Ethiopia's two-time Olympic champion, Haile Gebrselassie, made an electrifying return to competition December 11 in Doha, Qatar, setting a new world best at the 10-kilometer road distance. Haile clocked 27:02 on a loop course, a performance that earned him a first-place prize of one million U.S. dollars.
Haile is the reigning world record holder at both 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters on the track. Running in windy conditions in Doha, the Ethiopian star said after the race that he was not in optimum condition. In fact, the four-time world champion said he was between 75 to 80% of the fitness level he hopes to achieve in 2003.
It was Haile Gebrselassie's first race since the London Marathon last April, when he finished third, behind Kenya's Paul Tergat and Morocco-born world record holder Khalid Khannouchi of the United States. In Doha, another Ethiopian, Hailu Mekonnen, finished second (in 27:39), and Kenyan Francis Kiprop was third (in 27:49).
Ethiopian track and field fans also had reason to cheer in the women's race in Qatar. Olympic and world 10,000 meter champion Derartu Tulu led an Ethiopian sweep of the top-three places in Doha. Derartu clocked 32:23. She was followed across the finish line by Gete Wami (in 32:27) and Kutre Dulecha (in 32:39).