NAIROBI: Ethiopian running legend Kenenisa Bekele will return to the Olympics for the first time in 12 years after he was named in a 10-member team for the Paris Games on Thursday.

Bekele, 41, last competed in the Games in London in 2012 when he finished fourth in the men’s 10,000m before being overlooked for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

However, a remarkable second-place finish at the London marathon in April was enough to earn him a place for the Paris Olympics in a squad which also features women’s world record holder Tigist Assefa.

Bekele, who has won three Olympic golds in the 5,000m and 10,000m, will renew his rivalry with reigning Olympic champion and former world record holder Eliud Kipchoge who was named in the Kenyan team on Tuesday.

Kipchoge got the better of his Ethiopian rival when the two met for the first time at the Paris world championships in August 2003.

Kipchoge held on to win the 5,000m race, pipping Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj into second place while Bekele finished third.

Bekele moved into marathon running in April 2014 when he produced the sixth fastest debut over the distance in Paris but his career has been hampered by injuries.

Assefa became the first woman to go under the two-hour 12-minute mark in the women’s marathon with a 2:11:53 world record last September in Berlin.

That took almost two minutes off the previous record of 2:14:04 held by Brigid Kosgei of Kenya.

It was only the third marathon for the 27-year-old Assefa, who finished second in London last month.

The Olympics in the French capital will be her first international championships.

She will be joined in the women’s team by 2023 world marathon champion Amane Beriso and Megertu Alemu.

The other members of the Ethiopian men’s team for the Olympics are Sisay Lemma, the Valencia marathon champion and Deresa Geleta.

The 2023 New York marathon champion and 2022 world champion Tamirat Tola and Eusedin Mohammed are standby reserves.

The women’s reserve team includes 2022 world marathon champion Gotytom Gebresilase and Buze Diriba.

The Olympics men’s marathon will be held on August 10 with the women’s race a day later.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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