In the 10,000m final at the 1992 Olympic Games, Elana Meyer of South Africa pulled away from the field after 6,100m and only Tulu was able to keep pace with her. Meyer tried to force Tulu to pass her, but Tulu refused. Finally, just before the start of the last lap, Tulu darted into the lead and went on to win by 30 metres. She waited for Meyer at the finish line, and then Tulu, the first black African woman to earn an Olympic medal, and Meyer, a white South African, set off hand in hand for a victory lap that symbolized hope for a new Africa.
Tulu returned to the Olympic in 1996, but finished a disappointing fourth. However, her running career was far from over. At the 2000 Sydney Games, Tulu again entered the 10,000m. Regaining her form of eight years earlier, she took the lead at the bell signalling the final lap and sprinted ahead to a clear victory over teammate Gete Wami. Tulu became the first woman to win two gold medals in Olympic distance races. At the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, she won the bronze medal in the 10,000m (gold medallist was China's Huina Xing, silver medallist, Derartu's compatriot Ejegayehu Dibaba).