In DepthSoapboxInterview: Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopian long-distance runner


Posted on Monday, 26 January 2009 16:30

Interview: Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopian long-distance runner

By Elissa Jobson in Addis Ababa


The Africa Report: How much of Ethiopian athletics’s popularity is due to your success??Haille Gebrselassie


Haile Gebrselassie: People can see how I became successful. Everybody knows what I do outside running and can see the benefits of my businesses: the buildings, schools and everything. And then they think, “Oh, there is a possibility,” and they follow.?


You invest all your money in Ethiopia. Why?


?First of all, Ethiopia is my country. I was born here. I want to die here. And secondly, indirectly, because [when] I invest the money I have won in Europe or America or wherever, people can see what I am doing. Everybody knows that I have an opportunity to invest my money anywhere, but I invest here. But we need to do more, something else, something different, something which is important for many Ethiopians.?


You have built a school in the village where you were born. How has your village changed?


?When I studied, my school was 10 km away. Now the kids in my village, they don’t need to walk 10 km, the maximum is 5 km, which means it’s improving. In the village itself, there has been a lot of change: it is improving and it’s growing. But, the question is, is that enough? My answer is no, not yet. ?You cannot do anything without education, without teaching people, without showing them how to work. If anyone thinks that it is possible without education let him forget it. ?


What have been your best moments in athletics??


My best race was in 2000 in Sydney, between myself and Paul Tergat. We were very close to each other [only 0.09 seconds separated them]. That was the best race I ever ran. And if you ask me how many – maybe 27 world records, two Olympic Games, four world championships another four indoor world championships, and so on – it’s a lot. But my last race [in Berlin] was also one of my biggest achievements: I broke the world marathon record at 2 hours 3 minutes and 59 seconds.?


Do you regret not competing in the marathon in Beijing??


No, not at all. How would it have been possible for me to break the world record in Berlin if I had done that? But one thing I want to do is to win a marathon at the Olympic Games.


?In London??


That is what I’m thinking.?


And do you think you will still be running then??


Why not? Do you think I am old??


Well you are getting faster and faster.


?I am, yes. Look, I am 35 but I feel like 20.


Back to Athletics, Valuing life in Addis Ababa


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