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2013 Marathon winner to give medal to Boston

Lelisa Desisa announced his decision to give his medal to Boston and Secretary of State John Kerry thanked him.
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Lelisa Desisa announced his decision to give his medal to Boston and Secretary of State John Kerry thanked him.

With Secretary of State John F. Kerry standing by his side, the men’s winner of the 2013 Boston Marathon said Sunday he will return his medal to the city as a symbol of unity with victims of the bombing.

At an event at the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Lelisa Desisa said he would give the medal back to the city when he returns to Massachusetts for a race in June, according to the Department of State.

“As a gesture of my solidarity with the victims of this senseless act of violence, I will return to Boston and gift my medal to the people of Boston in honor and in memory of those who suffered and those who died on that day, like 8-year-old Martin Richard,” he said, according to a State Department transcript.

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Desisa, an Ethiopian, spoke in his native Amharic with an interpreter and told an audience at the embassy that “sport should always be a source of pleasure and enjoyment, healthy recreation, positive competition.”

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“Sport holds the power to unify people and to connect people from all over the world with one another, allowing them the opportunity to share in their common humanity and to celebrate the richness of our world’s cultural diversity. Sport should never be used as a battleground,” he added, according to the transcript.

After Desisa spoke, Kerry gave the runner a hug, according to a Kerry aide. Earlier, Kerry, who has run the Boston Marathon, called Desisa’s gesture “absolutely extraordinary.”

Desisa finished the April 15 race in just over two hours and 10 minutes. Later in the afternoon, two bombs ripped through the crowd, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others.

Also present at the ceremony in Ethiopia Sunday were the 2013 Boston Marathon’s men’s third-place finisher and the women’s second-place finisher.

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Kerry, a former Massachusetts senator and the 2004 Democratic nominee for president, was in the Ethiopian capital for a summit marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the African Union.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.