HENGELO, Netherlands : Ethiopia’s double Olympic and four-time 10,000m world champion Haile Gebrselassie is set to compete at the Beijing Games later this year after going under 27min here on Saturday.
Gebrselassie clocked 26min 51.20sec behind the 2004 Olympic silver medallist Sileshi Sihine who managed 26:50.53 at this meeting in the east of the Netherlands.
The race, which assembled the best Ethiopian runners except for reigning Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele, served as the country’s Olympic qualifier for tickets to the August 8 to 24 Games.
Sihine’s time was easily the best time in the world this year ahead of the 27:14.03 set by Kenya’s Josephat Muchiri Ndambiri on May 3 in Fukuroi, Japan.
Bekele, who is virtually assured of competing in Beijing because of his status as reigning Olympic winner and triple world champion (2003, 2005, 2007), preferred to compete in the 5,000m in Hengelo.
Gebrselassie was back in fourth position for some time behind his main rival for Olympic qualification, Gebre Gebremariam, but managed to clinch second place.
Gebrselassie has always felt at home in this Dutch town, breaking three world records here — in 1994 (5,000m), 1995 (10,000m) and 1998 (10,000 m).
Though he had originally been expected to compete in the marathon in Beijing after breaking the world record in Berlin last year with 2hr 4min 26sec, the 35-year-old, who suffers from asthma, opted to go for the 10,000m because of the pollution, heat and humidity of Beijing in the summer.
Should Gebrselassie earn selection, it would be his fourth appearance in an Olympic Games. Apart from his two wins in Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000), he finished fifth in Athens last time.
– AFP /ls
Channel News Asia