Gebrselassie faces final test

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The calf strain that has forced Paul Tergat out of the London Marathon may not have the immediate career-ending resonance of the knee injury sustained by former England footballer Alan Shearer last weekend, writes Pat Butcher.ligament But the ultimate result may prove to be the same, as it may well be for the Kenyan’s old rival, Haile Gebrselassie, if the Ethiopian fails to win on Sunday.

Tergat is already past, and Gebrselassie is fast approaching, his mid-30s. So here are two marathon careers threatening to end in failure.

It may seem counter-intuitive to suggest that Tergat, the world-record holder (2hr 4min 55sec), and Gebrselassie, a 2:06:20 performer, are less than successful marathoners. But, compared with their early careers when they collected cross-country and track world records, world championships and Olympic medals, that can be the only conclusion. Gebrselassie is only 11th performer on the all-time list of fastest times, and Tergat finished 10th in the 2004 Olympic marathon in Athens. And when the Kenyan set his world record in Berlin 2003, he was furious that his pacemaker Sammy Korir was only one second behind. Tergat had hoped to take the record by a much greater margin.

Gebrselassie will never have a better opportunity than tomorrow to prove that he is peerless at all long distances. His admission that he underestimated the marathon distance has resulted in months of preparation for London, during which he broke world records for the half-
marathon and 25km. Of his opponents, Khalid Khannouchi has not finished a marathon since 2002, when the Moroccan-
born American hit the pinnacle of his career, disposing of Tergat and Gebrselassie in the last 3km. And Italy’s Olympic champion Stefano Baldini and twice-world champion Jouad Gharib of Morocco save their best for title races. But it is the Kenyans whom Gebrselassie needs to worry about. Felix Limo, Martin Lel and Evans Rutto may not have Tergat’s fame, but they have all won leading marathons.

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