Haile Gebrselassie is an Ethiopian retired athlete, considered as one of the greatest long distance runners of all time in the world. He run ranging from 800 meters to Marathon, indoor, outdoor and cross country and road running in the latter years of his career. He broke 61 national records and set 27 world records. He is a two times Olympic gold medalist, four times world champion and four times world indoor champion. In 2008, at the age of 35, he broke his own marathon record by 27 seconds at the Berlin Marathon. The record stood unchallenged for three years, and because he was above 35 years old at the time, the record still stands as the master age group world record. He is one the most recognized and respected personalities in Ethiopia, considered as a pioneer and a hero by many. Haile is also a successful business man, who owns a chain of resorts and other businesses in Ethiopia.
Haile Gebrselassie was born in Oromia, Assela, Arisi, on 18 April 1973 from a farming family. He is the 10th child for his family. Haile started running at a very early age, because he was attending a school 10 kilo meters away from home. He run the 10 kilo meters to school every day, bare foot and he did the same to get back to his home, from school. When not at school, he looked after the cows and sheep’s and helped his father on the farm. The family had limited resources, and everyone had to work and support the family. At the age of only seven, during the Moscow Olympic, Haile heard on a radio about the victory of another Ethiopian champion, Mirtus Yefter, who became an Olympic gold medalist in the 10,000 meters race. He was inspired by that, and dreamt to become a gold medalist himself one day. Haile says, that was the monument he realized running could help him do great things in his life. Following the footsteps of his older brother, Haile joined the school athletics team. Though, his father was resistant of his sons becoming runners, believing it was a waste of time, Haile was determined to become a champion, and follow paths of great Ethiopian athletes like Abebe Bikila and Mirtus Yefter.
The first monument Haile realized that he is a gifted runner came when he was still in elementary school. He won a five kilometers run, in his school, competing with boys a lot older than him. No one expected him to win that race, and was advised to drop out. Haile says winning that particular race, and the appreciation that followed it, gave him the confidence and assurance that he can go a long way as an athlete.
In 1992, Haile gained an international recognition, when he won the 5000 and 10,000 meter races at the 1992 World Junior Championship, in Seoul, South Korea. In the same year, he won a silver medal in World Cross Country Championship held in Boston, USA. From 1993-1999, he won the world championship consecutively. In 1995, he broke both the 10,000 and 5000 world records. His performance that year was voted as ‘Performance of the Year’ by Track and Field News Magazine. In 1996, Haile won his first Olympic gold medal, in Atlanta Olympic, making his childhood dreams a reality.
The year 1998, could be considered one of the most successful years for Haile. He broke the 2000 and 3000 indoor competition world records, took back his 10,000 and 5000 meters world records, and shared the Golden League Jackpot, by winning all the races that summer. In 1999, Haile starred as himself in the movie, Endurance, as himself. The movie narrates his struggle, strength and determination to become one of the greatest athletes of the time and his quest to become a gold medalist at the Atlanta Olympics. In the same year, Haile won in all the races he took part, and defended his records, proofing to the world that he is unbeatable. He also won all of his races in 2000, and became a gold medalist at the Sydney Olympics, defending his championship in 10,000 meters. That makes him the third person in the history, to defend a 10,000 meters win consecutively at the Olympics.
In the 2004 Athens Olympics, Haile sought to become the first athlete in the world to win three gold medals in three straight Olympics, in 10,000 meters. He did not succeed and finished fifth in a race won by another great Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.
Haile then left the truck and focused on road run, the Marathon. He won the Amsterdam marathon in 2005, Berlin, 2006, Fukuoka 2006, and in Berlin 2007 where he broke the marathon record. He continued to win Dubai Marathon in 2009, Berlin 2009, and Dubai again 2010. Haile announced retirement in 2010, after dropping out of the New York City Marathon with an inflamed knee. However, just after a few days after, he wrote on his twitter account the he is reconsidering his decision to retire, and might run the marathon in the 2012 London Olympics. He then returned to the race, winning the half marathon in Vienna city and the Great Manchester Run in England in 2011. However, in the same year, at the Berlin Marathon, Haile faced another setback, dropping out of the race, and saw his marathon record broken by Patrick Makau. He also failed to make it to the Ethiopian national team for the 2012 London Olympics.
Haile’s 25 years long running career ended with retirement in 2015, after he finished 16th in the Great Manchester Run.
Haile still remains close to athletics, and was a president of the Athletics’ Federation in Ethiopia, until his resignation in November 2018 after two years of serving. He also established the Ethiopian Great Run in 2001, an annual highly celebrated 10 kilometers run in Addis Ababa, where thousands of people and athletes run every year.
Currently, Haile, with his wife Alem, runs several businesses in Ethiopia under a company name of Haile & Alem International PLC. The business includes a chain of resorts in different parts of the country, coffee and honey export, automotive and real state.
Haile got married in 1996, to his wife Alem, in 1996. They have four children together, three daughters and a son. Haile and his family live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.