Athletics: Bekele coup for Great Ireland Run
DOUBLE Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele is coming to Dublin in April to use the Spar Great Ireland Run as part of his build-up to the London Olympics.
The world record-holder and current Olympic champion at both 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres has run in Ireland before, but he was a relatively unknown 19-year-old when he did the unprecedented double of winning both the long and short course senior races at the World Cross-Country Championships at Leopardstown in 2002.
That was a portent of things to come as Bekele has since dominated world distance running, doing the world cross-country double five years in a row, winning both distance golds in Beijing and becoming the first man to do the same double at a World Championships in Berlin in 2009.
A two-time World Athlete of the Year (2004, 2005), his total domination of world distance running saw him dubbed the next Haile Gebrselassie.
Only in the last two years has he showed some signs of fallibility after picking up a knee injury.
He didn't race until the World Championships last summer, so there was no surprise when he dropped out of the 10,000m, yet he subsequently ran the fastest 10,000m time in the world (26:43) in 2011 at the Ivo Van Damme Memorial in Brussels.
Question marks about his fitness were raised again when he finished only 11th in a big cross-country in Edinburgh last month and there are no world cross-country championships this year with which to assess his form.
But Bekele has indicated that he is focused on defending his Olympic titles and appears to be using the big Dublin road race, in the Phoenix Park on April 15, as part of his preparations.
"We have had some really big names, including (Paul) Tergat and Bekele's own countrywoman Derartu Tulu (arguably the greatest women's distance runner of all time), grace the event since the first Dublin race in 2003," said Spar Great Ireland Run organiser and former Olympic medallist Brendan Foster.
"To have Bekele ask to take part in a race which has grown in stature year-on-year is a compliment to its reputation and quality, and I know from speaking with his manager he is determined to prove his shape after a setback at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country in January.
"Everyone, particularly Mo Farah and other Olympic rivals for a gold medal in either the 5,000m or 10,000m, will be watching closely how he performs in the Phoenix Park after his Edinburgh setback," Foster added.
"This will be a very important race for Kenenisa and a good field is being pulled together to give him a real test. He's raced sparingly on the roads in the past, so I'm certain it will also be important in his plans to move his career into a different direction after the London Games."