Addis Ababa – Haile Gebrselassie, back in full training after rescinding a premature decision to retire, is eyeing a political career when he finally hangs up his running shoes.
“I want to do something for Ethiopia, for Africa, for myself, my family and my people. You know, what is the best to do to pay back those people who were supporting me all these years,” the 37-year-old Ethiopian told Reuters in an interview.
“To be involved in politics as prime minister, as president, minister if this gives something back, then why not?”
However Gebrselassie, who plans to crown a glittering running career by competing in the 2012 London Olympics marathon, ruled out campaigning in the next general elections in five years' time.
“Don't you think it is too early? Because I have to do lots of things,” he said after he was inducted into Johnnie Walker whisky's “Walk with Giants” campaign.
“Athletics is one thing, the business is the other. I have to do things properly.”
After shattering 27 world records in nearly two decades, Gebrselassie suffered an unexpected niggle on his right knee just before the start of this year's New York City marathon
He dropped out midday and then shocked bewildered journalists by announcing his retirement.
Gebrselassie subsequently reversed his decision, partly in response to appeals from the Ethiopian public and is now back to his gruelling training regimen in the hills just north of Addis Ababa, as well as in his gym.
“I am back to my normal programme, what I did before. I do 35 kilometres in two sessions a day,” he said.
“One of the things I want to tell people is that I am not making plans to retire. Now I am preparing for London 2012.”
The world record holder is planning to run the Tokyo marathon on February 27 next year.
“It's wonderful to be back. It was a bit strange for everybody, strange for me as well,” he said.
“I started my training two weeks ago and I am doing well now.”
The Horn of Africa nation has been criticised for heavy-handed treatment of its opposition party figures and Gebrselassie, himself, was rumoured to have been the victim of government foul play.
A report on an opposition party-linked website blamed his short-lived retirement on pressure, saying Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's wife was attempting to force the multi-millionaire into business partnerships.
Another article in The New York Times quoted his manager Jos Hermens as saying his phone had been tapped by government officials and he had faced “some sort of blackmail attempt”.
Both Gebrselassie and Hermens have denied the New York Times report and said fatigue and emotion were responsible for Gebrselassie's tearful outburst in New York.
In the meantime the 'Emperor', as he is known in his home country, is continuing to pursue a successful business career, He owns a five-star hotel, a cinema, a few office blocks as well as a car dealership. – Reuters