Blue sky in Beijing makes Haile regret pulling out of marathon
Marathon world record-holder Haile Gebrselassie regrets pulling out of the 42-km race at the Olympics over fears that Beijing's air pollution would damage his health.
"I'm surprised. What do you expect from me? I was here in February, I didn't see no blue sky," said the Ethiopian runner on Monday in China's capital, where the sun was shining in a slightly hazy sky. "Since I came here everything is perfect. They should tell us," he added with a laugh. Asked if he was now sorry not to be running in next Sunday's marathon, he chuckled again and said: "Don't push me. Yes."
Gebrselassie, a 35-year-old who suffers from asthma, announced in March that he would not participate in the marathon and called on China to deal with Beijing's pollution problem, saying it would be a hazard to athletes.
International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge said last year that endurance events such as the marathon or long-distance cycling races could be rescheduled if efforts to clear Beijing's polluted skies were unsuccessful.
As it turned out, the opening days of the Games were marred by smoggy skies but the weather has cleared for the second week.
"It's really good for everybody, good for all ... to keep such clean air, that's fantastic," Gebrselassie said. Gebrselassie ran in the men's 10,000m in Beijing on Sunday, an event in which he has twice won an Olympic gold medal. He finished in sixth place, behind fellow Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Sileshi Sihine, who took gold and silver respectively.
"Getting sixth in 10,000, it was not bad," he said. "The only problem I had yesterday ... was just the last 250 metres, the last 300 metres. I have no more sprint. My training is mostly for a marathon."
He said he may return to the 10,000 metres and is also keen to run in the marathon at London's 2012 Olympics.
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