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 7:30.72.
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 country.
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.