Athletics: Gebrselassie believes Holmes must not stop

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The Independent Online
HAILE GEBRSELASSIE, who confirmed yesterday that he will contest this year's Flora London Marathon, has urged Kelly Holmes to put thoughts of retirement out of her mind.

Britain's 34-year-old double Olympic champion reiterated at the weekend that although she has no immediate plans to stop running, she is questioning her own commitment to sport.

The 31-year-old Ethiopian, now recovered from the Achilles tendon operation he underwent after the Athens Olympics, responded animatedly to the news that Holmes was considering her options.

"The best thing for her is to keep running," he said. "It is not a smart way, not a good way, just to think about retiring. She can retire any time.

"Some athletes say `I will retire in two years' time.' If she starts talking about retirement, she has retired already. I don't say `I will retire here or retire there.' That will come by itself.

"Maybe she would be very angry if she heard what I am saying. She is my favourite athlete. When she won the two golds in Athens it was exceptional, fantastic.

"Sport has no limit. Why doesn't she run for the next four or five years?"

Gebrselassie is certainly contemplating running for that long now that he has switched his attention from the track - where he won two Olympic golds, four world titles and set 18 world records - to the roads.

He regards the field which will toe the line on 17 April - and includes five past winners, the Olympic and world champions and the two fastest men of all time - as the strongest he has ever faced. "If you win London this year it will be just like winning the Olympics," he said.

Asked to assess the current world record of 2hr 04min 55sec, held by his Kenyan rival Paul Tergat, Gebrselassie, who has signed a three-year deal with the London Marathon, said that the course would be faster now the cobbled section by the Tower of London had been avoided.

"In a few years' time it will be possible to run the marathon in two hours," he said. "But to run 2hr 03minutes, it will be not a big deal. I am sure someone will do it. Will it be me? Why not?"

On Sunday, Gebrselassie completed his first race since finishing out of the medals in Athens, running what he described as a fairly easy half marathon in Spain in a time of just over 61 minutes.

"Everything was fine with my Achilles," he said, adding that he would sharpen his racing with two further half marathons, in Barcelona next week and in Lisbon on 6 March. "By the time of the London marathon, everything will be perfect."