As a boy, the Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, who celebrates his 50th birthday on April 18, ran ten kilometers to and from school every day.
Perhaps this is also why he was practically unbeatable on this track a few years later and won two Olympic golds in addition to four world championship titles. He quit racing in 2015 at the age of forty-two and then went into business with success. He set 27 world records during his career.
After the fifth place at the Olympics in Athens 2004, where, after triumphs in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, he handed over the imaginary scepter of the king of the “ten” to his younger compatriot Kenenis Bekele, Gebrselassie began to focus more on road races, especially the marathon. On the longest endurance course, he improved the world maximum twice and scored valuable triumphs in Berlin, Dubai, Amsterdam and Fukuoka.
At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, due to his asthma, he decided to skip the marathon due to concerns about smog, although he was among the main candidates for gold. At the same time, he brought great form to the Chinese metropolis, which he confirmed with sixth place on the ten-kilometer course.
A month later in Berlin, he also broke his own marathon world record by 27 seconds. He participated in the 2012 London Olympics only as the flag bearer of the Ethiopian expedition at the opening ceremony.
A native of Asella in Arsi Province, he first drew attention to himself in 1992 when, as a 19-year-old, he won the five and ten kilometer races at the Junior World Championships in Seoul. A year later, he dominated the “ten” at the World Championships for adults in Stuttgart, and repeated the same at the following championships in Gothenburg, Athens and Seville.
His invincibility on this track ended after eight years at the 2001 WC in Edmonton, where he won only bronze. Two years later, he finished second in Paris, just like he did in the top five at the 1993 WC.
He broke the world record for the first time in June 1994, during the next 15 years he managed it twenty-six more times on different tracks. In addition, the world’s best athlete of 1998 also has four gold medals from indoor world championships, a half-marathon world title and a bronze from the World Championships in cross-country running, and in 2007, for example, he broke two world records at the Zlatá tretra athletics meeting.
He was also the chairman of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation for two years, and after the end of his career he developed into a successful businessman in his homeland, mainly in the hotel industry, he also owned Marathon Motors, a car company that assembles Hyundai cars.
In 2020, his business activities were disrupted by the riots that broke out after the murder of popular Oromo singer and rights activist Hachalu Hundessa. That’s when two hotels of the former champion were burned down. A year later, there were reports that Gebrselassie was considering joining the war in northern Tigray against local insurgents as a soldier.
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