Geb – The Emperor!

Possibly, the most striking feature of Haile Gebrselassie is that subtle kink in the left arm while he runs. Interestingly, religious running of 10 kilometers to school – and back! – with his books under one arm was what got him this distinctive running feature. As a 16-year old he ran his first 1,500 meters against accomplished seniors. Here’s what he had to say about the race – “People were laughing because I was sprinting at the beginning”, they exclaimed “Look at this boy. He’s going to stop soon.” Well, it’s been close to 20 years, and…he hasn’t!

About Geb’s on-field theatrics – the man has run as long and fast as anyone, breaking 27 world records, winning a plethora of Olympic and World Championship titles which translated running aficionados into speaking of him in the same breath as legends like Paavo Nurmi and Emil Zatopek. An anecdote of his antics – At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he outlasted Paul Tergat in the 10,000 meters, running the last 200 in 25.4 seconds as compared to Tergat’s 26.3. That’s a winning margin of 0.09 seconds, closer than the margin of the men’s 100 meter dash!

This indefatigable Ethiopian distance runner holds the distinction of being the first man to complete a sub 2:04 marathon; with a 2:03:59 run on the streets of Berlin in 2008. That’s a mind boggling 4:43.7 per mile! In 2003, Paris, Geb was part of the most remarkable 10,000 meter races of all time, gaining a silver. The last half of the race was completed in 12:57.2 – which was the fastest 5k split ever – by countryman Kenenisa Bekele, with Geb clocking 12:58.8.

Haile bid adieu to the track after the 2004 and focused on road racing and the marathon, in which he registered numerous 1st place victories around the world.

He is awarded an honorary doctorate from the Leeds Metropolitan University for outstanding contribution to the sport. Added to that, in 2008 he was inducted into the African Hall of Fame.

Apart from the endless list of running achievements, he is a movie star, having portrayed himself in Endurance; a movie on his life and quest for Olympic gold in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The Oscars was the only major competition he lost that year!

Haile, who has been making athletics history for the better part of two decades is about to make a new history by building the first private athletics village in the country, namely – Yaya Africa Athletics Village P.L.C. With his vision of providing for his fellow country folks to become self-sustainable, Geb intends to change the life of his Ethiopian family in his own humble way.

Thankfully, Haile Gebrselassie didn’t live closer to his school, else he might not be where he is today!

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