Gebrselassie explains withdrawal of Olympics marathon

April 23rd, 2008 - 8:31 pm ICT by admin  

Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), April 23 (Xinhua) Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie Wednesday explained the reason for his pullout from the Olympic marathon in Beijing this August, saying that Sept 28 at the 2008 Berlin Marathon he wants to improve his own world record time for the gruelling event. Gebrselassie, one of the greatest long-distance runners the world has ever seen, also vowed to attend the Beijing Olympics even if he could not qualify for the men’s 10,000 meters race.

“Every sportsman wants to attend Olympic events. So do I,” said the man who set a world record in the Berlin marathon last year and won two Olympic gold medals in 10,000 meters in Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2000.

Gebrselassie said he would be attending the Beijing Olympics even if he fails to attend as an athlete. He broke the world record for the marathon (2 hours 04:26 secs) at the Berlin Marathon in 2007.

“This means that I cannot run the marathon at the Olympics in Beijing. You cannot run two marathons in the space of five weeks,” he told Xinhua.

“Also, no athlete has ever broken a world record for the marathon at the Olympics. Athletes competing at the Olympics are running for gold medals, not for fast times,” he said.

He said the reason that he is not running the marathon in Beijing is because he wants to write his name in the history books of world athletics by becoming the first athlete to run the marathon in under two hours and four minutes.

In March, reports said Gebrselassie intends to opt out of the marathon in Beijing because the city’s air pollution might damage his health. But he said he would still compete in the 10,000 meters event at the 2008 Games.

However, at a press conference on April 11, he said that he is not happy with the media, which twisted what he had said. “I will check my physical condition and then decide. Everyone of us may not feel comfortable if I lose,” he said.

“Some people try to exploit the situation and say what they want to say by taking some words out of context, and that is unfair.”

On that occasion, he promised to exert his utmost effort to qualify for the 10,000 meters Olympic minimum so as to take part in the Beijing Olympics.

In addition to Gebrselassie, Ethiopia has a number of prominent long-distance runners including the Bekele brothers –Kenenisa and Tariku.

British women’s world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe had vowed to win her first Olympic gold medal in Beijing. The 34-year-old has won gold medals at every other major championship but an Olympic medal of any colour has eluded her.

“When I was a little girl, it was always the Olympics that I thought of as the pinnacle,” Radcliffe told BBC Sport.

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