DUBAI // Haile Gebrselassie remains unaffected by the hype over his latest US$1million (Dh3.67m) world-record attempt in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, but has earmarked the race as a key stop on his roadmap to a gold medal at the London Olympic Games in 2012. The Ethiopian, 36, won two Olympic gold medals at 10,000m, before switching to the longer format. He was put off competing in the marathon in Beijing in 2008 by concerns over air pollution. He suffers from asthma, as well as a pollen allergy, and feared the smog would have an adverse effect on his health, yet later regretted the decision.
The Dubai Marathon is one of only two that he plans to run every year until the next Olympics, the other as yet unspecified but most likely to be in Europe. "My plan is to run in 2012 in London. I am aware that, in terms of the quality of competition, every year it is improving a lot," he said. "For that reason I have to keep in shape for the next two or three years and be ready for 2012. I have to be perfect for London."
Tomorrow's race will go under the starter's gun at 6.30am from Dubai Media City, with Sammy Korir and Tesfaye Tola Heyi the most likely challengers to Gebrselassie's pursuit of the $250,000 first prize. In truth, the greatest intrigue will surround his attempt to better his own record time for the 42km event of 2hr 03mins 59secs. "When I come to Dubai I make sure my preparation is perfect because everything here is the best in the world," he added. "There has been a lot of progress, not just with the city but with the marathon itself."