Gebrselassie to face Bekele challenge

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> There's a new king of men's distance running, going by the name of Kenenisa Bekele.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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There's a new king of men's distance running, going by the name of Kenenisa Bekele. But you can be sure that the previous owner of that epithet will fight him hard at the Olympics. Haile Gebrselassie is 31-years-old now - and this year, he's seen Bekele break both his five- and 10-thousand metre world records. In Athens, Gebrselassie will be going for a third-successive Olympic 10-thousand metre gold, hoping in the process, to become the first individual athlete to win the same running event at the Games three times. But the odds are stacked heavily against him. Decorated career In 1995 he established himself as an unparalleled long-distance runner. The Ethiopian broke Moses Kiptanui's world record in the two miles race by clocking 8:07.46min. Just a week later, he broke the world record in 10-thousand metres by clocking 26:43.53min in a race in Hengelo, Holland. Later that year he also won the world 10-thousand metre title and set a world five-thousand metre record. Before the end of the year, he had broken another two world records, one in the indoor five-thousand metres in 13:10.98min, and another one in the three-thousand metres in 7:30.72min. Since then, the records - and titles have kept coming. A tribute to natural talent and good genes - or the benefits of military discipline and rigid training? Maybe it's a combination of both factors. "Of course, we already had their (our) own talent. But most important is just to add more. Exercise or training is the most important. And if you say I have natural talent, without training, you cannot use it. It is important to combine," said Gebrselassie, Olympic 10000-metre champion. But recently, all that hasn't been enough. New star There's a new star of distance running. Kenenisa Bekele shattered Gebrselassie's five- and 10-thousand metre world records this year - after taking his world 10-thousand metre title in 2003. They are fellow-countrymen - they know each other intimately - this must be a rivalry to capture the imagination. "Well, for me, it is very difficult to put Kenenisa (Bekele) as a rival because we are talking about the Olympics. Mostly we Ethiopians, you know, we just train together you know. First, we run for our country and then we run for ourselves. Of course, Kenenisa is one of the strongest athletes at the moment," said Gebrselassie. Gebrselassie was unbeaten at 10-thousand metres from 1993 to 2001, winning four consecutive titles at the distance during that time. At his fifth attempt - in 2001 - he finished third. Paul Tergat pushed him to within 0.09 seconds for gold at the Sydney Olympics in the closest finish in the Games' history. Looking for a win So with his powers on the wane, defeat for Gebrselassie for Athens would be no great surprise – or personal shame to the man himself. "As I told you, I put the priority for my country and then for myself. It doesn't matter who will win. But I love to win - that is no question. You know, everybody else I told you, wants to win. Kenenisa, he wants to win and we'll see," said Gebrselassie. But whether he likes it or not, this could be Haile Gebrselassie's Olympic swansong. The end could be in sight to the career of one of the true greats of athletics. (AP)

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