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Haile Gebrselassie warns he could miss Beijing marathon

DUBAI (Reuters) – Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie has said he could withdraw from the event at the Beijing Olympics if the city fails to reduce air pollution levels.

The 34-year-old Ethiopian, who suffers from a breathing condition that forced him to drop out of last year’s London Marathon, spoke of his concern after winning the Dubai Marathon on Friday.

“When I come to Beijing, things could happen…it could be worse and that’s why I am a little bit worried,” he told Reuters Television in an interview.

“If things are like that (still heavily polluted) I would try to run a different distance, instead of the marathon.”

Pollution in Beijing, known for its noxious smog, is a major concern for athletes and officials planning for August’s Games.

Olympic chief Jacques Rogge said last year that some events might have to be rescheduled if the air quality was not good enough.

Beijing has poured 120 billion yuan ($16.55 billion) into clearing the smog, with factories closed, construction halted and cars cleared from the roads in an effort to lift the grey cloak that often shrouds the city.

Gebrselassie said he was not planning to run any more 42-km distances before Beijing, with a few shorter races on the agenda before relocating to an as-yet undecided location to prepare for the Games.

The Ethiopian, who has set 26 world records, ran the second fastest time in history in Dubai on Friday, finishing in two hours four minutes 53 seconds.

He had been chasing a $1 million prize on offer for breaking his own world record but fell 27 seconds short of the mark he set in Berlin last September.

“One pacemaker at the beginning of the race didn’t do the right job,” he said. “I told him several times just to slow down and he didn’t do that. He didn’t listen to me,” said Gebrselassie.

“I said to him four or five times ‘what’s going on, man? Cool it’ And that was the mistake…really I can say I’m lucky just to finish the race. In such a kind of race, when it’s too fast at the beginning there is a possibility just to drop out.”

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, Editing by Clare Fallon)

10 thoughts on “Haile Gebrselassie warns he could miss Beijing marathon

  1. Haile,

    Just run. If you fail, Ethiopian people will still love you for your effort you made all these years to put our flag up in the international arena.

    Could you please also do something to the new generation? I see hundreds of young atlets running in the cold morning of Addis at Meskel square. One of them could be our next Haile, your financial injection in supporting to make a difference means a lot to them.

  2. Can you believe that? A man who grew up in the farms smelling cow dang all his life has to accuse China of pollution. If you stay a little longer you might hear a pig talking they say, and this is one of those times.

  3. Bekke,

    Your comment is hilarious. You see how money changes people’s attitude?!

    By the way, as much as I have enormous respect for the great man, I am still suspicious of his real age. As far as my memory serves me, I saw Haile in my naked eyes running in 1990 in Addis and then, he was running with adults and he did look to me in his mid tweenties, if not more. What I hear now is he is only 34-yr-old shebela wetat. Good for him!

  4. Bekke,U shuld go back to school.How can U compair urban with rural areas?Before 30 years Haile was in Arsi -fresh air with organic food.Now ,2008.Number 1 World polluted city is in CHINA.Guss who? He is Our Hero with 26 world record set.Can U try one?If U want to try talk to Yuor Insurace.

  5. Bekke,Have U heard VOA sports section hosted by Solomon Kifle Mon Jan 2008 how many million dollars the chinise Gov.spending to clear the air polution?And including to stop idustrial functioning in Augest? Think in Your brain never think in Your muscles.Haile means world all time star of athletics. Pigs are better than U IN THIS SENSE.

  6. It is obvious that sports men and women come up with different excusses, although most of the time the case is true, when they fail to win the game. Humidity, heat, cold, rain, stomach bug, muscle cramps…etc.

    I guess Haile is becoming green this time but still he has to run and win Olympic gold since the whole world is expecting him to seal the marathon title in the Olympic arena, which will be his first and may be last. Therefore the pressure on him is immense. If he won’t do it in Beijing, for whatever reason, that is the end of marathon for Haile in the Olympic, considering his age.

    Sol/Ben, I don’t think Bekke was rude to Haile as you are to Bekke. It is nice of you to inform him Haile is decorated with many world records and he is all time star of athletics, which I am sure he is aware of.

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