Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Despite injury, Gebrselassie to compete
ATHENS, Greece -- If it was any other race, Haile Gebrselassie would not be running. But this is the Olympic 10,000, and probably the last track event of his legendary career.
So despite an Achilles tendon injury, the two-time defending
Olympic champion from Ethiopia will compete on Friday.
"I was very close to pulling out," Gebrselassie said at a news
One of the greatest long-distance runners of all time,
Gebrselassie, 31, is seeking to become the first individual athlete
to win the same running event at three Olympics. He plans to move
up to marathon for the rest of his career.
"Even if I am not doing very well, I feel I need to be there. I
will try to do my best. Top three would be really great.
"If I win a medal it would be wonderful, if not, that's OK,"
said Gebrselassie, who broke his own world record nine times.
During the last two weeks, "I couldn't do uphill training, but
it's been getting better the last three to four days. If I still
have pain, I'll take painkillers for the race," said Gebrselassie.
Gebrselassie said he wanted to help Ethiopia achieve a sweep as
they did last year at the World Championship in Paris, shutting out
their great rivals from Kenya.
"I want to win but if I don't it's the same to me as long as an
Ethiopian wins the race," Gebrselassie said. "If the same thing
happens as in Paris, it would be fantastic, you can imagine."
Gebrselassie acknowledged that his injury may be a factor in
determining Ethiopian tactics for the race. They would normally try
to dictate the pace, keep together and box out the Kenyans.
"The problem is my left tendon. In Sydney four years ago, it
was the right one and before that in Atlanta [in 1996] it was also
the left," he said.
Those injuries were not enough to stop Gebrselassie the last two
Olympics. But his young countryman Kenenisa Bekele probably will.
Bekele, 22, took away his mentor's world title last year. Three
months ago, he pulverized Gebrselassie's 5,000 and 10,000 world
records with respective marks of 12:37.35 and 26:20.31, set nine
"He has a very good kick, the same I used to have, but my kick
is better now than last year," Gebrselassie said. "He's in good
"He is not like a son, but we are friends, we have the same
manager and the same coach and we practice together," Gebrselassie
Gebrselassie said he was considering an operation on the left
tendon, just like he had on the right one after the Sydney Games.
If it wasn't the Olympics, would he run Friday?
"Absolutely not," Gebrselassie said.
"It's only every four years. And it could be the last track
event of my career."