Gebrselassie's title defence in balance after injury recurs

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The Independent Online

The Olympic legend Haile Gebrselassie was facing the possibility last night of missing the Games due to an Achilles injury.

According to his manager, Jos Hermens, the chances of Gebrselassie defending his 10,000 metres title are "not looking brilliant".

The veteran Ethiopian, who at the age of 31 will leave track athletics behind and focus on the marathon after Athens, is hoping to be fit to chase a third successive Olympic title at his specialist distance.

Reports in Ethiopia said that Gebrselassie had a problem with his knee, but the injury is more serious than was first believed. "It's an Achilles injury and it's not looking brilliant," said Hermens.

"But we don't know whether he will miss the Games."

It was in London on 30 July that Gebrselassie sustained his injury, when setting a UK all-comers' record in the 5,000m.

The Olympic 10,000m final takes place on Friday night, making the pessimistic comments from Hermens all the more concerning.

Gebrselassie has had treatment in Munich from the German specialist Hans Wolfhardt- Müller. After returning home, he recommenced training in Addis Ababa. But it is understood his preparation has been affected by a recurrence of the injury.

The news is no better for Ethiopia's women. The 10,000m world champion, Berhane Adere, has been dropped from the squad because of a lingering injury - also to her Achilles.

The Ethiopian federation confirmed yesterday that Adere would be replaced by Ejigayehu Dibaba, the African 10,000m champion and the older sister of the world 5,000m gold medalist Tirunesh Dibaba.

"Adere is out of condition and not responding well to her training load," the federation said.

Adere has struggled with the injury since breaking the world indoor 5,000m record in Stuttgart on 31 January.

Since Ejigayehu Dibaba does not want to compete in two events at the Olympics, she will be replaced in the 5,000 by Meserat Defar, the world indoor 3,000m champion.

Ethiopia's 10,000m women's team will be completed by defending Olympic champion Derartu Tulu and the world silver medalist Werknesh Kidane - a reflection of the depth of athletics quality in the African country.

Ejigayehu Dibaba is also the younger cousin of Tulu. She finished only ninth in the 10,000m at last year's world championships in Paris, but has been improving dramatically this year. She lowered her personal best for the 5,000m by nine seconds to 14 minutes, 32.74 seconds and she ran the second-fastest 10,000 of the season of 30:43.39 when she beat Tulu at a meet in Spain.