The Greatest: The Haile Gebrselassie Story

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9781891369483: The Greatest: The Haile Gebrselassie Story

Two Olympic 10,000m golds; eight world championships indoors and outdoors; seventeen world records over four different distances; a fifty-four race winning streak Haile Gebrselassie utterly dominated a decade of distance running. The Greatest is his authorized biography, written by Jim Denison, who worked on it with Haile for over two years, visited him in Ethiopia, and traveled with him on the European track circuit. Haile’s life story is fascinating, detailing his early years of hard poverty in war-torn Ethiopia, his relentless training, his rise to godlike status in the track world, and the good works he has done for his country with his fame and fortune. Most of all it is a glimpse of the kind, fascinating man behind all the records and medals.
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Haile Gebrselassie is the best distance runner I have seen in the last quarter-
century, the most electrifying personality, and somewhat of an enigma, given his Ethiopian roots. With this wonderful book, Jim Denison allows the whole world to learn more about Haile The Great, a distance-running star whose brilliance won’t soon be forgotten.”
Amby Burfoot, executive editor, Runner’s World, and 1968 Boston Marathon winner

Be in no doubt Haile is the greatest distance runner the world has ever seen.”
Dave Bedford, former 10,000m world record holder,
and currently race director for the London Marathon

Haile is an elegant champion and a fine example of sportsmanship.”
Lasse Viren, Olympic double-gold medalist

In my view Haile is the greatest distance runner of all time and a fantastic testimony to his legacy is that the man who is going to challenge for that title the greatest’ has been nurtured by Haile and his coach, Dr. Wolde-Meskel Kostre. Haile has taken care of the present and he is passing on the baton to the future, to one of his pupils, Kenenisa Bekele.”
Brendan Foster, MBE, 1976 Olympic bronze medalist 10,000m, former world record holder 3000m, and presently Track and Field Commentator for the BBC

Haile’s accomplishment is a class act on and off the track. He is not only admired for his running, but his universal smile (whether he wins or finishes second).”
Meb Kheflezighi, two-time Olympian and American record holder for 10,000m

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About the Author:

Originally from New York, Jim Denison currently lives and works in England. He is the editor of The Coach, a bi-monthly magazine for track and field coaches, and his features on running appear regularly in Athletics Weekly. He is the author of BANNISTER AND BEYOND: The Mystique of the Four-Minute Mile. Denison is also a lecturer in sports sociology at the University of Bath.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The final lap. Sweat lines Haile Gebrselassie’s face; his forehead shines under the strain. At the top of the backstretch the Kenyan Paul Tergat leads. His elegant stride extends into the night; the ground rushes beneath him in a torrent. With 200 meters to go it’s still Tergat, so often a runner-up to the man now inches in arrears. Tergat and Gebrselassie have broken clear; they hit the homestretch determined: They’re side by side, shoulder to shoulder. The air around them is still as if they are running in a vacum. And this after 24 laps of suspicious surges, sideways glances, and questionable team tactics. Tergat’s in with a fighting chance this time. Not like Atlanta. This is going to come down to the last step. It will definitely be decided at the line. Tergat knows it. At this point—100 meters to go—everyone does. It’s his best chance in years. Oh, but for that unstoppable force behind him: a bundle of power, expression, and light. So a packed Olympic stadium rises, a television audience in the billions shift to the edge of their seats. Could this be Tergat’s day? That must be what he’s repeating. I can win this. I can win this . . .

Magic seemingly intervened that September Monday night in Sydney, 2000—a collective gasp of disbelief, a flutter of pleasure, the world mesmerized as the men’s 10,000-meter final drew to a close. Only two could have possibly won gold: Paul Tergat, a majestic, proud champion, or Ethiopia’s favorite son, Haile Gebrselassie.

Over each passing kilometer, from the 1st through to the 10th, time had moved fast and time had moved slow. The pace fluctuated like a nervous day on Wall Street—62 seconds for one lap, 72 for another, 56 for another still. Such is the effect of earnest confrontation—and at an Olympic Games in particular, where unknown possibilities are so often reconfigured into a new order. The result being, as journalists would later describe this race, "A sublime and fantastically super-charged climax."

When the gun signaled the start of this Olympic 10,000 meter final, Gebrselassie had everything to lose. He was the defending Olympic champion from Atlanta four years earlier, the world record holder, and four times the world champion. Tergat was a cross-country specialist, winning that world title consecutively between 1995 and 1999. Gebrselassie didn’t run cross-country. And Tergat had never beaten Gebrselassie on the track, finishing second to him in Atlanta and at two of those world championships—1997 and 1999.

But for Sydney Tergat had never prepared more strenuously: "I would be on the track, running hard, collapsing, getting up, and running hard again. And when I was done I couldn’t stand. I was so tired. I couldn’t eat. I felt sick. I had no energy to do anything other than take a drink of water and lie down. Then I’d think of Haile, and know that he was training even harder."

So in a move meant to level their Olympic score, Tergat had surged to the lead from a pack of six with 250 meters remaining. And only Gebrselassie could respond.

Now with just 50 meters of racing ahead of them virtually nothing separates these two, not the thickness of their vests, a sliver of paper, or an invisible line. Twenty runners had responded to the starter’s gun some 27 minutes earlier, but it’s come down to this: a lean, a half stride, the weight of one man’s breath.

Gebrselassie had carefully maintained second place the entire race, closely monitoring all six lead changes. But Tergat surprised him, slingshotting to the front on the final backstretch. And as hard as he’s pumping his fists and as high as he’s lifting his knees, Gebrselassie isn’t gaining. Tergat’s holding on, and the finish line is fast approaching.

These two rivals offer a study in contrasts: Tergat 5-feet-11 with a tailor-tapered torso, Gebrselassie 5-feet-4 and barrel-chested, but with an albatross-sized stride. Tergat’s height and width fill his lane. Gebrselassie’s narrow shoulders center him in his. But their hard-edged grimaces demonstrate an equal capacity to tolerate pain. Their struggle continues down the homestretch as their cheekbones rise and their faces bunch. Deep lines cut across their brows, giving them a wind-whipped, tortured appearance as if they had just thrust their hands into a sack of broken glass. Their anguish fills the camera, a synchronized trajectory of speed and determination, and it stuns the world. This is raw, this is reality, this is unfiltered drama.

However, despite their parity in talent, effort, and resolve, and the subfractional distance that separates them, one of these champions will have to lose. But who will it be? How will this scene close? Only 15 meters of track remain and these two are in each other’s skin.

There’s clear desperation in their last yelps for air. Their every pore discharges thick steam, deep heat, solid tension. They’re pulling at their roots to sprint their hardest, digging deep, doing whatever might help them reach that painted white line across the track first.

On top of all this, Gebrselassie’s hearing things. One simple word over and over: Yichala, Yichala, It is possible, It is possible. Five meters out . . . now three, and this single word is still circulating in Gebrselassie’s head. He can only feel Tergat by his side now; his vision is clouding, his ears are ringing. Then somehow he remembers, Lean, Lean. It’s a beautiful dip, too: graceful and balanced with his arms out to his sides like wings. He’s taken off; he’s across the line first for an incredible nine one-hundredths of a second victory. It’s a race that will never be forgotten. The day the world proclaimed this humble Ethiopian the greatest distance runner of all time.

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Verlag: Breakaway Books, (2004)
ISBN 10: 1891369482 ISBN 13: 9781891369483
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Buchbeschreibung Breakaway Books, 2004. Paperback. Buchzustand: Sehr gut. Gleiche ISBN, anderes Cover, kleine Lagerspuren am Buch, Inhalt einwandfrei und ungelesen 107536 Sprache: Englisch Gewicht in Gramm: 465. Artikel-Nr. 369444

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