27 JUN 2006 General News Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Nelson Mandela ‘surprises’ Haile Gebrselassie

Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia bids farewell to the Athens crowd (Getty Images)Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia bids farewell to the Athens crowd (Getty Images) © Copyright

As Ethiopian distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie headed to the Hilton Hotel Addis on Friday night (23) he thought he was going to attend just another one of the many uneventful social functions to which the two-time Olympic and four-time World 10,000m champion gets invitations to attend.

But for once, Ethiopia’s multiple World record-breaking hero was on the receiving end of a big surprise.

“I cannot believe this,” he said when addressing a group of dignitaries, friends, fellow athletes, and journalists who had gathered to witness Gebrselassie receive a gift sent from former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Through South Africa’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Gebrselassie received Mandela’s best selling biography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ and could not help but be surprised by the whole set up.

Gebrselassie pledged to return the surprise by sending his Sydney Olympics gold medal winning running top and shorts to Mandela.

Elshadai Negash for the IAAF