Former World marathon record holder Paul Tergat has termed Haile Gebrselassie’s decision to rescind his retirement from athletics as the best for the sport.
Tergat and the Ethiopian have been such fierce rivals that they sat side by side prior to the New York Marathon race, fielding questions from journalists.
“Legends of any sport do not retire; instead, they fade off the stage graciously and continue working in the disciplines they know best,” said Tergat.
“Where can Haile go? We all love him, and it is best he stays in athletics for longer.
“The presence of Haile in athletics is big and it is still required, to inspire and guide the younger people.”
Tergat said he, too, was surprised by the sudden announcement by his great friend to throw in the towel moments after he had bet on him to win the race.
He has achieved everything
“Haile Gebrselassie has done everything in the sport except win a marathon with stiff competition,” said Tergat prior to the start of New York Marathon.
Tergat said then that what Gebrselassie needed in his career was a win before “millions” in New York City. He said: “He has achieved everything [else]; what is missing is [the] New York [Marathon title].
“Winning New York is like the ultimate test for any marathoner. I have raced there and I know; it is one of the hardest marathons in the world and I still say he needs to win it.”
Tergat, 42, said for any athlete of repute, winning a race like the New York Marathon was the ultimate test because of its hills and turns. He noted that after he regains his fitness Gebrselassie will be a force to reckon with as he prepares for the London Olympic Games in 2012.
The two friends turn out arguably as the fiercest rivals both on track and in marathon. At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Gebrselassie was the reigning world record holder in the 10,000m and the twice-defending world champion. His main rival was cross country champion Tergat.
Tense rivalry was repeated
The two men dominated the final with Gebrselassie winning dramatically by just six metres.
This tense rivalry was repeated in Sydney 2000 when Gebrselassie sensationally snatched gold with his very last stride, beating Tergat by only 0.09 seconds, closer than the winning margin in the men’s 100m dash.
Gebrselassie, 37, announced his retirement after limping out of the New York Marathon but on Monday the diminutive runner confirmed he had changed his mind.
“Deep down, when he is all alone sitting by the fire, Haile must realise he dropped one of the biggest clangers of his running career,” said Tergat.