Ethiopian Legend Bekele Returns to Olympics After 12 Years

Ethiopian Legend Bekele Returns to Olympics After 12 Years

Ethiopian running legend Kenenisa Bekele is set to make a remarkable comeback to the Olympic stage after a 12-year hiatus. The 41-year-old long-distance runner has been named in Ethiopia's 10-member team for the upcoming Paris Games.

This will mark his first Olympic appearance since the London 2012 Games, where he narrowly missed the podium, finishing fourth in the men’s 10,000 meters.

Bekele, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in the 5,000m and 10,000m events, had been absent from the Olympics after not being selected for the 2016 Rio Games and the 2020 Tokyo Games. However, his outstanding performance in the London Marathon this past April, where he secured a second-place finish, has earned him a spot in the squad for Paris 2024.

Joining Bekele in the Ethiopian team is women’s marathon world record holder Tigist Assefa, who has also made headlines with her record-breaking feats. Assefa set a new world record in the women’s marathon last September in Berlin, completing the race in an astonishing 2:11:53, which shaved almost two minutes off the previous record held by Kenya's Brigid Kosgei. 

The 27-year-old Assefa, who finished second in the London Marathon recently, will be competing in her first international championship at the Olympics.

Bekele's return to the Olympics will see him renew his longstanding rivalry with Kenyan running icon Eliud Kipchoge, the reigning Olympic champion and former world record holder. The two have a storied history that dates back to the 2003 Paris World Championships, where Kipchoge edged out Bekele and Moroccan runner Hicham El Guerrouj in the 5,000m race.

Kipchoge, who was recently named in the Kenyan team for the Paris Olympics, has continued to dominate the marathon scene, while Bekele’s career has been marred by injuries since his marathon debut in April 2014, where he posted the sixth-fastest debut time in Paris.

The Ethiopian team for the Paris Olympics also includes other notable athletes. In the women's marathon team, Assefa will be joined by 2023 world marathon champion Amane Beriso and Megertu Alemu. The men’s team features Sisay Lemma, the Valencia Marathon champion, and Deresa Geleta. 

Tamirat Tola, the 2023 New York Marathon champion and 2022 world champion, along with Eusedin Mohammed, are listed as standby reserves. There is a female reserve team that includes 2022 world marathon champion Gotytom Gebresilase.

The men’s marathon at the Paris Olympics is scheduled for August 10, with the women’s race taking place the following day. 

As Ethiopia prepares to showcase its top athletes on the global stage, fans and sports enthusiasts will be eagerly watching to see if Bekele can add another chapter to his illustrious career and if Assefa can continue her record-breaking streak.

Bekele’s return to the Olympics is not just a personal triumph but a testament to his enduring legacy in the world of long-distance running. His journey from the 2003 Paris World Championships to the Paris Olympics in 2024 encapsulates the spirit of perseverance and excellence that defines the sport. 

As he steps back onto the Olympic stage, Bekele will undoubtedly inspire a new generation of athletes and remind the world of the incredible feats of endurance and determination that define his storied career.

The Ethiopian federation's decision to include Bekele in the Olympic team, despite his absence from the Games in recent years, highlights their confidence in his ability to perform at the highest level.

With the support of his teammates and the hopes of a nation resting on his shoulders, Bekele’s quest for Olympic glory continues, promising a thrilling and memorable competition in Paris.

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