The emperor's new clothes

The emperor's new clothes

He set 27 world records throughout his career, winning two Olympic gold medals (1996 and 2000 in the 10,000 metres) in the process.

Haile Gebrselassie is considered as the greatest distance runner in history, but the man known as "The Emperor" could finally be retiring after a career that has spanned 22 years.

At yesterday's Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) 2014 press conference at Hotel Jen, Gebrselassie hinted that his first competitive race here could probably be also his last.

"I want to enjoy myself here, visit the city, feel the atmosphere in a new country, and do a bit of running," quipped the 41-year-old, who will be competing in the 10km category.

"But I'm feeling fine. It doesn't matter what happens after (the marathon tomorrow). I won't stop running, that's for sure. Maybe, I'll stop competing."

Gebrselassie had announced his retirement in the past, but only to reverse his decision.

In November 2010, Gebrselassie dropped out of the New York City Marathon with an inflamed knee, and promptly decided to call it a day. But, just days later, he changed his mind, citing his desire to compete in the 10,000m event at the 2012 London Olympics.

FAILED

However, he failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

Having begun his running career in 1992, Gebrselassie expanded his repertoire, competing in his first marathon - the London Marathon - 10 years later.

He was equally successful in the latter, chalking up victories in the Amsterdam and Berlin marathons, among many others.

But his fortunes have not been good the last few years, as he failed to complete several of the marathons that he started as a result of injuries and other complications.

So it comes as little surprise that Gebrselassie is already planning for life away from the track, with very noble ambitions.

A successful businessman back home in Ethiopia, he has invested his track earnings into hotel complexes, shopping centres and car dealerships, and is also eyeing a possible venture into politics.

He said: "I want to change my country. I want to see Ethiopia become like Singapore - modern and clean.

"Of course, we Ethiopians are improving as a nation, but that's not enough. In the future, we don't know what will happen, but I want to help my people."

"After visiting Singapore, I compare it with my country and it's so different."

"That's why if I become a minister or a president or whatever back home, I can deliver my experiences (and make a change). I can be a very good witness for my people, that's why my political ambitions are growing and growing."

haiqals@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 6, 2014.
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