Haile Gebrselassie could reverse his decision to retire from competitive racing once the high emotion of his dramatic New York exit have subsided, according to close confidants of the Ethiopian.
Video – Brendan Foster: Why should he retire?
Former runner and close friend Brendan Foster says he was surprised by Haile Gebrselassie’s retirement announcement.
By Simon Hart in New York, Telegraph
The 37-year-old marathon world record-holder changed his travel plans and flew out of New York within hours of his tearful announcement on Sunday, avoiding a scheduled public engagement where he would have faced media cross-examination about his surprise decision to call time on his brilliant 18-year career.
His agent, Jos Hermens, was also unavailable for comment on Monday, though the word from the Ethiopian’s inner circle was that he may have been too hasty when he limped into a press conference after pulling out of the New York Marathon at the 16-mile mark and declared: “It’s better to stop here.”
David Bedford, the race director of the London Marathon who attended Sunday’s race, said: “I understand from talking to people close to him that he was very upset at having to drop out of the race and his reaction was clearly understandable.
“But I believe that when he has calmed down and taken a longer-term look of his future over the next 48 hours, he will take a different view about whether this was his last race. I don’t believe that we have seen the last of him.
“I can’t believe that, after such an incredible career, he would want to go out in a race he failed to finish.”
Gebrselassie’s shock announcement came only a couple of months after he showed brilliant form to win the Great North Run in under an hour. Just days before the New York race, he had ruled out retirement and had talked about competing in 2012 and beyond.
Although he was clearly incapacitated by the inflammation in his right knee on Sunday, it was a routine injury that was hardly career-threatening.
A highly emotional man, Haile Gebrselassie has been known to make career U-turns before. He retired from track racing after finishing fifth in the 10,000 metres final at the 2004 Olympics but, four years later, was back in action over 10,000m in Beijing, finishing sixth.
He was also said to be deeply distressed after finishing ninth in the 2006 London Marathon, telling close friends that he was quitting.
Gebre Gebremariam, who won Sunday’s marathon on his debut, predicted his fellow Ethiopian would face huge pressure at home. “I think everybody’s worried about him stopping,” Gebremariam said. “I think in Ethiopia he has to change his plans. He has to continue.”