Gunnell plagued by uncertainties

Two athletes left Oslo yesterday in very different states of mind. Neither may be at the World Championships.

For Haile Gebrselassie, who regained his world 10,000 metres record with such awesome certainty at Friday night's Bislett Games, next month's events in Athens are almost an irrelevance. He has done it all before.

The same is true for Sally Gunnell, who in 1994 completed the set of Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth 400m hurdles titles. However, she has been desperate to do well in the World Championships after two seasons of illness and defeat. As she trailed in fifth, more than two seconds adrift of the athlete who succeeded her as Olympic champion last summer, Deon Hemmings, Gunnell presented a woebegone sight after her third defeat in the space of six days.

"I don't know what is happening," said Gunnell, who will be 31 this month. "I seem to have lost my confidence. I've got a bit of thinking to do." It was a measure of her distress that she refused to talk to television after her run and, equally uncharacteristically, turned away autograph hunters.

Asked if she was considering giving up for good if she didn't finish this season, she replied: "When things are not going so well, that is one of the things that crosses your mind." After a night of contemplation, she postponed the decision. "I have decided to go out and enjoy the year and go to the World Championships and enjoy it too."

It is not the first time that this outstanding athlete has contemplated retirement - but the reasons which caused her to do so have always been physical. Now it is her psyche, rather than her body, that is injured.

When Gunnell won her European Cup event in Munich last month she punched the air in unmistakeable triumph. She was on the way back, and talking about bridging the gap between herself and the three other women who have taken her event on in her absence, Hemmings and the two Americans Kim Batten and Tonja Buford-Bailey. It puzzles her as much as anyone why she has gone backwards, rather than forwards, since then.

Gebrselassie is in no doubt about his immediate future. His next competitive outing will be over 5,000m in the Zurich grand prix. He will not, he insists, be defending his world title in Athens. He has cited several reasons, including the fact that the track is too hard - a problem he encountered in winning the Olympic title in Atlanta.

The Athens smog also influences him. Pointedly, after what was his first appearance here, he praised the "clean air" of Oslo, describing it as the perfect place to race. A capacity crowd of 18,600 saluted his new mark of 26min 31.32sec - 6.76sec inside the time run by Morocco's Salah Hissou last summer - with huge enthusiasm. Oslo spectators know their distance running, and this was the third time in four years that the 10,000m record had been set here.

But as he waited quietly for his flight home yesterday morning, the little Ethiopian attracted no attention from the travellers who bustled around him. The man who can claim to be the greatest middle-distance runner of all time was just a figure in the crowd.

"I am going home to rest," he said with a wide grin. "I am not doing the World Championships. I have won it twice. There is no need." Financially, the 24-year-old, whose rise from humble origins in Assala will be featured in a film at the next Cannes Festival, is secure. Friday's performance will probably have been worth around $250,000 to him. Having regained his two miles and 10,000m world records in the space of just over a month, the only problem Gebrselassie seems to face now is one of constant expectation. If he fails to improve on his own phenomenal 5,000m record of 12min 44.39sec when he runs in Zurich, it will be considered a failed enterprise.

Then again, Gebrselassie has grown accustomed to discovering new territory when he runs. "A world record is always possible," he said, displaying once again his set of startlingly white teeth.

Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
News
George Osborne became Chancellor in 2010
peopleChancellor accused of reneging on pre-election promise
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
News
Lena Headey plays Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern