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[ODDS and EVENS] Haile Gebrselassie Produced One of His Best Athletic Feats 25 Years Ago in Japan

On the anniversary of his double gold-medal haul, we look at what it took for Haile Gebrselassie to challenge himself at two distances in Gunma Prefecture.



Haile Gebrselassie
Haile Gebrselassie in a June 1998 file photo. (AP/via SANKEI)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [ODDS and EVENS] Haile Gebrselassie Produced One of His Best Athletic Feats 25 Years Ago in Japan

Looking back at a memorable snapshot of sports history from March 1999, reminds us how quickly time flies. Just like Haile Gebrselassie in his athletic prime while winning scores of running races.

The 1999 IAAF World Indoor Championships, held in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, from March 5-7, provided a global showcase for track and field's premier indoor competition in Asia for the first time.

Gebrselassie had achieved incredible success in the years leading up to the end of the 20th century, winning four world titles in the men's 10,000 meters in the biennial outdoor competition (1993, 1995, '97 and '99) and the first of back-to-back Olympic golds in his signature race at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

That continued in the early part of this century, including four consecutive victories in the Berlin Marathon (2006-09) and three in a row in the Dubai Marathon (2008-10). And the Ethiopian legend became only the third man to repeat as Olympic 10,000-meter winner (Emil Zatopek and Lasse Viren were the others), when he triumphed at the 2000 Sydney Games, beating Kenya's Paul Tergat by 9 seconds.

Gebrselassie didn't need anyone to remind him of his athletic prowess before he stepped onto the track at Green Dome Maebashi 25 years ago this week. But like many great achievers in various walks of life, he wanted to pose new challenges for himself. Specifically, he set this target for 1999.

Haile Gebrselassie
Halie Gebrselassie breaks the world indoor two-mile record in a time of 8 minutes and 4.69 seconds at the Norwich Union Grand Prix athletics event at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England, on February 21, 2003. (Ian Hodgson/REUTERS)

Haile Gebrselassie Looked Back on His Outlook for 1999

What did Gebrselassie have in mind for 1999?


He recalled his mindset for that year in Haile Gebrselassie: The Emperor of Long Distance (2013), a book featuring Jiro Mochizuki's excellent photos and short reflections and background on Haile's illustrious career.

"By this time I had been running at the top for ten years and had a bit of experience and knowledge in athletics. I wanted to expand my experience in middle-distance events as well," Gebrselassie wrote in a passage nearly midway through the book.

"Before the indoor season began, I oriented my practice to improve in the 800- and 1,500-meter distances. I completely changed my training program, did more speed on track instead of cross country endurance running at home. That was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my long career."

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.


Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven

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