Haile Gebre Selassie is regarded universally as
the greatest distance runner of all times. With a career that sees him breaking
records as they are made, Haile has built an extraordinary reputation as an
exceptional athlete who is setting a new level in long-distance running.
The Beginning - Brief Bio
Haile was born in the province of Arsi in
Central Ethiopia. Arsi is a fertile region in the central Ethiopian plateau that
has produced great long-distant runners like Derartu Tulu, Fatuma Roba, and of
course, Haile Gebreselassie. Haile was inspired by his countrymen, the Ethiopian
marathon legend, Abebe Bikila and also 5k and 10k Olympic gold medalist Miruts
Yifter. As a child he had to run 10 kilometers a day each way to go and come
back from school. At age 16, without any formal training, he entered the Addis
Ababa marathon, and finished in 2:42.
Haile rose to international prominence in 1992
when he won the 5000m and 10,000m World Junior championships. In 1993 at the
Stuttgart World championships, he won the 10,000m and got second in the 5000m.
Haile set his first World Record in the 5000m in 12:56.96 in Hengelo, Holland in
1994. By breaking the 6 year old world record of Said Aouita.
1995 - Gabe's Milestone Year
1995 established Haile as an unparalleled
long-distance runner. He had a bad start due to mismanagement and bad leadership
by the Athletics Federation which bungled the travel plans of the national
athletics team in a race in England. Haile finished fourth. However, in May of the same year, Haile broke Moses Kiptanui's World Record in the 2 miles race by
clocking 8:07.46. Only a week later, Haile broke the world record in 10K by
clocking a new speed of 26:43.53 in a race in Hengelo, Holland. Haile won
another victory in the World Championship 10,000m by earning a gold medal. A
12:44.39 record in the 5K race in Zurich, in August brought the number of world
records broken by Haile to four. Before the end of the year, Haile had broken
two world records; one in indoor 5K in 13:10.98, and another one in 3K in
1996 - The Atlnata Olympics (Haile
wins a Gold Medal and Gets Married)
The following year (i.e., 1996), Haile devoted
most of his time in preparing for the upcoming Atlanta Olympics where he wanted
to repeat the double wins in 5K and 10K of his childhood idol, Miruts Yifter. In Atlanta in the 10K race, Haile followed Kenyan Paul Tergat around until the
final lap, then he passed Tergat and went on for a gold medal, in an Olympic
record time of 27:07.34. Tergat got silver in 27:08.17 and Salah Hissou of
Morocco got bronze in 27:24.67. However, the hard track in the Atlanta Olympics
custom made for sprinters hurt Haile's feet into leaving blisters. Haile,
therefore, was unable to compete in the 5K and bring one more gold for his
However, the win at the Olympics earned Haile a
hero status along with the legendary Abebe Bikila, and Mamo Wolde. Haile won
more record in the same year. In February of 1997 in Stuttgard, Germany, Haile
set a new world record in 1500m by clocking 3:32.39. With this win and world record, Haile Gebrselassie showed excellent versatility by moving down and
performing so well at an event he doesn't normally compete in. On Feb 20th Haile
once again broke a world record by clocking 12:59.04 in indoor 5K race in
Stockholm, Sweden. This was Haile’s 7th world record.
1997 - The Million Dollar Race
In Hengelo, Holland on May 31st Haile and
Noureddine Morceli went after a million dollars, which went to the winner who
broke 8:00 minutes for the 2 mile race. However, Haile was by himself as Morceli
dropped out in the middle, and ended up running 8:01.08, a world record; but out of the money. On July 4th 1997, in Oslo, Norway, Haile had an outstanding 10K
race where he had a huge lead by himself, lapped the rest of the world class
field , and set a new 10K world record at 26:31.32. In the following month,
Haile Gebrselassie went and got another 10k World Championship to be followed by
another in Zurich, on Aug 13th, 1997 where he once again won a 5K race by
setting a new world in 12:41.86, three seconds better than his previous mark.
2000 - The Second Olympic Gold Medal
Haile starts the new millennium with a
remarkable and unforgettable performance in winning his second gold medal at the
10,000m in the Sydney Olympics. He clocked a winning time of 27min.18.20sec.
ahead of Paul Terget of Kenya.
Now and the Future
The now legendary, Haile GebreSelassie
continues to break new world records and smashing them as they are made. Haile
has indicated that the highlight of his athletic career will be running and
winning the Marathon, most probably in the Athens Olympics of 2004. That is a
race the whole nation of Ethiopia and the rest of the athletic world are awaiting with an incredible amount of anticipation.