Haile Gebrselassie wins the 2012 BUPA Great Manchester Run 10k (Athletics Images) © Copyright
Preview 25 May 2012 – Hengelo, The Netherlands

Gebrselassie’s Olympic 10,000m qualifying bid commands the spotlight in Hengelo – PREVIEW – IAAF World Challenge

Hengelo, The NetherlandsHaile Gebrselassie and the eastern Dutch city of Hengelo have a special and strong bond. In Sunday’s 30th edition of the Fanny Blankers-Koen Games, an IAAF World Challenge meeting, the famous Ethiopian hopes to qualify for the London Olympic 10,000m. A very strong field of around 30 athletes, 16 of them from Ethiopia, will be the highlight of the most important annual track meet in The Netherlands.

Gebrselassie, the former World record holder in the 10,000m (26:27:75) and twice Olympic champion over the distance, will get very strong opposition from his countrymen Sileshi Shihine (26:39:69) Imane Merga (26:48:35) and Gebre Gebremariam (26:52:33) who all have personal bests inside 27:00:00. For most of the 10,000m entrants Sunday’s race will be one of the last possibilities to gain a berth for London.

Gebrselassie, who is a citizen of honour in Hengelo and wears the nickname "Mr.Hengelo'' and set four World records in the city, made a very strong impression at the Bupa Great Manchester 10Km last Sunday. The 39-year-old won the race in England in 27:36, clocking the fastest time of this year beating his countrymen Tsegaye Kebede and Ayele Abshero by 17 seconds. For the Ethiopians in the race it is the final decision for London. After the Manchester race the ever smiling Gebrselassie said, "I did not want to run so fast but it gives me a lot of confidence for the Hengelo 10.000 metres. I love it to be in Hengelo again. I have a lot of confidence.''

Shot Put in the Square kicks off the competition

Apart from the men’s 10,000m there are more very interesting events. The meeting will actually begin on Saturday with the Shot Put event taking place on the square in front of Hengelo’s town hall. Canadian Dylan Armstrong with a personal best of 22.21m is the big favourite. Three other competitors have tossed the 7,250 kg iron shot over 21 metres: Dutchman Rutger Smith (21.62m), Tomasz Majewski of Poland (21.95m) and Canadian Justin Rodhe (21.11m).

There will also be a very interesting Discus Throw competition on Sunday. A late entrant is German Robert Harting. The reigning World champion won three competitions this year and produced his first ever throw beyond 70 metres in Turnov (22 May) winning the Ludvik Danek Memorial with 70.66m. The field is very strong with Hungary’s Zoltan Kovago (69.95m) and the ageless Virgilius Alekna (73.88m). The Dutch public will be very interested in the clash between the Dutchmen Rutger Smith (67.63m) and the young Erik Cadee, who set a personal best of 67.30m nearly two weeks ago.

Attracting plenty of interest as well will be both the men’s and women’s 800m contests. The me's race features six athletes who have broken 1:44:00: Kenyans Job Kinyor, Jackson Kivuva and Timothy Kitum, Poles Marcin Lewamdowski and Adam Kszczot and Briton Michael Rimmer. The Dutch hope in the race is Robert Lathouwers (1:44:75).

The women’s race features Kenyan Janeth Jepkosgei (1:56:04), the 2007 World champion, who is the fastest in a women's race that features five women who have broken two minutes.

Very interesting are also both 1500m races. The 21-year-old Nixon Chepseba (3:30:94) is the fastest in the field. His strongest opponents will be Ethiopian Gebremmedhin Mekonnen (3:31:57) and Spain’s Juan Carlos Higuero. Ukranian Natalya Tobias (4:01:78) is the fastest in the women’s wine open field.

The weather forecast is very good for Sunday, with temperatures of around 24 C expected and some light winds.

Wim van Hemert for the IAAF