Meb Keflezighi, Shalane Flanagan And Gebre Gebremariam Share Their Thoughts On Haile Gebrselassie's Retirement Announcement

November 7, 2010

Haile Gebrselassie stunned the 2010 ING NYC marathon post-race press conference with an unexpected retirement announcement. You can find more of the details on his emotional announcement here and watch video of his announcement as well.

We'll have one more update on his announcement tonight. Haile's retirement was the talk of New York and below, some of the Haile's fellow pros - Gebre Gebremariam, Shalane Flanagan and Meb Keflezighi and NYRR race director Mary Wittenberg - share their thoughts on Haile's announcement.

Gebre Gebremariam, 2010 ING NYC Marathon Champion

"You know, Haile is special. Haile is very, (he's) king. So even Haile's retiring, we have to learn so many things from Haile. Haile's a good guy. Even in business and in athletics. So I think we have to push to run more. I'm so disappointed when I hear this one. Maybe in my country, I have to do something about this."

Gebremariam said that Haile confided in him about the injury before the race and said, "Gebre, if I finish this race, I'm special."

Ethiopian Gebre Gebremariam (R) runs through Central Park with Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya during the New York City Marathon November 7, 2010.  REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ATHLETICS)

During the race, Gebremariam was behind Haile when he started to slow down to drop out. Gebremariam said he tried to encourage Gebrelassie: "Yeah, I was behind Haile at that time when he dropped out. I'm very disappointed, you know. Just Haile, I tell him something, but he can't move. I hear before because he had some problem in his leg. But what happens it happens. In 25 kilometers is when he dropped. So I'm very, very sad. I said (to) Haile (at that point on the course), "Come on." (Haile responded) 'I can't, Gebre, you have to move, you have to reach them.' So he told somebody move and push the pace, so I have to reach them."

Gebremariam talked about how upset people in Ethiopia would be with Gebrselassie's retirement: "Here in Ethiopia everybody waits for Haile for winning, but he can't (win today) ... But I think everybody's worried about his stopping. I mean he stopped his plans. So I think in Ethiopia he has to change his plans (and unretire). He has to continue to race."
***Transcript of Gebremariam's post-race comments here.

Meb Kefzlighi, 2004 Olympic Silver Medallist, 2009 ING NYC Marathon Champion, 6th Place 2010

"I mean Haile, for me, has been a role model on the course and off the course just what he has done. He's a great ambassador for the sport. Anywhere from the 5K to the marathon, he has nothing to prove. 2:03:59 says it all. He's won back-to-back Olympic Gold Medals and many, many other world records.

I'm honored to be in the same race, even though due to the injury he didn't finish, but to be the greatest probably distance runner ever, to be on the same sideline with him and compete against him for a little bit, it's an honor to be in the same event with him in his last race. He's an amazing individual.

We've known each other since Sydney and Edmonton and World Championships. We sat down and had coffee and talked about Ethiopia and also just training. He tells me some of his workouts at 8,000, 9,000 (feet), it's like, wow. And he does what's best for his body. His legacy is going to keep going for a long time. And Gebremariam just showed that there are new guys in Ethiopia that are doing very well. And he's been a great role model not just for them, but for international running ...

York City Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi reacts in an on court ceremony honoring the marathon winners during a time out of the New York Knicks, New Orleans Hornets game at Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 2, 2009. UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

Haile has accomplished many things in his life, not just in running but in business. Who can - you have to understand. Just to win a national title is huge. To win an Olympic title is huge. To get 27, 28 world records. Nobody can complain just winning nationals or silver medal or whatever. That's the way I was in 2008 when I had my pelvic fracture. I said, God has an amazing thing in my life. If this just one that I've accomplished out of all the American record, medal, nationals, anybody would be satisfied with, no complaints. And that's what he's looking at. Hey, I had a phenomenal run. Since 1996, just imagine, 14 years. That's just the Olympics. Before that even the World Championships.
He's accomplished so many things, you know. For me I even said, look, I said I wish I had finished Top 10 in 10K in the world, just because that's self-satisfaction off your check list. And he has some phenomenal runs in his career. Nobody can complain. I don't think anyone can blame him for making it a retirement because he has done so much for the sport. He's passing the torch. Like Gebremariam and others that are in Ethiopia that look up to him. That's what part of it is."

For me my goal is 2012, 2013, after that hopefully to pass on to the younger generation.

Meb added that he thought Haile was fine through 10 miles but sensed at mile 11 or 12 something was wrong with Haile. More here.

Shalane Flanagan 2008 Olympic Bronze Medallist, Runner-Up 2010 ING NYC Marathon

Shalane Flanagan of the U.S. is escorted by New York Road Runners President Mary Whittenberg after Flanagan finished second in the women's division of the New York City Marathon, November 7, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ATHLETICS)

On Haile's retirement: "Yeah, I'm shocked. It was an honor to have him here this week. He's been a role model for many people. I'll never forget the first time I met him. I was at Crystal Palace and it was my first international track race and I had breakfast with him. So I'm sad that I won't have breakfast with him anymore."
***Transcript of Shalane's post-race comments here.

Mary Wittenberg, ING NYC Marathon Director

Mary Wittenberg, left the race course to come to the press area to comment on Haile's retirement. She said, "I heard that our great champion, dear friend was retiring. So I ran over. I've never left our course before. And I'm very happy I'm a runner because I literally ran over to the Sheraton and had a good talk with Haile.

I told him we aren't open for accepting resignations, certainly from our race tonight, and we had a good chat."

Mary then talks about how the NYRR learned this week Haile was injured. Haile had to sleep and missed an event on Thursday night so they started wondering if something was wrong. Eventually, Haile confirmed he had a problem and there was doubt whether he would start the race. However, he started (for more on the goings-on this week, click here to read the full transcript), dropped out, and then announced that was it.

Mary said, "No matter how good you are you can't win let alone like to finish on a course when it begins to feel like this when you've got a major knee problem.

So those are the facts. My take on this, and I just told him this, he lives in a whole different world than most professional athletes today. He doesn't have machines to help deal with injuries. He didn't jump in cold baths. This is a guy who has such natural talent that he's never dealt with any of that. My take is much more of a very typical injury that should one get on top of it right away, one can deal with. But he's not accustomed to that at all. So that's my take on the injury. My take on the situation, my advice - I'll start with my advice.

My advice was Haile, he feels so badly and he's so disappointed about today and I said that's fair for yourself. Not from our perspective, not from anyone else's perspective. Be disappointed about the day. You worked really hard and you should be, understandable. Maybe reserve judgment on the whole big future. But his - that's my advice. This is the kind of athlete that when you've performed to the highest of highs, he may very well decide that it's enough. But I think with reflection - actually, it's really up to him, obviously. But in some ways maybe a good thing's enough at some point. But I'm not sure we're at that point with Haile, because it was going really well. And a knee injury with two weeks to go happens to mere mortals, you know."

***All quotes from the post-race press conferences and transcripts are from ASAP Sports. More here.


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