Haile Gebrselassie's chances of appearing at the Olympic Games suffered a critical setback on Sunday (February 26) as the Ethiopian finished the Tokyo Marathon in fourth position. Even though his time of 2:08:17 is well within the qualifying standard, three of his compatriots, Ayele Abshero, Dino Sefir and Markos Geneti have already recorded sub 2:05 marathon times this year.
Despite Gebreselassie leading for the majority of the race, Kenya's Michael Kipyego took control with around 3 miles remaining. The Ethiopian later revealed the closing stages were somewhat of a struggle: "I felt fantastic for the first 30 kilometres but then I had some problems at the end of the race. On the last downhill, I started to get some pain in my back. The last 5km was the worst I've ever run."
The prospect of Gebreselassie's absence at the Olympics will disappoint many, with the Ethiopian expressing his determination to appear in London. With such a limited timeframe in which to persuade the selectors he merits a place, Gebreselassie gave an optimistic assessment of his recovery: "I could run another marathon in two weeks. Sometimes you are too ambitious. This can happen. My target was 2-05 today but it didn't work out that way."
The four-time 10,000 metres gold medallist saw his world record 2:03:59 surpassed by Patrick Makau, with the Kenyan runner finishing last year's Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:03:38