Ethiopian aims to become first to win at three Olympics

Updated: August 18, 2004, 11:22 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- The final 10,000-meter race of Haile Gebrselassie's storied career could be over before it even begins.

A nagging Achilles tendon injury might force the Ethiopian star to miss the Athens Games, his manager, Jos Hermens, told The Associated Press on Monday.

"It's not looking all that fantastic," Hermens said.

One of the greatest distance runners of all time, Gebrselassie, 31, is the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist in the grueling 10,000. He is seeking to become the first individual athlete to win the same running event at three Olympics.

"He may have to miss the games, he's been carrying the injury for three-four weeks now," Hermens said.

Gebrselassie recently went to see a German specialist, Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt.

"It's gotten a little better, but it may not be enough," Hermens said. ``He's looked good in training but it's the left Achilles' tendon, it's hard to predict."

"It's not only up to Haile, it also depends on what the Ethiopian federation has to say," Hermens said.

The Ethiopian team was slated to arrive in Athens on Wednesday.

Gebrselassie, the subject of the 1999 Disney documentary "Endurance,'' has been eclipsed this season by his young compatriot Kenenisa Bekele, who has taken both of his training partner's world records, in the 5,000 and 10,000.

The 10,000 final is Friday. It was to be the last of Gebrselassie's career before he focuses full-time on the marathon.

"We have a bit of time," Hermens said, "but not too much."

French heptathlete withdraws, long jump in jeopardy, too

French star Eunice Barber, holder of the 1999 world heptathlon title, won't take part in the event in Athens, and hasn't decided if she'll be in the long jump.

"In my head I'm 150 percent, even 200 percent, but my body is still slowing me down a little, and I have to respect it," Barber told reporters in Paris.

Barber has been suffering from a torn muscle in her right leg for weeks.

"I trained this morning, but there are still some things that ought to happen and that aren't happening yet," she said.

Barber won the long jump at last year's World Championship in Paris and earned the silver medal in the heptathlon.

She was fifth in the 1996 Atlanta Games heptathlon and dropped out of the two-day event four years later in Sydney.

Ethiopia drops Adere from Olympic team

Ethiopia's 10,000-meter world champion Berhane Adere was dropped from the Olympic squad because of a lingering injury.

The Ethiopian Federation confirmed Monday that Adere would be replaced by Ejigayehu Dibaba, the African 10,000-meter champion.

Adere has struggled with an Achilles tendon injury since she broke the world indoor 5,000-meter record in Stuttgart, Germany, in January.

Because Dibaba doesn't want to compete in two events, the federation said she would be replaced in the 5,000 by Meserat Defar, the world indoor 3,000-meter champion.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press