Athletics: Haile's helping hand

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The Independent Online
HAILE GEBRSELASSIE, newly established as World Athlete of the Year, has offered Britain's struggling middle-distance runners a way forward - via Ethiopia.

The multiple world record holder, who accepted his latest honour at the IAAF Gala in Monte Carlo on Sunday night, has issued an open invitation to any aspiring Brits to come and train with him in his home near Addis Ababa.

"British athletes have lost their history in distance running," said the 25-year-old Ethiopian, who was in Birmingham yesterday to publicise his involvement in the Bupa Indoor Grand Prix on 14 February.

"They have to get back their tradition, but it's not easy now. If they come to Ethiopia I will help them. I will show them how I train. Britain has a lot of sprinters, but in distance running you only have John Brown. One man is not enough. You need several athletes."

The gesture was welcomed by Dave Moorcroft, chief executive of UK Athletics 98 and a former world 5,000m record holder. "It's not a gap between what Haile is doing compared to our best," he said. "It's a chasm.

"I don't think it would be worthwhile sending athletes to Ethiopia for a few weeks. But it would be good if younger athletes could spend a few months out there... to see what he does, and put that commitment into their own training."

Gebrselassie, who regained the world 5,000 and 10,000 metres records this season, will go for the world indoor 5,000m record at the National Indoor Arena in February, rather than attempting to recover the 3,000m world record from his Kenyan rival, Daniel Komen.

Another successful outing in Birmingham is more than likely. As for his offer to the Brits - Haile improbable. But worth a second thought.