Thu 04/04/2024 - 12:06

Tadesse Abraham has more endurance than everyone else. The current best Swiss long-distance runner will represent Switzerland at the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, after recently having set a new Swiss record at the Barcelona Marathon. And he has proven even more to have built endurance in his life: Tadesse was born in Eritrea and fled to Switzerland in 2004, where he started a new life.  

This ability to persist and persevere through challenges is what Vincent Häring, a film director, is currently trying to capture in his documentary about Tadesse Abraham’s life. We spoke to the 38 years old in Geneva. 

Vincent, how did you come up with the idea to do a documentary about Tadesse Abraham? 

I worked as an IT engineer for 10 years, but then I got bored. I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer all day anymore so I started looking for something more creative. I was already making videos, but just for fun. So I asked myself: Why don’t I make a business out of it? So last year, I resigned from my job and launched my own company. Then I had to find my projects, my niche, and as I have always been very interested in sports, I thought about doing documentaries about athletes. I don’t want to only show their athletic achievements, but also portray the human being behind all the success. This is how Tadesse Abraham came to my mind, as I have been following him on Instagram for many years. I learned about his life story, and it is very interesting: He started running in his home country, Eritrea, and then fled from it and ended up in Switzerland. So I thought: Yes, let’s do it with Tadesse! I contacted him on Instagram and told him about my project. He immediately seemed very excited about it and suggested to have a call. On the phone, he told me that he was in Kenya at that moment, training for the Olympic Games. Therefore, I decided to fly there and accompany him with my camera for a couple of days. When Tadesse came back from Kenya in March, he won the Barcelona Marathon and set up a new Swiss record. So let’s say that I had a very good start (smiles).  

What is it that fascinates you about Tadesse Abraham? 
What I like about him isn’t only his talent, but also his attitude. He is very humble, never talks about himself, and always goes straight to the point. He never complains, and I really want to show this side of him to the public. He came as a refugee to start a new life in Switzerland, and it hasn’t always been easy for him, quite the opposite actually.  However, he always remained positive as he doesn’t want to be seen as a victim. He wants to be the leader of his own life. He even learned Swiss German and French, because he wanted to feel integrated as much as possible. Tadesse always knows what he wants to do and how to achieve it – this is why he’s one of the best in his field now. When you’re around him, you really can feel his good vibes.

Vincent Häring also wants to show the human being behind the athletic achievements. / © Vincent Häring
Vincent Häring also wants to show the human being behind the athletic achievements. / © Vincent Häring
Tadesse Abraham, seen here training in Kenya, will compete at the Olympic Games this summer. / © Vincent Häring
Tadesse Abraham, seen here training in Kenya, will compete at the Olympic Games this summer. / © Vincent Häring

Do you think, your documentary will have a positive impact on the Swiss population? 
I’m convinced that Tadesse can change the common opinion that a lot of people in this country have about refugees. People sometimes think refugees just want an easier life and don’t plan for their future. But that’s not true. Refugees have dreams and goals just like everyone else. Tadesse’s example shows that you can achieve everything if you really want to, if you focus on your objectives and stay positive. His message really is: No matter where you come from and what your background is, if you want something or want to be someone: go for it and don’t wait for others. It all depends on you and only you. So I would like to tell the Swiss population: look, there are a lot of refugees that have dreams and goals just like you. I also hope that other refugees will watch my documentary, because it’s also an important message to them: yes, it’s going to be hard – but choose your own path, don’t let other people decide for you. And most importantly: never give up! 

Did Tadesse tell you about his own story as a refugee? 

He usually doesn’t talk a lot about it, but from what I know, Tadesse fled Eritrea, because he would have been forced to do his military service there, which can last for decades in that country. This comes close to forced state labor. People in Eritrea are thus denied the opportunity to build a life for themselves. Those who do not participate are punished and leaving the country is illegal. Tadesse knew that he would not be able to realize his dream of running marathons there, so he decided to flee to be able to fulfil his dreams. Of course he then faced a lot of obstacles, prejudices, even racism. But he also experienced a lot of support. And he’s very grateful that people helped him during his journey. He told me that he wants to give back to society, he wants to help others himself, at the least when he retires. Supporting other athletes is particularly close to his heart. One of his ideas is to support young athletes in Africa: empower them, not victimize them.  

So, Vincent, when can we watch your documentary? 

I don’t know exactly when the documentary will be ready. Tadesse plans to retire after the Olympic Games in August. But he still has some projects until the end of the year. I will accompany him on this journey, whatever he decides to do. So yes, I hope, my documentary will be ready by the end of 2024. And it’s also not clear yet, where it will be on screen. I’m in contact with different TV channels in Switzerland, but as I am not only focussing on Tadesse’s Swiss side, it could be interesting for other countries, too. We’ll see. 

Thank you, Vincent, and good luck! 


If you like to know more about Tadesse Abraham: We will soon publish a video interview with him here. 

"You can just feel his good vibes," says Vincent Häring about Tadesse Abraham / © Vincent Häring