Born the eldest of six siblings, Yalemzerf Yehualaw enjoyed a typical rural upbringing in West Gojam in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.
From the age of 12, she won track races at school before later progressing to youth track titles in her highly-competitive region.
Such was her talent that she was invited to join the Ethiopian Athletics Federation Academy in Addis Ababa and then, three years ago, to join the NN Running Team coached by Tessema Abshero, a group which includes 2019 Amsterdam Marathon winner Degitu Azimeraw and Ethiopian 10km road record holder, Tsehay Gemechu, who has become a close friend.
“I was very happy to join Tessema’s group,” explains the ever-smiling Yalemzerf. “He is a good coach with a good training regime, and I also have very strong training partners.”
Visa issues delayed the opportunity to race overseas in 2018 but after she finally made her international debut in the Rabat Half Marathon in April last year, she did not disappoint. She claimed victory in the Moroccan capital by a margin of almost three minutes in 1:09:13, and declared herself “very satisfied” with her efforts.
A little over two weeks later, she performed with pride on track to finish fifth at the Ethiopian Championships over 10,000m. Running at an altitude in excess of 2300m, she recorded 32:21 – in a race won by world 5000m record-holder Letesenbet Gidey.