“Cycling is my therapy” – IOC Refugee Olympic Team’s Eyeru Gebru on how riding powered her through dark periods

Gebru Eyeru : “It was horrible, I lost family and friends”

Gebru kept riding, snaking up the climbs that have made Mekelle a haven for cyclists in Ethiopia.

Her first breakthrough was riding for her nation at the 2015 African Championships

“I was 19 at the time and raced in the under-23 category. Before, I’d never raced with juniors or with my age, so I just started racing in the elite category. It was a big stage race and the first time I’d raced within a big bunch of riders,” she looked back.

“In my country, I was used to racing with 20 girls on big roads with good weather conditions, so it was really hard but a good experience. I really enjoyed it and felt very lucky to be there, but it was also special for me because it felt like I’d worked very hard to be there.

“At the race, I met Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio who was my role model! When I first got into cycling, I would hear her name a lot because she raced in Europe and was from South Africa, so I would say that I wanted to be like her.”

Gebru competed in the women’s road race and time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

The African medallist kept pushing herself hard. She earned an invitation to the UCI training camp in Europe, and made the World Cycling Centre Team, accelerating her career forward.

But life had another plan.

“I stayed with the WCC for three years. In 2020 when I finished the season, I went home for the off-season, but the war started in my country,” Gebru said.

“It was horrible. We lost many people – I lost family members and friends.”

“I don’t have any good memories and thinking about it gets me very emotional. I was in a different city from my mum and my family, and couldn’t go and see them because everything was blocked – the internet, the telephones, it was really hard.”

“It [Cycling] helped distract me from the bad news back home. I kept believing and hoping things will change and I will get back to riding my bike,” she said ahead of the Olympic Torch Relay.

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