Gebrselassie closes on Beijing spot

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The Independent Online

Before the start of the FBK Games in the Fanny Blankers-Koen Stadium here on Saturday, Haile Gebrselassie was paraded around the track in an open-top convertible with the Indiana Jones theme tune blaring over the public address system. When he reappeared for the 10,000 metres, there was no fedora or bullwhip, but the Ethiopian athlete still accomplished his against-the-odds mission.

Having decided that the smog of Beijing will be too much for his acute asthma when it comes to the Olympic marathon, Gebrselassie has returned to the track, dropping down to his old distance in an attempt to make the Games in August. With Kenenisa Bekele contesting the 5,000m on Saturday but certain to claim one of three places at 10,000m, Gebrselassie, 35, needed to be the first or second Ethiopian in a field filled with compatriots of world class. Having concentrated on the marathon for four years (and set a world record, his 25th over all distances, in Berlin last September), it was no small ask.

Gebrselassie was up to it, finishing a close second, in 26min 51.20sec, to Sileshi Sihine, the Ethiopian who has taken 10,000m silver behind Bekele in the last three world championships.

"We will have to wait to see what happens in a few other 10,000m races in the next few weeks," Gebrselassie said. "Then the federation will decide."

An 8.73m long jump by Panama's Irving Saladino, the fourth best of all time at sea level, and a stunning 1min 55.70sec world junior record 800m by the 19-year-old Kenyan Pamela Jelimo were the other highlights of the first European grand prix meeting of the season.

There were three top-three finishes by Britons: first place for Lee McConnell in the 400m (51.66sec), second for Marlon Devonish in the 200m (20.89sec) and third for Jeanette Kwakye (11.29sec) in a high-class 100m.