puts finishing touches to Great
From our correspondent in Addis Ababa
23 November 2001 - In temperatures nearing 80 degrees, Haile Gebrselassie today put the finishing touches to what he hopes will be one of his greatest athletics moments.
On Sunday along the streets of the city of his home in Addis Ababa, Gebrselassie will compete in the Great Ethiopian Run, a 10k race and the first of its status to be held in the country.
A host of his fellow Ethiopians — and even his wife who is running in the event will join him.
His countrymen Million Wolde, the Olympic 5000m champion, Hailu Mekonnen and Ayele Mezgebu are just a few who will be in action along with Mexican German Silva in a world-class field.
In the women’s race, Ethiopia’s Berhane Adere, who was second in this summer’s 10,000 metres at the World Championships in Edmonton, will meet Joyce Chepchumba of Kenya.
A field of 10,000 people was secured within four hours of entry for the race being opened up to the general public such has been the interest.
And the women’s event also includes the legends of former marathon world best-holder Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway and Portugal’s Rosa Mota, the former Olympic and World marathon champion.
They both insist they are running for the pleasure of being part of the occasion, which Gebrselassie is too — but he is going out to win.
The people of Addis Ababa, his people, would expect nothing less.
“It is a dream come true for a race of this size to come here,” said Gebrselassie, the double Olympic 10,000m champion. “I always hoped that one day a race like this might be staged here but I never expected it would happen.
“It is most important for the country, we want to show the world what Ethiopia is doing, what it looks like and from this event, we could bring more runners to athletics.”
The race is an ‘international partner’ of the Great North series of events which take place in Britain each year.
They are culminated by the autumn event of the Great North Run itself, a race which was the brainchild of Brendan Foster, the 1976 Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist in Montreal.
He was attending a sports reception party in London when the idea was suggested to him of staging a race in Ethiopia. That was in February this year and in a matter of weeks the event had been created.
Foster said: “When I was 12, I became so interested in athletics after watching Abebe Bikila win the marathon at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
“Since then, Ethiopian runners have always come to us to compete. We have had the pleasure of watching them perform to such incredible standards. It is fitting we have now come to their country for this event.”
Richard Nerurkar, the British marathon runner, is based in Addis Ababa and has been the local event manager.
Gebrselassie said: “I expect there will be thousands on the streets watching the race, it will be something special.”
Gebrselassie is preparing for his debut at the marathon, which he will make in London in April before returning to the track for the summer season.