HENGELO, Netherlands: Ethiopian athletics legend Haile Gebrselassie failed to qualify for the London Olympics here on Sunday as he could only finish seventh in the 10,000 metres.
The 39-year-old two-time Olympic 10,000m champion – who had already failed to post a qualifying time for the marathon – admitted his hopes had been dashed after his disappointing performance against 12 of his compatriots.
Ethiopia were using this as a qualifier for the Olympics.
“The Games in London, is over for me,” he told AFP.
“I ran a good race till the last lap. I felt good but I manifestly didn’t have the speed to compete against my rivals.
“That’s life. I am not disappointed,” added Gebrselassie, whose epic defeat of Kenyan great Paul Tergat at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, his second Olympic title, is one of the great finishes of all time.
Indeed for the ever cheerful Ethiopian great it is to be his last track race.
“The ‘spikes’, it is finished for me. I am 39. I have failed to qualify for the Olympics. And there is a very strong younger generation in Ethiopia now.
“I tried to qualify for my fifth Olympics. And I don’t regret trying to do so.
“I simply came up against stronger rivals on Sunday.”
Tariku Bekele and Leleisa Desisa Benti finished first and second respectively – with the former posting the best time in the world this year of 27min 11.70sec – to book their tickets for London.
The third spot is being kept for Bekele’s older brother and world record holder Kenenisa, who has been struggling for several months with a calf muscle problem.
Gebrselassie said that he felt he was handing over the baton of Ethiopian track running to a golden generation.
“I am leaving the track in a calm frame of mind because there is a super generation taking over.
“I haven’t in any case run on the track since the Beijing Games (2008).
“Ethiopia will be stronger in London.
“I gave all that I had. It is why I am not sad or disappointed. I am always happy to run. These next months, I will devote solely to marathons and half marathons.
“In three years, I envisage a political career. I would like to become a member of parliament.”
Gebrselassie, a four-time world 10,000m champion, had come into the race boosted by his victory in the 10km Great Manchester Run in northwest England last week in 27min 39secs.