run champion Abebe Dinkessa, thus giving a consolation prize to the whole team, since the Ethiopian women just missed out on a team medal, their cumulative time only 22 seconds off the bronze medal-winning time of Japan.
Sileshi began 2006 with a cross country win over 10K in Houilles, France on New Year’s Day, but was edged by compatriot Abebe Dinkessa two weeks later in Seville. Two weeks after that, on an indoor track in Boston, Sileshi duelled World 5000m bronze medallist Craig Mottram over the last lap of a competitive two mile race, Mottram prevailing in the homestretch. Sileshi ran 8:27.03 in his second indoor race ever, and put the experience to use, winning a fast 5000m in Stockholm on 2 February, where he took charge of the race to clock 13:06.72, the 4th fastest indoor time ever, behind those of Kenenisa, Haile and Kenyan Daniel Komen.
Sileshi ran the 4K in Ethiopia’s World Cross trials to secure a berth for Fukuoka, and with 300m left looked set to win comfortably over Abebe and Gebre-egziabher among others, when relative newcomer Ali Abdosh scored an upset victory with a sudden kick. Sileshi intends to double at the World Cross, but has for much of the season had his sights set primarily on the 12K, in which he last medalled in 2004 behind Kenenisa, who will be seeking a fifth double gold in Fukuoka.
Yearly progression 5000/10000: 2002 - 13:21.81/ 27:26.12; 2003 - 13:06.53/ 26:58.76; 2004 – 12:47.04/ 26:39.69; 2005 – 13:13.04/ 26:57.27; 2006 – 13:06.72i.
Road personal bests: 10K - 28:41 Scicli, Italy 2004; 15K - 41:38 Nijmegen, Neth 2004; half-marathon - 1:01:14 Edmonton 2005.