OLYMPIC FOCUS: Haile Gebrselassie
Born as one of ten children in Asella, Arsi Province, Ethiopia on 18 April, 1973, as a child growing up on a farm Gebrselassie would run ten kilometres to school every morning, and the same distance back every evening. Developing a strong stamina and pace needed for long-distance running at an early age, and out of necessity, and being an asthma sufferer, Gebrselassie never quite dreamed that this ability would some day propel him to worldwide sports fame, setting world recordings and winning gold, silver and bronze medals at various athletics championships - including two gold medals at 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games for the 10000m race.
In addition to being a two-time 10000m Olympic champion, Gebrselassie has set several world records.
In June 1998, in Hengelo, Netherlands, Gebrselassie set a 10,000 metres world record 26:22.75, breaking Paul Tergat’s world record 26:27.85, running evenly paced 13:11/13:11 5K splits.
Just 13 days later, Gebrselassie took on the 5,000 metres mark of Komen in Helsinki, Finland. Croatian pacemaker Branko Zorko took the pace out slowly, hitting 1000 metres in 2:33.91 and dropping out at the mile.
Million Wolde and Assefa Mezgebu led Gebrselassie through 2,000 metres in 5:05.62. His pacemakers could not maintain the pace, though, and Gebrselassie was left alone for a difficult solo effort six laps out.
Hitting 3,000 metres in 7:38.93, even the British commentators announcing the race counted him out. With four laps to go (8:40.00), Gebrselassie needed a sub-4 minute final 1,600 metres for the record. With one lap to go and in great pain, Gebrselassie took off, recording a final lap of 56.77 seconds and a final 1,600 metres of 3:59.36 (= 4:00.96 mile) to race to a 12:39.36 world record.
On 30 September 2007, Gebrselassie won the Berlin Marathon in 2:04:26(4:44.8 per mile), setting the world record and shaving 29 seconds off Paul Tergat’s record, set on the same course in 2003.