In 1972 Yifter finished third at 10,000m, but didn't make it to the starting line of his 5,000m heat. The reason for his failure to appear remains a mystery with explanations ranging from the political to becoming lost in the hallways of the stadium. He was unable to participate at the 1976 Olympic Games because his nation boycotted.
Four years later in Moscow, Yifter made up for his disappointments. In the final of the 10,000m he sprinted into the lead 300m from the finish and won by ten meters. Five days later, in the 5,000m final, the Ethiopian was boxed in during the last lap. But with 300m to go, his Ethiopian teammate, Mohammed Kedir, stepped aside and Miruts again sprinted to victory.
Part of the mystery surrounding Miruts Yifter was the question of his age, which was reported to be between 33 and 42. Yifter refused to give a definitive answer, telling reporters, "Men may steal my chickens; men may steal my sheep. But no man can steal my age."