News24

Bekele set for Irish race

2012-02-28 15:08

London - Distance running great Kenenisa Bekele is to compete in the Great Ireland Run in Dublin on April 15, organisers said on Tuesday, as part of his preparations for the London Olympics.

Reigning Olympic 5 000m and 10 000m champion Bekele finished way down the field in the three kilometre Great Edinburgh Cross Country last month.

Bekele was one of 35 athletes suspended from international competition by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation after they failed to show up for a mandatory training camp.

But the ban was rescinded just days after it was imposed and now Bekele is set to return to the city of one of his greatest triumphs.

It was 10 years ago, when aged just 19, that Bekele became the first and only male athlete ever to lift the IAAF World Cross Country long and short course titles in the same year, at Dublin's Leopardstown racecourse.

And according to British former Olympic medallist Brendan Foster, of race organisers Nova International, Bekele's decision to compete in the Great Ireland Run, a 10 km event, could herald the start of a career as a marathon runner after the 2012 Games.

"I was delighted when Bekele's agent Jos Hermens rang me and asked whether we could find a slot in the SPAR Great Ireland Run for him and of course there was no way I was going to say 'no' to such an outstanding legend," Foster said Tuesday.

"We have had some really big names including Paul Tergat and Bekele's own countrywoman Derartu Tulu, arguably the greatest women's distance runner of all time, grace the event since the first Dublin race in 2003.

"Now to have Bekele ask to take part in a race which has grown in stature year on year is a compliment to its reputation and quality and I know from speaking with his manager he is determined to prove his shape after a setback at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country in January.

"Everyone, particularly Mo Farah and other Olympic rivals for a gold medal in either the 5 000m or 10 000m, will be watching closely how he performs in Phoenix Park after his Edinburgh setback," Foster added.

"This will be a very important race for Kenenisa and a good field is being pulled together to give him a real test.

"He's raced sparingly on the roads in the past so I'm certain it will also be important in his plans to move his career into a different direction after the London Games."

AFP