Ethiopian legend calls for improvement of stadiums
What you need to know:
- He also urged athletes to invest wisely from competition earnings, adding that they should emulate the discipline of double Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge.
- “As an athlete, discipline is key and if you ask me, Kipchoge leads by example. When athletes get money, they need to think wisely about the future. Money is faster than an athlete and there is a need to think wisely.
Ethiopian athletics legend Haile Gebreslassie is clamouring for improved sports infrastructure in eastern African countries that have dominated in athletics for a long period.
Gebrselassie, 49, says it is sad that despite such dominance, these nations they lack basic training facilities.
His sentiments come even as the North Rift region, known for producing a larger percentage of world Kenya’s athletics world beaters, has no single working stadium with facilities like the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret undergoing renovations since 2012.
This has seen Kenya miss out on opportunities to stage major competitions with Nairobi’s Moi International Sports Centre and Nyayo National Stadium the only two viable options.
It was hardly surprising, therefore, that Kenya lost the bid to host the 2025 World Championships due to lack of a modern stadium with the hosting rights awarded to Tokyo, hosts of the Olympic Games in 2021.
Gebrselassie, who is also the Adidas brand ambassador, was in Iten recently on a three-day promotional tour with Adidas executives to visit athletes and also work on a prototype racing shoe.
The Ethiopian legend told Nation Sport that training facilities, especially running tracks, are key to an athlete and that’s what makes Kenya and Ethiopia popular training bases.
Gebrselassie interacted with athletes at the stalled Kamariny Stadium, which has been in bad shape since 2017 when the government launched its renovations in a project that has since failed to take off.
“Many European athletes would like to come and train in Kenya and Ethiopia but what facilities do you have for them to train?
“They would like to come for vacation and train at the same time but can we be able to accommodate the athletes in terms of track facilities?” the Ethiopian legend posed.
Gebrselassie added that countries and counties must act fast to tap the earnings that come along with the influx of foreign athletes.
“I also make a lot of noise in Ethiopia for better facilities and this is because we are losing a lot of revenue.
“Please if the government can hear me, just sacrifice a few dollars and construct a good training track and many international athletes will have a reason to come and train and the community will be able to benefit from the earnings,” implored Gerbselassie.
He said that on his early morning runs, he was impressed by the large group of athletes criss-crossing running trails, but was quick to warn that there is need to change training styles otherwise the western countries will reclaim their dominance of distance running.
“Ethiopia, Kenya and recently Uganda have been doing well in various events and we need to keep the tradition of doing well but if we don’t change with the world, we shall be losing our culture of winning,” the legend warned.
He is concerned that while in his day, athletes would carefully choose races to train for, the trend has now changed and athletes shift from track to the marathon within a short period.
This, he notes, has led to inconsistency and it’s hard to, for instance, predict who the winner in the 10,000 metres race at the World Championships or Olympic Games would be.
“My advice to the young athletes is to compete and make sure they choose their races wisely for longevity because, personally, I did that and managed to be in the sport for long and I’m now enjoying what I looked for all the years I was competing,” Gebrselassie, who owns the annual Great Ethiopian Run added.
Gebrselassie believes that with the current science technology including the development of superior racing shoes, many athletes will continue registering fast times.
“In our era, records would stay longer but nowadays they are being broken fast. I would say with the new technology being witnessed, in the next few years we are going to see more marathoners running sub two-hour marathons.
“Currently, if you ask me about the ratio between science and an athlete, I would give 60 percent to science and 40 percent to an athlete because you can’t compare today with the time we used to really hit the road and train hard,” he adds.
Gebrselassie’s typical day starts with a 10-kilometre run in the morning before he goes to the office while on weekends, he does about 20 kilometres just to stay fit.
He urges office workers and other professionals to lead by example and run in the morning “to sweat a bit.”
“Without running from and back home, you wouldn’t have seen me running here today… I would like to urge managers, leaders, CEOs of various companies to think of running in the morning before they head to the office because it makes one fit and we shall be able to eradicate some of the lifestyle diseases,” he advised.
He also urged athletes to invest wisely from competition earnings, adding that they should emulate the discipline of double Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge.
“As an athlete, discipline is key and if you ask me, Kipchoge leads by example. When athletes get money, they need to think wisely about the future. Money is faster than an athlete and there is a need to think wisely.
“When you win, the media will lift you up… you have to take care as an athlete because if your money depletes, even the community will forget your name. Invest wisely to remain at the top of the game,” he concluded the interview.