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Biofile: Haile Gebrselassie Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Won Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2000 in the 10,000 meters. Won Berlin Marathon in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.

DOB: April 18, 1973 In: Asella, Arsi Province, Ethiopia

First Running Memory: “My first memory for racing was in 1981. First one – when I landed in Belgium and took cross country. That was only to be in the race, not win. And it was one of my first experiences to see what it looks like outside Ethiopia. (Place?) I finished eighth. Team – second position. This is what we achieved.”

Last Book Read:  “An Ethiopian history book.”

Greatest Sports Moment:  “My gold medal in my career was Sydney in 2000.”

Most Painful Moment:  “New York City Marathon in 2010. The race – I couldn’t finish. I hope someday I will run again in New York and finish the race.”

Why Do You Love Running:  “Why do I love running [smiles]? It’s my life. Ah, it’s in my blood. Running…you cannot stop today and start tomorrow.”

Favorite Sport Outside Running:  “Boxing. It’s not sport [laughs]. For me, when I watch boxing, whenever they say this is sport, ah, I love to watch this. But what kind of sport by hurting each other? It’s unique.”

Three Athletes You Like To Watch & Follow:  “Usain Bolt. You know, all sprints and all distance. And, of course, Kenenisa Bekele. Third one… for boxing, of course, my favorite is Evander Holyfield.”

Favorite Place To Compete:  “Berlin.”

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:  “I don’t like ice cream.”

Current Car:  “Hyundai.”

Funny Career Memory:  “My name is related to Haile Selassie. Long time ago after I won a race somewhere, one of my friends was asking somebody, Where is Haile Selassie? Ooohh, Haile Selassie died a long time ago. (My friend said) No he didn’t! I saw him yesterday!! Ah, you mean, Haile Gebreselassie [smiles]! My name is a little bit similar… [smiles] Haile Selassie. Our Kenyan died a long time ago. That’s a funny memory of running.”

People Qualities Most Admired:  “What kind of qualities? People who have a determination. Who have honesty. Who have something open in his heart.”

Advice To A Young Athlete:  “Have a goal. Have dedication. And be willing to work very hard. If you have all three of those, you can be the best.” 

(Note: A German running magazine I contributed to called “Spiridon” commissioned me to do a Biofile with Haile Gebrselassie but I was not able to contact him despite multiple attempts until finally in Nov. 2015 when the Ethiopian legend attended the New York City Marathon a few months after retiring in May at age 42. – SM)

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