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September 17, 2000
Gebrselassie troubled by injurySabrina Yohannes
Olympic 10,000 metres champion Haile Gebrselassie is still troubled by the injury which has interrupted his training this year.
The 27-year-old Ethiopian has suffered for more than a year from a right Achilles tendon inflammation that was at its worst during the world championships in Seville last August.
"I was in a very bad condition," he said. "I'm much better now than in Seville."
Gebrselassie endured the pain in Seville until he had crossed the finishing line with his fourth successive world title, his feet bloodied from blisters sustained during the race in southern Spain's heat and humidity.
He had withstood similar blisters in comparable conditions during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics but, after experiencing the pain to his ankle in Seville, Gebrselassie immediately cancelled his remaining meetings for the year and subsequently missed the 2000 indoor season.
With the hindsight of the past year, and a recent recurrence of the ankle problem during his last race before the Olympics, Gebrselassie is being advised to pursue his Olympic preparations with caution.
"He is training carefully and being treated at the same time," Gebrselassie's coach Wolde Meskel Kostre said. "He will do more rigorous training next week and his condition is being watched."
The injury has also prompted Gebrselassie to rethink his future plans to move up to the marathon.
"I'm still suited to the 5,000 and 10,000," said Gebrselassie. "I think the training I did for the road might have contributed to the injury, I may wait to run the marathon, and the half."
The untimely injury has provided the biggest threat yet to Gebrselassie, who has been undefeated over 5,000 and 10,000 metres since shortly after the Atlanta Games.
He has taken instead to racing the clock, setting 15 world records over distances from 2,000 metres indoors to the 5,000 and 10,000 outdoor marks he still holds.
Gebrselassie said he had found the enforced break from both training and competition almost harder to bear than the physical pain.
"Imagine, the athlete staying at home, without training," he said. "It was really very difficult. Since I started competing in school, the minimum training I did was three times a week."
Gebrselassie spent his time overseeing construction of the commercial buildings he is erecting in Addis Ababa and spending time with his family, including his second daughter, Mihret, who was born during that time.
Once he started training again in January, Gebrselassie resumed his jogs up Entoto mountain above the capital, stopping on the way at the Ethiopian Orthodox church of St. Mary, or Entoto Mariam, perched on the slope.
"We always go there and drink the holy water," said Gebrselassie. "This time, people said to me, 'You should put the holy water on your injury', and I did."
Gebrselassie has raced four times this year, winning each time, including the Zurich 5,000 metres where he defeated his long-time Kenyan rival Paul Tergat.
Defending his Olympic 10,000 metres title is of paramount importance to Gebrselassie.
"There's no question about it," he said. "I have no words to describe the importance of that gold medal."
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