Advertisement

ATHENS 2004

Ethiopians 1-2 in 10,000 With Gebrselassie Fifth

August 21, 2004|Helene Elliott

ATHENS — The symbolism could not have been more obvious if Haile Gebrselassie had dipped a torch into the caldron looming above the Olympic Stadium track and passed the flame to his young Ethiopian compatriots, Kenenisa Bekele and Sileshi Sihine.

After Bekele succeeded Gebrselassie as the Olympic 10,000-meter champion by breaking away from Sihine with a scorching 53.02-second final lap, the winner, runner-up and dethroned two-time champion embraced under their national flag. Smiling despite a sore left Achilles' tendon, an injury he said made him "very close to stop," Gebrselassie held hands with his successors and savored an occasion that might not have been possible without his courage and class in popularizing distance running over the past decade.

Bekele, 22, broke Gebrselassie's Olympic record by more than 2 1/2 seconds when he finished in 27 minutes 5.10 seconds. Sihine was second in 27:09.39 and Zersenay Tadesse of Eritrea third in 27:22.57. Gebrselassie, 31, finished fifth in 27:27.70, running what he said was the finale of his distinguished career.

"It's fantastic to see what he did," Gebrselassie said of Bekele, who broke the 10,000 world record in June and added the 5,000 world record five days later. "I'm so happy."

Gebrselassie's spirit will be remembered long after his final race. Said American Dathan Ritzenhein, who dropped out of the 10,000 because of a stress fracture in his foot: "It's an honor to be on the track with guys like him."

-- Helene Elliott

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|