BRUSSELS (AP) — Ethiopian long-distance great Haile Gebrselassie is reassessing his sudden retirement, and his manager hopes he will run in the 2012 London Olympics.
Jos Hermens told The Associated Press on Wednesday that a knee injury that forced Gebrselassie out of Sunday’s New York Marathon left him in an emotional state and led to the rash announcement. Hermens said he’d spoken to Gebrselassie by phone since the race.
“He was already a lot more neutral,” Hermens said, adding that Gebrselassie told him, “Let me think about it.”
Gebrselassie won two Olympic 10,000-meter gold medals, four outdoor world titles and set the marathon world record of 2 hours, 3 minutes, 59 seconds in Berlin in 2008.
The 37-year-old runner had said he wanted to compete through the 2012 London Olympics.
Hermens said he will travel to Ethiopia and talk with Gebrselassie next week, confident there are more competitive races left in him.
“If he takes his time, and he takes some time off with the family, I am sure that Haile will say, ‘From my heart, I want to run,'” Hermens said. “I already felt his first doubts.”
Despite his age and knee injury, Hermens said he is convinced Gebrselassie still has an Olympic future.
A few days ahead of the race, Gebrselassie felt irritation in his right knee and it was inflamed by the time he got to New York. Hermens said it was especially bad news since Gebrselassie also was using the race to defy critics who said he could not win a tactical race against top opposition.
“For two to three days, the injury had to be treated very intensively with injection, pulling out liquid. Lots of painful stuff,” Hermens said. “The timing was just terrible.”
After the race, Haile Gebrselassie was taken to a news conference instead of his hotel, Hermens said. In front of reporters, he suddenly blurted out his announcement.
“I was totally surprised,” Hermens said.
Back at the hotel, Hermens found a distraught Gebrselassie, who immediately apologized to him but stuck to his retirement announcement. He left New York that same day on an early flight.
“He needs to settle down now,” Hermens said.
It’s not the first time Haile Gebrselassie spoke of retirement, though it was the first time in public. After he quit the 2007 London Marathon with breathing difficulties after about 30 kilometers, he also thought he was done.
“He told me and a few others in his room, ‘I will never learn the marathon. I’ll never make it,'” Hermens said. “Then he went on to set two world records.”
Haile Gebrselassie skipped the marathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics for fear that pollution would affect his running. He ran the 10,000 meters instead and finished sixth.
“London will be very tough, but a medal is certainly not excluded,” Hermens said. “Even if you finish your career with a bronze, that is still fantastic.”