The Story of Ethiopian Athletics Star Haile Gebrselassie | Legends Live On


To win the Olympics, you are
special for that distance and a dream, I mean, especially
a country like Ethiopia. When you win the Olympics,
you are the best of the best. (LEGENDS LIVE ON
HAILE GEBRSELASSIE) My father and my parent, they didn’t understand about
sport, especially my father. He said to me, “Oh, man, don’t
do this kind of job. “This is, you know,
just kind of wasting time.” If you are a farmer of Ethiopia
you have to work hard which means there’s a whole day
busy in the field. He was brought up on a farm in
a rural part of Ethiopia, and I remember him telling me he stole his father’s radio to
go into the field and listen to his dad’s radio because he wanted to listen to
Miruts Yifter running the Olympics in 1980. The Ethiopian long distance
runners headed by Miruts Yifter. When I was seven, I always
think about this guy. I wish, you know,
just to become like him. He said to me, when I realised that Miruts Yifter was from
Ethiopia as well, winning a gold medal
in the Olympic Games, and I saw the reaction of
people, how they behaved
and how they wrote about him and talked about him
and venerated him, he said, I decided then
that’s what I want to be, I want to be an Olympic
champion. I met Haile Gebrselassie when he was 18 years old in
Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. He was different from other
athletes because he was very
open-minded. Even when his English
wasn’t that good, you know, he tried very hard to speak
English and now his English
has gotten very good, and he always had
this great gap-tooth grin. He still has the same gap-tooth
grin, that hasn’t changed about him. So there was always something very approachable about
Haile Gebrselassie. My father, the only time
he realised athletics was good, was when I won a World
Championship in Stuttgart. It’s not just because I won in
Stuttgart, but because of what I won, I mean, the car. We had no car before and my
father when he saw that car, how possible this? “From running?” “Yes, from running.” “Are you sure that this is
your car?” “Yeah, it’s my car, believe
me.” “Wow, keep it up!” The most important thing is he was not running for
money. He’s smart, he understands, don’t think about short-term
money, you know. If you perform well,
the money will follow, like everything in life and
he understood that like nobody else. (OLYMPIC GAMES ATLANTA 1996) Going into the Atlanta
Olympics, Haile was a clear favourite, and he was
everybody’s favourite, as well. He was the first athlete in my
experience as a commentator who stood on the start line and he was smiling on the
start line. The diminutive figure against
the tall figure of Paul Tergat, there was a rivalry between
the two of them, it was Kenya versus Ethiopia. (ATLANTA 1996
MEN’S 10,000M FINAL) I was injured. By the time I ran the semifinal, it was
very hard. Unlike most distance runners, Haile ran up on the balls of
his feet. Each step must have hurt and there are a lot of steps in
25 laps. When he finished that race, his feet looked like they were
ground beef. He willed himself to win that. Representing Ethiopia,
Haile Gebrselassie. My reaction, it was tears,
I was crying. I didn’t know that when I was
there. I didn’t know how it came. For me it looks because of
dream come true for me. I was dreaming this for many
years, since when I was seven, I’m telling you. Silver medallist, Paul Tergat. Paul Tergat was doing
everything he possibly could to try and win a gold medal. He came along at the time when there was a man called
Haile Gebrselassie. Between me and Paul, it’s a
long rivalry, but one thing you don’t forget, do you expect athletics
so popular without? For Ethiopia, we need Kenyan,
for Kenyan, they need us. This is a peace fight
between the two countries. (OLYMPIC GAMES SYDNEY 2000) The best moment of my athletics
career was Sydney 2000 between me and Paul Tergat. I can say did I win or not? The interesting thing
about Sydney in 2000 was that Haile was a little bit
injured. If Paul Tergat would have run
the race from ’96, Haile would not be
the Olympic champion. But he waited until the last
300 metres and he came to the front. Haile, come on, let’s go. It was between life and death. He won that race and
that showed his lion mentality. The lion of Ethiopia,
I mean, he never gave up. It was one of the closest
finishes, I mean, 10,000m athletics. 10,000m in Sydney was so close that it was closer than either
of the 100m races. (OLYMPIC GAMES ATHENS 2004) Haile was having injury
problems, he was building up his business
career, he’d won two Olympic
gold medals and he knew he’d met his match
with Kenenisa Bekele. You cannot keep 10,000,
5,000 metres forever. When you’re getting slower, the others, they beat you
easily. When you’re getting older
you cannot keep the same speed that you used to have. I switched to the marathon. I brought a kind of a
revolution for the marathon. (BERLIN MARATHON 2006 – WINNER) (BERLIN MARATHON 2007 –
WORLD RECORD) You look at two standards,
one is winning major races. He won World Championships at the 1,500, the 5,000
and the 10,000, and the other one is setting
world records, and Haile did both of them. I don’t see how you cannot call
Haile Gebrselassie the greatest distance runner of
all time. In total, 27 world records and four World Championships
outdoor, five for indoor and two
Olympics. I’m good, and now different,
a different thing to do. (ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA) I started with
the Great North Run. People there,
Brendan Foster and John Carey. So I spoke to Miles Wickstead, who was the ambassador for
Ethiopia. The three of us got together and we launched
the Great Ethiopian Run. And thank you to the Great
North Run to help found the
Great Ethiopia Run, now the Great Ethiopia Run
is great. This year it’s going to be
42,000 people, the biggest in Africa. We closed the north-east road
for five, four hours, why not? Let them enjoy. Haile Gebrselassie, he is the
one who inspired us to run. He is a good runner
and he is a strong man. Slowly we are trying to bring
more tourists to Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a country full of
many things, yeah, come. Right now I am doing many
different businesses. I have a resort hotel. The profitable one is a car
business. They’re a fun business. This is my favourite business,
I’m telling you. Right now, I have over 1,800
employees in the company. Haile is very important
in the community. He has been selected President of the Ethiopian Athletics
Federation. As the President of the
Ethiopian Athletics Federation, one of the main goals is to work seriously with the
youngsters and the other very important
thing, zero tolerance against doping. In my time in athletics
I’ve met some great athletes. Of all of them, Haile is the
greatest. He was in many ways
the greatest runner, in lots of ways the greatest
personality, he’s a great man of Africa, he’s a great man of Ethiopia, he could end up president of
the country. (LEGENDS LIVE ON)

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