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Bekele Regrets El Guerrouj's Retirement
By Elshadai Negash
(c) 2006 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

ADDIS ABABA (25-Nov-2006) -- Ethiopia's double world and one-time Olympic 10,000m champion, Kenenisa Bekele, believes that Morocco's double Olympic champion, Hicham El Guerrouj, cut his career too short when he announced his retirement last year.

"The news of his retirement came as a big shock to me," said Bekele. "He could have run longer than he did.  I still do not understand why he retired so quickly."

The 24-year old Ethiopian lost to El Guerrouj in an epic 5000m final showdown in the Athens Olympics two years ago where the Moroccan elevated his already legendary status by completing the first Olympic 1500m/5000m double victory since Finn Paavo Nurmi in 1924.

But speaking after reuniting with his archrival at the 2006 TOYOTA Great Ethiopian Run pre-race press conference, Bekele admitted that he regrets the retirement decision because he was denied a chance to square off with the four-time world 1500m champion for one last time.

"I wanted to run against him because he had said he would try and break my world 5000m record," said Bekele. "I was looking forward to the challenge. To be honest, I was disappointed when I heard about his retirement."

Responding to Bekele's comments, El Guerrouj was more philosophical about his retirement decision.

"He has all the time in the world to take his revenge," said the Moroccan.  "I do not have to be present there.  He can go on and win an Olympic double."

El Guerrouj was also full of praise for Ethiopia's distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie.  "He is a gift of God and he will remain like that for eternity," he said.  "With his movements, he transmits a special kind of message.  God creates special people once in a while and Haile is one of them."

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