Q&A with Ethiopian great Haile Gebrselassie


Haile Gebrselassie
Haile Gebrselassie

In Summary

  • During an illustrious career that spanned over two decades, Haile Gebrselassie dazzled athletics fans across the world and utterly dominated distance running.
  • The retired Ethiopian boasts of an impressive resume: 2 Olympic gold medals in the 10,000m, eight world championships indoors and outdoors

During an illustrious career that spanned over two decades, Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie dazzled athletics fans across the world and utterly dominated distance running.

The retired athlete boasts of an impressive resume: 2 Olympic gold medals in the 10,000m, eight world championships indoors and outdoors.

The mere mention of Gebrselassie’s name sends shivers down the spines of Kenyan athletics fans. Time and time again, Gebrselassie was their tormentor-in-chief.

More often than not, the Ethiopian maestro would decimate Kenyan runners with his signature sprint down the home stretch that made him near invincible.

At 47, Gebrselassie has lost none of his enthusiasm and passion for athletics. In a Q&A interview with Citizen Digital, Gebrselassie recounts his heyday on the track.

 

Q: Do you think the world record in 10,000m (26:17.53) can be lowered anytime soon?

A: All records can be broken and athletics evolves of course. But I am not sure if it will be soon, and the world is standing still now of course.

Q: What do you miss most about being an active athlete?

A: As an athlete, your goals are clear, and I love training and competing. Feel the emotions and the teamwork to work together towards one clear goal.

Q: Your battles with Paul Tergat were some of athletics’ most competitive races. Just how huge was your personal rivalry with him?

A: Only on the track! In life, we are friends. We still see each other.
But on the track, he was one of my biggest competitors. We needed each other to make each other stronger and better on the track.

Q: The 10000m final at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 went down in history as one of the closest finishes. Would you consider that your toughest race?
A: Yes. Also because I had been injured not so long before. I needed to get everything out of my physical and mental depth.

Q: What other races during your career would consider the most memorable?

A: I am also very proud of my world record in Marathon in Berlin, I am proud I achieved both on the track and on the road big things.

And 5000m world record in Zurich, that was also a special one. It was a huge improvement of the old world record.

Q: What is your take on Eliud Kipchoge’s sub two-hour marathon feat?

A: I always knew it could be done in future, but Eliud showed how good he is and how mentally strong. To do such kind of thing, you need to be unbelievable strong, not only physically but also mentally. We put barriers to ourselves, but he had the courage to think without barrier. I think it was one of the greatest achievements in history.

Q: How long do you think until sub two-hour marathons become the norm?

A: Now the challenge is to run sub two-marathon in a city marathon. I don’t think it will become normal soon.

Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele are set to clash during the London Marathon on October 4th. Any predictions? How close do you think the race will be?
I am looking forward to that race! Also because it is one of the few great events that will be staged in this year so it will be also something special because of this reason. I don’t dare to do predictions yet 😊.

Q: The defeat to Charles Kamathi in Edmonton during the 2001 World Championships came as a shock to many. Your recollection of that race? Do you consider Kamathi one of your toughest competitors?

A: I had an achilles tendon operation after Sydney 2000 in the winter of 2000/2001 and I was not yet ready for real racing in Edmonton. I was not in top shape because of the recovery period, i lost a lot of training in my preparation towards the world championships.

Q: You started breaking records as a young man in your early 20s yet you still managed to remain grounded and work even harder. Any advice to young athletes who are just starting out? How vital is being humble and grounded to one’s success?

A: Being humble is key, but also dedication

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Story By Allen Mwazani
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