Gebrselassie’s Olympic participation in doubt after disappointing run in Tokyo

Haile Gebrselassie’s dreams of competing at the London 2012 Olympics seem to be slipping away after failing to impress in Tokyo

Posted on February 26, 2012 by
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Haile-Gebrselassie

Haile Gebrselassie was facing an uphill challenge before he even set off at this morning’s Tokyo Marathon. The legendary Ethiopian was hoping to put in a strong performance to put himself in contention of getting a spot on his national marathon team for the London 2012 Olympics.

The qualifying time itself – 2:15:00 – was never in doubt. But with four Ethiopian men having broken the 2:05 barrier within the qualifying period, Gebrselassie would have to have pulled out something special in order to be chosen as one of the three men to represent his country at this summer’s Olympics.

Gebrselassie had not broken 2:05 since his 2:03:59 world record run in 2008 – a mark that has since been broken by Kenyan Patrick Makau. The last marathon he completed – a victory in Dubai – was more than two years ago, and his previous attempt to gain the qualifying mark ended in disappointment when he failed to finish in Berlin last September. Before that, he also dropped out of the New York Marathon in November 2010.

So faced with the prospect of having to produce his fastest time in four years, the pressure was on Gebrselassie. While he easily dipped inside the qualifying standard, his 2:08:17 for fourth place was unfortunately not fast enough to genuinely be in with a shout of team selection, as it makes him just the 22nd fastest Ethiopian since the qualifying period started in January 2011.

Gebrselassie had led for the majoirty of the race, but with three miles to go he was caught by Kenya’s Michael Kipyego, who surged ahead to win in 2:07:37. Gebrselassie was then overtaken by Japan’s Arata Fujiwara and Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich before the finish. The women’s race was won by Ethiopia’s Atsede Habtamu in a course record of 2:25:28.

“Sometimes you are too ambitious,” said Gebrselassie. “This can happen. My target was 2:05 today but it didn’t work out that way. On the last downhill, I started to get some pain in my back. The last 5km was the worst I’ve ever run.”

“I could run another marathon in two weeks,” he added. “I felt fantastic here for the first 30 kilometres, then had some problems at the end of the race.”

Should Gebrselassie decide to race another marathon before the qualifying period ends in July this year. The most likely choices would be either the Rotterdam Marathon or the Paris Marathon – both courses known for producing fast times. The London Marathon in April will likely not be on his radar, as Gebrselassie has previously struggled in the British capital due to pollen levels.

Gebrselassie has competed at the last four editions of the Olympic Games. He won 10,000m gold in 1996 and 2000, the latter in an epic race against Kenya’s Paul Tergat. Gebrselassie turned his attention to the roads in 2002, but opted not to contest the marathon at the two Olympics since then, due to the tough conditions in Athens and Beijing. Instead he contested the 10,000m finishing fifth in 2004 and sixth in 2008.

2012 would be Gebrselassie’s fifth Olympics. But with time fast running out, it looks more and more likely that athletics fans lining the streets of London this summer will not get to witness one of the true legends of the sport compete.

Ethiopia’s Olympic marathon team contenders

Where Haile Gebrselassie fits in with the fastest Ethiopian men within the Olympic qualifying period.

1. 2:04:23 Ayele Abshero
2. 2:04:50 Dino Sefer
3. 2:04:53 Gebregziabher Gebremariam
4. 2:04:54 Markos Geneti
5. 2:05:10 Tadesse Tola
6. 2:05:41 Dadi Yami
7. 2:05:42 Abdullah Dawit Shami
8. 2:05:42 Deressa Chimsa
9. 2:06:13 Abreham Cherkos
10. 2:06:17 Seboka Tola
11. 2:06:29 Yemane Adhane
12. 2:06:51 Tariku Jifar
13. 2:07:04 Bekana Daba
14. 2:07:14 Tsegaye Kebede
15. 2:07:28 Eshetu Wondimu
16. 2:07:35 Balcha Kebede Teferi
17. 2:07:35 Hailu Mekonnen
18. 2:07:41 Debebe Tolossa
19. 2:07:42 Tesfaye Girma
20. 2:07:43 Gemechu Worku
21. 2:07:48 Bazu Worku
22. 2:08:17 Haile Gebrselassie

4 Responses to “Gebrselassie’s Olympic participation in doubt after disappointing run in Tokyo”

  1. Bjorn Paree says:

    Would be nice to see Haile running a fast time in Rotterdam Marathon but… I think Ethiopian Officials should send him to the Olympics. Not because he ran the fastest qualifing time but becase he deserves that spot in the team. He would inpsire other Ethiopians and… (without a doubt!) get the most cheers from the fans all over the world. There is no (!) runner in the world more popular than Haile – not even Paula on her own homeground.

  2. Eric says:

    Bjorn – that would be a horrible idea. How does putting a guy currently 22nd in his national standards inspire a crop of new runners. I find that it would do the opposite because those looking to run fast times will be discouraged by a "spoils" system where the stopwatch is not a determining factor.

  3. Kevin O'Neill says:

    No-one can go on for ever, not even someone as legendary as Haile. Whilst it would be wonderful to see him in London (where he has not run well in the past) I think he should accept the inevitable and retire gracefully, at least as far as the Olympics are concerned. Leave us with those wonderful memories like his race-long battle with Tergat over 10k which was possibly the finest race at that distance ever seen.

  4. Joe says:

    I sincerely hope Ethiopia picks based on more than just time. Kebede is in 14th, but one of their best shots. Also, how is Deriba Merga not even on this list? What has the guy been doing lately? Some of the young guys are good, but haven't proven that their one good race wasn't just a fluke.

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