VIENNA, April 15 – Ethiopia's marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie hopes to win a gold medal still missing in his trophy cabinet at next year's London Olympics, despite his recent retirement announcement.
"I want to win Olympic gold in the marathon in London in 2012," the 37-year-old Ethiopian said in comments posted on the website of the Vienna marathon, in which he will run on Sunday.
Speaking at a press conference Friday ahead of the event, he explained his decision to return to running, after announcing his retirement in November.
"When I came back to Ethiopia people were shouting at me ‘what happened?… the way you stopped is wrong’.
"I noticed I have to wait one year at least (before retiring), not only to wait one year but in order to do something," he added.
"If you train, if you compete you have to win. People expect something from Haile."
Before he can travel to London however, Gebrselassie will have to qualify in Ethiopia, a challenge in and of itself, given the country’s wealth of marathon runners.
"It is a serious issue to qualify… the three fastest runners are going to the Olympics. I have to be in that group," he noted.
The smiling Ethiopian already won two Olympic gold medals in the men’s 10,000 metres in 1996 and 2000, as well as four world championships between 1993 and 1999.
At the Berlin marathon in 2008, he also beat the world record of 2hr 03min 59sec, which he still holds.
However, he has never taken home Olympic gold in the marathon.
After sustaining a knee injury in New York in November, prompting his short-lived retirement, he was forced to pull out of the Tokyo marathon earlier this year, again due to knee injuries.
In Vienna on Sunday, he has been set the solo challenge of catching up with the best runners who will start two minutes ahead of him.