The best long distance runner ever?
02:53 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Haile Gebrselassie tells CNN that he plans to be competitive in the 2012 London Olympic marathon

The Ethiopian legend will be 39 next year and admits he faces a stiff task againt younger rivals

Gebrselassie also reveals that he will be looking forward to the boxing events next year

CNN  — 

Legendary athlete Haile Gebrselassie has told CNN that he aims to be competitive at the 2012 London Olympic Games, despite being impressed by some of the younger runners coming through in long-distance events.

The Ethiopian has won two Olympic gold medals at 10,000 meters, in 1996 and 2000, but has never won gold in the marathon despite an impressive series of marathon victories and world records in recent years.

And, despite turning 39 next year, Gebreselassie is still targeting glory in the British capital next year.

In an interview with CNN Sport’s Don Riddell, Gebrselassie said: “My plan is for gold in London, but it will not be easy.

“The younger runners are going to be hard to beat. If you think of it like car models, a 2010 engine is newer and faster than an engine from 10 years before. That is what I will be up against.”

He continued: “But I want to win in London. It is a big city with a great history and people will always remember who won the marathon at the 2012 London Olympics.”

Gebrselassie’s confirmation that he is aiming for London 2012 is good news for his army of followers and for athletics in general, especially as the great man’s future had been in doubt after recent high-profile failures in New York and Berlin.

In fact, after dropping out of last year’s NYC Marathon, Gebrselassie revealed he was quitting the sport, although he maintains his quotes were misinterpreted.

“After I dropped out of the New York race, the organizers took me to the finish line to tell journalists why I had pulled out. People were waiting for an answer from me and I told them I was going to stop competing for a while.

“But I never said I would stop running. Running is my life. If I stopped running it would be like stopping eating for me.”

Gebrselassie added: “When I went back home, people were upset that they thought I had retired, but I hadn’t meant that. Then there were questions after I dropped out in Berlin but I made a big mistake in that race, I started off much too quickly and was too ambitious.

“But I am not worried about failing in Berlin. It is a good thing to learn from your failures and to come back stronger next time. If you ponder on your failures, you can never return to the top level.”

The Ethiopian legend has a reputation for being a genuine nice guy, an athlete who always has a smile on his face and a kind word for fans and fellow-athletes alike.

With this in mind, it was a surprise to hear what other sports he will be keen to watch at the London Olympics.

“I love boxing,” smiled Gebrselassie. “Some people question if boxing is a sport because sports are meant to be conducted in a friendly way and how can you be friendly when you are hitting each other?!!…That’s why I like it.”