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Haile Gebrselassie announces retirement from athletics

Emotional Gebrselassie announces retirement

Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie has announced his retirement from athletics.

The 37-year-old from Ethiopia made the announcement after dropping out of his first New York Marathon after 16 miles with a knee injury.

"I never thought about retirement. But for the first time, this is the day," said the two-time Olympic champion.

Gebrselassie set the marathon world record of two hours three minutes and 59 seconds in Berlin in 2008.

It was one of 27 world bests he set over his career, which also yielded eight world titles since 1993, ranging in distance from the 1,500m up to the marathon.

"Let me do another job," he added. "Let me give a chance to the youngsters. I did very hard work to win this race, it didn't work."

He is the greatest athlete of the last 50 years and arguably the best of all time

Sebastian Coe

Gebrselassie, who first made his mark when he won 10,000m world championship gold, at the age of 20 in Stuttgart in 1993, retired from the track to concentrate on the marathon after finishing fifth in the 2004 Athens Olympics 10,000m final.

He won gold in the event in both Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney four years later.

The legendary runner, who has won more than 130 major races, had a scan ahead of Sunday's New York race that showed fluid and tendonitis in his knee but although he lined up for the race, he was unable to finish.

Former middle distance runner Sebastian Coe, who also won two Olympic gold medals, paid tribute to the Gebrselassie, calling him perhaps the best athlete of all time.


Coe, who is the chairman of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games, said: "We will wait a long time before an athlete dominates over so many distances and across such an extraordinary time period as Haile Gebrselassie has done.

"The litmus test for a successful athlete is longevity at the very highest level and he had that in abundance.

"There is nothing he couldn't do - and he did it with style. I believe he is the greatest athlete of the last 50 years and arguably the best of all time."

Steve Cram, BBC commentator and former British distance runner, told BBC Sport: "I'm a little surprised by his decision to retire but he will be remembered as one of the great distance runners and I don't think anyone will manage to achieve as much as he did.

"He was a great champion, a great racer but what set him apart was his range, from 1,500m - where he ran particularly fast indoors - to the marathon. He was good on the road, good at cross country, he was double Olympic champion on the track and had eight world titles."

Former British distance runner and BBC athletics summariser Brendan Foster admitted he was surprised by Gebrselassie's decision to call time on his career.

He told BBC Radio 5 live: "I believe in fairy tales and I thought the fairy tale would be Haile finishing his career by winning the Olympics [marathon] in London [in 2012] and I'm really sad.

"It's a bit of a shock. His management didn't know anything about it and Haile said he thought about it himself and decided he would do it.

"I just hope, because he's still running fantastically well, there's a little change of mind.

"But he has been the greatest."

He has developed a successful business career away from running in his homeland.

He owns his own running club, has established a school in Addis Ababa and employs more than 1,000 people in his home city, where he is known as 'The Emperor'.

Ethiopian Gebre Gebremariam, who won Sunday's race, admitted afterwards he was saddened to see his countryman pull up as they headed for the final 10 miles of the race.

The 26-year-old said: "I was behind Haile when he dropped out. I said to him: 'Come on Haile' but he couldn't move. He just said: 'I can't, Gebre, you have to go on'.

"Haile is a good guy, he is king. I have learned so many things from him."

International Association of Athletics Federations [IAAF] president Lamine Diack praised both the achievements of Gebrselassie on the track as well as his conduct off it.

"Sporting hero, legend, genius," said Diack. "It's virtually impossible to overstate the stature of Haile Gebrselassie as an athletics superstar, and so it was with great sadness that I received the news of Haile's sudden retirement due to injury."

"The multiple world and Olympic champion and world record breaker is widely acknowledged as one of the all-time greats of

athletics but for millions around the world he is more than a sporting icon.

"His generous and warm character provide a perfect example of how to conduct yourself in life with the utmost dignity."

see also
Retirement of an Ethiopian hero
09 Nov 10 |  Africa
Great North win for Gebrselassie
19 Sep 10 |  Athletics
Gebrselassie wins Manchester 10k
16 May 10 |  Athletics
Gebrselassie retains Berlin crown
20 Sep 09 |  Athletics
New world record for Gebrselassie
28 Sep 08 |  Athletics
Athletics on the BBC
21 Apr 11 |  Athletics

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