Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and
Reports

EIGHT AFRICAN OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS (March 2012)

(1)  First of all I will show you an old interview I did many years ago with the FIRST really outstanding African middle distance runner, Olympic Champion by the name of KIPCHOGE KEINO, born in Kipsame, which is in the Nandi district of Kenya.
   KIP achieved an Olympic gold medal in the 1500 in 1968 in Mexico and a gold medal in the 3000m steeplechase in Munich in 1972. He first went to the Olympics in 1964 in Tokyo and came fourth in the 5000m Final. His international foot was on the ladder then but his breakthrough into 'World Class'  was just before I met him in London. He ran 7:39:6 for 3k in Halsingborg, on the 27th of August 1965, which was the best time for the distance in the World that year. A  few days later on the 30th of August he ran on the cinders of the 'Old' White City Stadium and beat some of the World's best milers when winning the Morley Mile, on the 30th of August. His time was 3:54.2 with Olympic silver medallist Josef Odlozil 2nd in a Czech record of 3:55.6; 3rd Alan Simpson in a UK National record of 3:55.7 and 4th Jurgen May (GDR) 3:55.9 which was a German record for the distance. What a race it was. I seized the opportunity of jumping in a van that took Kip to the hotel reception afterwards and talked to him in the van.
   " I was not intending winning. I was just running, but no-one passed me in the final lap. It was a surprise for me, as I had never run under four minutes for a mile before! I thought Alan Simpson or Jorgen May would win.'
   Kip was 25 at the time and talked about his life in general ' I am married to Jenny, and have a little daughter. I have three sisters and no brothers. My Father was keen on sport and won his company's four-mile race back in 1933, and he encouraged me to run. In school I used to run barefoot, but not now, when I am running track races around the world' It was interesting to note whether he had anybody to help him with his progress in the sport and what he said was; 'My physical training instructor at the Police Training School did give me some things to do to improve my times. Another influence was Malvyn Whitfield (800 Olympic Champion 1948/52) , when he came to Kenya, and he has been giving me programmes which I have used.
   'About my training (Back in 1965, of course before Kip had a catalogue of Major Championships medals)
--I used to train with some people, but not now usually, because they are no longer taking part in athletics.
I take physical training classes in the Police training school, so I am actively doing other sports on Tuesday and Friday, and I must say that I enjoy athletics, basketball, hockey, badminton and volleyball.
   'My weekly training for athletics consists of: Monday 6 am. a 6 miles run. Afternoon, eight quarter-miles in around 63 to 65 seconds, then rest for three minutes and do exercises. Tuesday, no athletics. Wednesday, five miles run. Afternoon, 5x 880 in about 2.14. Rest five minutes, then another 880. Thursday, six miles. Afternoon sprints  - 330s , 220s,  80s and even 50s. Saturday and Sunday rest. As a  Corporal, I have to nearly always use my own time to train between Police duties."
   Jim Ryun of the USA did soundly beat Kip Keino in a mile at the White City in 1967 but in the Olympics in Mexico Keino was an easy winner and Ryun came through very late in the race to take second. They say that he was wary of running at altitude and John Whetton who was fifth and was a finalist in the 1500 in Tokyo said Jim Ryan was even behind him with about lap to go. However it was the Olympic gold medal that counted for Kip. I would like to add an interesting result for Kip was, when he obtained a silver medal in the 1972-1500 Olympic Final in Munich as well as winning the on the 3000 steeplechase. In the 1500 the first three were 1 Pekka Vasala of Finland 3:36.33, 2 Kipchoge Keino 3:36.81 and 3 Rod Dixon of New  Zealand in 3:37.46. Dixon went on many years later to win the New York Marathon.

(2) MOHAMMED GAMMOUDI of Tunisia (Born on February 11, 1938) won the 5000m in Mexico in 1968 (1 Mohammed Gammoudi 14.05.0; 2 Kip Keino 14:05.2; 3 Naftali Temu (Kenya) 14:06.4. Ron Clarke and Juan Martinez of Mexico were the next two home). Mohammed Gammoudi was a remarkable runner because he was placed in three highly competitive Olympic middle distance races-Tokyo-Mexico-Munich. Besides his gold medal in the 5000m in Mexico in 1968 he attained a silver in the 10,000 in Tokyo in 1964 in 28:24.8 (Behind Billy Mills (28.24.4) and one ahead of the 'Great' Ron Clarke (28:25.8)) and in 1972 a silver in the 5000m in Munich in 13:27.33 behind Lasse Viren (13:26.42) with Ian Stewart (13:27.61) third and Steve Prefontaine (13:28.25) fourth.
I remember talking, some years later to Ian Stewart, the UK Endurance Chief and Grand Prix organiser and he told me how impressed he was with Gammoudi and how lethal Mohammed was when he ran against him on sandy surfaces.
   Gammoudi first won the Mediterranean Games over 5 & 10,000 in 1963. He was third in the 1965 International cross Country Championships in Ostend, when Mel Batty virtually dead heated with the winner Fayolle of Belgium. Mohammed's breakthrough really came, to my mind, when winning the International Cross country championships in Tunis in 1968. (Of course the event was the  forerunner of the World  cross country Championships.)
  I interviewed  Mohammed in 1968 in Mexico. Mohammed Gammoudi's athletics career started quite by accident.
" When I went into the Army one of the first things I had to get used to was the fact that every morning, at about
6' 0;'clock, all the soldiers were called out for a run on the road or country. As a result of this, I found that I became very fit in a short time, and was always amongst the leaders arriving back at the camp. The Commandant selected me for the Army team for both track and cross country and I did better than most, then, gradually I begun to enjoy running instead of regarding it merely as a regular morning 'order' of the camp. It gave me more leave, too."
   Comparing his two Olympic 10,000 medal winning runs, Gammoudi said "In Tokyo I thought that I would finish about 5th or 6th, since then I was very nervous and did not sleep for three days before the event.'
' In Mexico however, I really wanted to win, but did not have the strength on that last cruel lap in the 10,000 to overcome the altitude effects." In the 5000 metres it was a little different: " In the heat I was lucky enough to get away with a relatively slow time. I was not really frightened of any of the opposition although having seen just what could happen to athletes from sea-level countries in the 10,000 and the 5000 heats, I was a little wary in case I too was affected. But I had no trouble after all and, as  each lap went by I felt stronger and more confident and at the bell I knew I was going to win, though it was still a tough race until the last stride."
   " During 1968 I went to Font Romeu for sixteen days, and that is the total of my altitude experience. I found that I acclimatised very quickly at altitude, unlike many others who spent much more time training at 7000 feet and higher."
   I also remember seeing him win a race at the White City. You could not mistake him for anybody else, with his slightly rolling head action and his fluent stride. Gammoudi to my mind goes down in history of those that were somewhat under-rated but achieved much as a true racer rather than as a record breaker.
 
(3) JOHN NGUGI KAMAU, A Kikuyu (Born Kenya 10th of May 1962)
He won the Olympic 5000m in 13:11.70 in Seoul in 1988 (2nd Dieter Baumann  (FRG) 13:15.52, 3 Hansjorg Kunze (GDR) 13:15.73, 4 Domingos Castro (Portugal) 13:16.09)
   " I thought I would front run for a good time only, but I did not expect to win the gold because of the races I had in Europe before, which I did not do well in. It was in the sixth lap of the Olympic Final I thought, maybe I could win" he told me.
      Several years later in his last track Championship race, which was the Commwealth Games in Auckland in 1990
he had a bad fall in the 5000m and had to work his way back through the field again and into the lead. He took too much out of himself and Alan Lloyd of Australia overtook him late in the home straight to win in 13:24.84 with Nugugi on 13:24.94 and an underrated  UK runner Alan Hamer of Wales third in 13:25.63.
   I would think, rather than being Olympic Champion, John Ngugi would be better known as the World cross country Champion five times and I am sure, top UK runners on the country at the time, Tim Hutchings and Dave Clarke, would go along with that. Particularly as they are the only UK runners who got near him in those events.. John Ngugi took Kenya to individual and team victory in 1986, 87, 88, 89 and 1992. He did run a very good 10,000 on the track on the 4th of September 1990. That was in Koblenz and he ran 27:19.15. An All African record at the time. He ran 13:27.86 for the second 5000.He would have looked impressive, watching him, with that long lopping stride!
   It was in the Summer of 1989 that I talked to John Ngugi at the Queens Hotel, after his training session at Crystal Palace.
   How did it all begin for John Ngugi " I felt something good inside of me when I ran. I felt that desire to go out and run. When I continued I wanted to be like my heroes Kiipchoge Keino and Henry Rono. I thought I would try my best to do that.'
'I first started running at primary school at Nyahururu, near Nakkuru, Kenya, and I continued to run and improve till I  went into the Army. Then my coach Musheru trained and trained and trained me! I owe a lot to him, and also I can thank Mike Kosgie, the Head Coach of Kenya, for his help too. I would like to point out that the Army gave me time to train more fully.'
' In 1978 I finished third in the district 3000m in 10 minutes something!'
   ' In 1981 I ran sixth in the National 5000m Championship and then in 1982 I came second which, of course, was an improvement, and I continued to get better."
   ' When I am  well I always enjoy training and I would say the track work was the best work for the 5000's'
   ' My favourite training runs were when I ran in the forests high up in Switzerland."

(4) PAUL ERENG was born on the 22nd of August 1967. He was the first World Class athlete to come from the Northern District of Turkana in Kenya.
   I first talked to him at the Queens Hotel in Church Road, near Crystal Palace, just before he came third in the Kenyan Olympic trials over 800 m in 1:45.1 in 1988.
   Much to the amazement of most he burst past the first three in the last lap to win the Olympic Final over 800 in Seoul. His time 1:43.45. Like Dave Wottle, the American, who won the Munich Olympic Final in 1972, his trademark when racing was to come through the field in the latter stages of an 800 in breathtaking style, which  he did when winning the World Indoor Championships in 1989 and 1991. The latter in a World Indoor record of 1:45.1.
   I met him for the second time in 1989 and he talked about his Olympic Final when he beat two of the 'Greatest' middle distance runners to win. (26th of September 1988:- 1 Paul Ereng (Kenya) 1:43.45; 2 Joaquim Cruz (Brazil) 1:43.90; 3 Said Aouita (Mar) 1:44.06; 4 Peter Elliott (GBR) 1:44.12; 5 Johnny Gray (USA) 1:44.80; 6 Jose Louis Barbosa (Brazil) 1:46.39.
 In the Semi Final:-  " I was seeded with the top runners, all of whom had faster times than me, and I realised that on time I would be placed sixth. But it didn't bother me. If they are going to out-kick me, fine, but I'll try the best I can. In a way I underestimated myself, as I found myself winning easily in 1:44.55, my best  time.'
Then came the Final in Seoul :- " It was a very, very hard race. It was the first major title I was fighting for, and everybody else was more experienced. I had  only been doing the event for a few months, and there I was lined up with all the best people in the World. I ran the race in the way I wanted to. I thought if they beat me they will have to run fast maybe under the World record!'
Was it a plan for Nixon Kiprotich to go out so fast?
  ' It was not a plan. I thought it was a mistake. When he ran hard, I almost shouted at him to stop, because I thought it was too fast, but I feared to do that. I was not sure what he was doing, but you never know whether someone is going to keep going. I thought then I might run a World record, and maybe lose the race."
   His start in the sport :-' At first I was not very interested in running, as at school they used to be crazy about volleyball. I was fifteen at Starhe Boys Centre, Nairobi, when I started to run, and realized then I had a talent for running, but I did not really start taking it up as a sport till I was sixteen to seventeen years of age. My two sisters had not been doing any running, so I was not influenced by them.'
'The first time I ran 400 was in 1981, I did 60.00 seconds. In 1983, I did 53 and in 1984-49.6 which I felt was a good improvement. I was expecting to drop down even more in 1985, and I did run 47.6 which pleased me, so I kept running more, as  I had got third in the All Kenya Secondary Schools Championships.'
   'Paul Ereng still had very little knowledge of the sport at that time, and but he showed immense potential.
'I was doing it alone, because in Kenya we did not have coaches.' Having said that, Paul had been optimistic about his performances: ' That was the time I really got interested. I had done no training as such, except just jogging and stretching, that's all. I did not know anything about interval work then. In fact it was not till 1988 that I had a chance to run around the World to get race experience.'
   'In 1987 I was working for my track scholarship to West Virginia - I was blessed by obtaining one in September, and left Kenya.'
   ' I was still a 400m runner then, but my coach at West Virginia , Fred Hardy, was willing to help me, and we went along very easily together with no fuss'
   ' What I was scared of at the time was lifting weights in the morning. I did not like doing that and tried to keep away from them, but it helped me a lot.
   Fred Hardy told me, "You can run a good 800, I think. You have got the speed. You just need some endurance to stay with the people, and when it comes to kicking you can out-kick them easily"  

(5) KHALID SKAH (Born January 29, 1967 at Midelt, Morocco) After he won the World Cup 10, 000m (27:38.74) on September the 9th 1994, at Crystal Palace, the year he won the World half Marathon Champ's,-- He told me about his name " My name Skah is " Runaway" which is attack with running. I have a brother who runs called Said Skah and an older brother Ali Skah, who  was 4th in the 1984 World Arabic cross country Championships. My sister runs, so we come from a family born to run!"
        He was the 1992 Olympic Champion.10,000m (3rd of August 1992 1 Khalid Skah (Mor) 27:46.70; 2 Richard Chelimo (Kenya); 27:47.72; 3 Addis Abebe (Ethiopia) 28:00.7; 4 Salvatore Antibo (Italy) 28:11.39; 5 Arturo Barrios (Mexico) 28:17.79; 6 German Silva (Mexico) 28:20.19; 8 Mose Tanui (Kenya) 28:27.11)
Wikipedia has a good explanation about the controversy after the Final. "At the Barcelona Olympics, Kahlid Skah had a long duel with Richard Chelimo from Kenya in the 10,000m While they were  lapping another Moroccan Hammou Boutayeb, the latter interfered with Chelimo and Skah went on to win a second ahead of the Kenyan. After the race Skah was accused of receiving undue assistance from Boutayeb but was later reinstated on a technicality. During the presentation ceremony, held the next day, Skah was loudly booed by the crowd as he received his medal: Chelimo received a standing ovation.'
       In my opinion that booing shows how few people in the Olympic stadium knew what athletics was all about and one, unfortunately might add, that the majority of people who go to the Olympic Games in London in 2012 will not be real enthusiasts of the sport and that sort of thing could happen again, hopefully not..
       Khalid Skah comments about his Olympic 10k "At the time I was a little bit sad at the way the audience had been reacting, but at the same time I found out that people who were far away from athletics can misunderstand the competition.
   ' The problem was, I was lapping one Moroccan, who would not accept being lapped by another Moroccan. I found out later it was not my fault, but the rules are very hard! I was running my race and I was in front at the time. I had been the best on that day, and that was very clear "
   I just feel I have to point out that, to my mind, Skah was one of the 'Greatest cross-country runners'  The Kenyans, by the time he won in 1990 and 1991 at Aix-Le-Bains and Antwerp respectively, appeared unbeatable with five of their men in the top nine in the former and six in the top eight in the 1991 race so, for Skah to outwit them was something very special.
   The Start for Khalid " Ever since I was 12 years old, when I was competing with the school, I found I could win in my class in school in Fes. Fes is a famous place, most of the best Moroccan runners have come from around that area.
I love Fes and the area around there, especially the Middle Atlas. I feel very happy when I am training around there. It is a very nice atmosphere, and so are the conditions to train in.'
 ' When I started to run, it was just in my own way and sometimes running with my club team in Fes. I was training  three times a week with them, but had to go to school. I was just training with the group then, but it was nothing very special. It was after 1986 I was starting to coach myself'
    ''  Recently since Brahim Lahlafi has been with me he has been progressing fast. We train twice a day morning and evening also. Regarding my training, I am using my body and preparing in natural surroundings most of the time, like in the woods, to make me more and more strong.'
   When I talked to him he had gained a lot of experience and put it to good use with coaching Brahim Lahlafi and Rachid el Basir, who came second in the Barcelona Olympic 1500 Final.'
 Regarding the 'Great' Moroccan Rhadi ben Abdesselem who was a good cross country runner and, also came second in the Rome Olympic Marathon (In 2:15.41.6 behind Abebe Bekila in 2:15.16.2 (World Best) with Barry Magee of NZ third in 2:23:17.18.2) " I know him and I can see him every day because he is from the Fes area. I admire him as one of the greatest Moroccan runners there has been.'

(6) NOUREDDINE MORCELI (Born February the 28th 1970 at Tenes, Chelf Province, Algeria)
      Morceli was the ' Men's Track & Field Athlete of the year' in 1993-1994 and was the World Champion over 1500m
three times, held several World records that included the 1500/Mile in 3:27.37/3:44.39. At one stage of his career he had a 'Purple patch' winning all his '45' 1500 or mile races against the best competition in the World and, although he beat Hicham El Gurrrouj in the World Championship in Goteborg in 1995, Gurrouj was just coming up to his best years and beat Nourredine in the very closing stages of Noureddine's athletics career.   In 1993, 94 and 95 Morceli was unbeaten in 1500/Mile races.
   If things had gone right for him, in his build  up to the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, he would have been the winner but one might say, if El Gerrouj had not fallen over in the Olympics of 1996 perhaps, it would have been a very close race.
      Olympic 1500 Final in Atlanta on 3rd of August 1996:- (First Six: 1 Noureddine Morceli (Alg) 3:35:78; 2 Fermin Cacho (Spain) 3:36.40; 3 Stephen Kipkorir (Kenya) 3:36.72; 4 Labin Rotich (Kenya) 3:37.39; 5 William Tanui (Kenya) 3:37.39, 6 Abdi Bile (Somalia) 3:38.03. Morceli put in a 53.7 last lap to see off the opposition.
  I spoke to Nourredine at the Queens Hotel, near Crystal Palace in the very late evening of the 11th of September 1994, after he had won the IAAF/Mobil World Cup 1500 in 1994 in 3:34.70, well clear of the rest of the field but it was interesting to hear what went wrong for him in the Olympics of 1992 " I trained in the polluted atmosphere at altitude in Mexico City. I had sciatic nerve trouble which stopped me doing speed work for three months. When I tried speedwork, then it was killing me in the muscle. I was the favourite, and got shoved and boxed in the Olympic Final in a slow race so, from each race you learn from that and God always has a reason for it." (Winner Fermin Cacho of Spain on the 8th of August 1992 in 3:40.12 Morceli seventh in 3:41.70).
   His notable races to start with were in 1988 when he was 9th in the World Junior cross-country and obtained a silver medal in the World Junior Championships 1500m.
   In 1990 he was rated No.1 over 1500 and ran a World Indoor Best over 1500 with 3:34.6 in 1991. Primarily a 1500 and miler he did try his hand at 5000, in the Grand Prix in Zurich in 1991. He ran to an Algerian record of 13:03.85, after a 51.9 last lap. Some big names behind him were Fiat Bayissa of Ethiopia 13:07.10, Kahlid Skah (Maroc) 13:07.84; Others included , Lahlalfi, the American Kennedy, Sigei, Kirui and the German Franke.
   His elder brother , Abdenhmane Morceli, was fourth in the World Cup (Dusseldorf) in 1977 in 3:37.8, behind winner Steve Ovett, who recorded 3:34.5 so, he obviously, must have looked up to him
   " My brother gives me great encouragement to be an athlete in the sport because he is the one who opened  the door for me. The one who first showed me how I could put my shoes on, to run in my track event. I admire him  very, very, much, and I think if he was doing another kind of sport, let us say soccer or  basketball, I would have just followed his way. I think my brother is the one who showed me the way in sport.'
   Where does he like to run round the World then?
 " For me it does not really matter, as  I like most places. When you are in shape it doesn't matter.You have to make a very good schedule at  the beginning of the season. You have got to make a choice because there are so many meetings around the world and you can't do all of them or otherwise you fade at the end of the season. You have to be careful which you chose.'
   Regarding the training " It is nice to have a change, because if you stay in one place it is boring. If you stay in one place it is very, very difficult as you see the same thing and, things will be tight around you, so it is nice to change, and for me I mix my training. I go on the road twice a week, I go on the grass and where it is hilly in the mountains."
(7) MARIA de LURDES MUTOLA (Born October 27, 1972, Chamanculo District of Maputo, Mozambique)
She was from a fairly humble background, as her Father was employed by the Railways and her mother a Market vendor but to my mind Maria Mutola could be classed as the 'Greatest 'Woman' 800m  runner of all time'.
Kelly Holmes, the splendid double Olympic Champion over 800/1500 in Athens in 2004, listed as the British record holder still in 2012, had a best time of 1:56.1, which did not get her in the top 50 best of 'All Time' but Maria Mutola was listed three times in the top 50 and ran a best of 1:55.19. Her longevity at the top was incredible. Four times World Champion outdoors 1993-2003, Seven Times World Indoor Champion 1993 to- 2006, Olympic Gold medallist in 2000 and bronze medallist in 1996 and, even fourth in 2004 (1:56.51) when she was really past her best when Holmes won in 1:56.38.
   2000 Sydney Olympic Final.:-First Six ( Maria Mutola (Moz) 1:56.15; 2 Stephai Graff (Austria) 1:56.64; 3 Kelly Holmes (GBR) 1:56.80; 4 Brigita Langerholc (SLO) 1:58.51; 5 Helena Fuchsova (CZE ) 1:58.56; 6 Zulia Calatyud (Cuba) 1:58.66)  About those she said when I talked to her in London " It is thrilling representing 17 million people at the World Championships and the Olympics but they depend on you, so there is a lot of pressure sometimes but I have got used to that.'
   ' The 800 is my favourite event as it is very exciting and something I have a lot of experience of and know how to run every single step, but before an Olympics or a World Championship, it is important to be careful how many races you put into your body. It is hard to relax at the Olympic Games as it so concentrated. At the smaller Grand Prix meets there is not a lot of pressure and you can relax yourself and, if you are in good shape, try to use a pacemaker so you can run times for the fans and the organisers. Sometimes I would push myself to the limit.'
   Talking of other events she did run 4:01.6 in a 1500 in Europe in 1995 and also a 1000m world record outdoors of 2:29.34 in Brussels in 1995.
   In her very early days at school in Maputo she loved playing soccer and became so good she could have been an international in that field. One of her brothers Carlo was an international standard basketball player but it was the Olympic Solidarity Committee who gave her a grant to go abroad. In order to learn English, she went to Springfield High School, Eugene, Oregon but the change was quite devastating for her " I was unhappy and homesick because I spoke no English and had no friends. I was 17 and it was tough to begin with. Then she met Margot Jennings, who had been a College long distance runner. She guided Maria and thought she had great potential. In 1998 Maria ran 2:04.6 for 800. Those small beginnings for her were really good as she went further and further ahead with her speed.
   "I had thought, if I break 2 minutes one day I could start to think I could be one of the 'Stars' .
' I ran in a mixed race where I was living in Oregon and, a  boy who trained with me said that if I stayed with him in the race I could break 2 minutes. He did around 1:58 and I did 1:59. At first I thought they might have stopped the clock before I finished. It was a help to have learn the pace judgement'
   ' It was after I broke 2 minutes my coach said to me that if I dedicate myself a little bit more I could become a World Champion one day and I actually believed her!"

(8) HAILE GEBRSELASSIE (Born 18th of April, 1973, Assela,Arsi Province, Ethiopia. Although his Father was keen for him to stay on at the farm in the fertile Central Plateau, he realised the burning desire Heile had to run.His brother Tekeye 13th in the world Cup Marathon in London in 1991 and his best time was 2:11.45 in 1994. EX-Dutch distance record holder, Jos Hermans, became his Athletics Manager in his senior career)
   Haile achieved 27 World records, 4 World Championship gold medals, and won Two Olympic 10,000m Finals as below--

Atlanta on the  29th of July 1996:- First six:- 1 Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) an Olympic record of 27:07.34; 2 Paul Tergat (Kenya) 27:08.17; 3 Salah Hissou (Mar) 27.24.67; 4 Aloys Nizigama (BUR); 27.33.79; 5 Joseph Machuka (Kenay) 27:35.19; 6 Paul Koech (Kenya) 27:35.19.

Sydney 25th of September 2000 1 Haile Gebrselassie 27:18.20, 2 Paul Tergat 27:18.29; 3 Assefa Mezegebu (Ethiopia) 27:19.75; 4 Patrick Muti (Kenya) 27:20.44; 5 John Korir (Kenya) 27:24.75; 6 Said Berioui (Morocco) 27:37.83.  
              Up to the Sydney Olympic which race gave him the most satisfaction
               " The one in Atlanta. I was a very hard race on a track that was made for sprinters not long distance runners. The reason I was so happy with the race was because it was the Olympics I had won."
   He was injured before the Olympics in Sydney, when he summoned up his reserves to beat, Multi-World Cross Country Champion, Paul Tergat in Sydney. It was the problem with his injury that made the race such a tactical one for Haile.
 It was. In 2004 in the Olympic Final in Athens, won by fellow countryman Keninsa Bekele in 27:05.10 that Haile came fifth in 27:27.70. Long before that, when I talked to him, just prior to going to the Sydney Olympics, he was very philosophical about it all.
   "When you talk about sport and talk about athletics you can not always be at the top for a long time. Always you have to give a chance to the youngsters. It's like a machine. A model '98' cannot go as well as a model 2000. The model 2000 will be faster. You have to accept these things!"
   However there is a saying ' You can't keep a good man down!"
It is true the writing was on the wall for Haile to continue to be a ''Great Track Runner' so quite a lot of people wrote him off  which, looking back, was quite amusing to think about if you consider after he dipped his foot in the marathon, coming third in the London, he went away and thought it all out and ran brilliantly over half-marathons and marathons and in September 2008, at the age of 35, he won the Berlin Marathon in a World record time of 2:03.59 and of course that will stand as an 'Over 35' record for years to come, one might expect.
Haile  has broken 61 Ethiopian records and he was handy on the boards too.
He even won the World Indoor title at 1500 in 3:33., after winning the 3000 in 7:53.57 and. he became World half marathon Champion in 2001.
   The Start " I ran my first race a long time ago at school. It was a 1500 and I won that race but I had not been doing any hard training or had any experience. It was then pointed out to me that I could be a good runner in the future.'
   ' It was two years after that 1500 at school that I went to the capital Addis Ababa. I competed in the National  Championships in 1991 and qualified for the World Junior cross country in Belgium. I came eight in that. That was a good race for me, being my first international.'
   ' Myruts Yifter was his hero to begin with and the Ethiopians of course looked up to double Olympic marathon Champion of 1960-64 Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia.
  In 2000 when I talked to him Haile said that he ran 15 to 25 miles a day in training in the winter and Summer
Hale Geb's Love of running
" The thing I love most about travelling around to the races in the world, is that I love the athletes because when I go to the competitions, athletes from different countries and different regions are interesting to me. They all have different characters. I think that is wonderful'
      'Away from competition I love to run in my home town in the forest, which is my best method of training, Seeing the flowers, the trees, wild animals. That is what I want to continue to do in the future when I stop competing. Run and hear the noise of the birds, and smell the trees and flowers. Besides that what I Love to do is stay at home with my kids and my wife that is most important for me."

Alastair Aitken

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