“But the rivalry between Kenya and Ethiopia is a beautiful thing. Without Ethiopia, no Kenya; without Kenya, no Ethiopia. We need each other,” says Haile Gebrselassie.

By Mike Rowbottom (Inside the Games) |

From where he was sitting in the Salle de Mer of Monaco’s Fairmont Hotel last Thursday, Haile Gebrselassie had a view clear over the Mediterranean Sea. But as his gaze fell on that mass of sun-dazzled, shifting water, his vision was of his Ethiopian homeland and what he hoped to do for those athletes following in his illustrious wake.

Since being elected as the President of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation last month, the 43-year-old double Olympic 10,000m champion and multiple world record holder has been bringing his unique experience to bear on a domestic situation which – as he readily admitted with that winning smile which launches a set of teeth simply begging to be part of a major toothpaste campaign – is far from perfect.

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Problem number one – there has been too much pressure on athletes in past years to live and train in the capital of Addis Ababa in order to be considered for the national team.

Problem number two – despite the world record run which earned Almaz Ayana the Olympic 10,000m gold this summer and saw her named last Friday in Monaco as the International Association of Athletics Federations’ female Athlete of the Year, Ethiopia’s showing at the Rio Games was below par and, crucially, below the level of Kenya’s.

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