Ethiopian distance great Kenenisa Bekele sent out a warning shot to potential Olympic rivals on Thursday by saying that he was aiming to do the 5,000m-10,000m double at the London Games.
Bekele, the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder over both distances, has been hampered by injury over the past two years, but has proclaimed himself to be “free of injury,” although not training at 100 percent.
The 29-year-old, who has 16 world titles to his name, raced just once in 2010 and twice last year, as he attempted to shrug off calf and knee injuries.
He suffered a disastrous world championships in Daegu, South Korea, last year, limping out of the 10,000m and withdrawing from the 5,000m.
However, he rebounded to set the fastest 10,000m of last year’s season at the final Diamond League meeting in Brussels in September last year, a race he said had been a huge boost ahead of winter training.
“That Brussels race was very important for me, it helped build up my confidence,” Bekele said ahead of the season-opening Diamond League meeting yesterday, where he was to race the 3,000m, a non-Olympic event.
“I’m now feeling good, happy, free of injury,” he said. “If I’m performing well and am in good condition, I will try to double up in London. The 10,000m is my favored choice. I’ve won it twice and want to go for a third gold medal. History is very important. It’s not easy to win three times at the Olympics, an event which only comes along every four years. It would be great. History has a big place in my heart.”
However, Bekele said that his preparation had not been like that before his gold medal showings at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics in Athens and Beijing respectively.
“Those were great times when I felt full of confidence and power, but now I’m not at 100 percent,” he said. “I’ve been doing less training, not because of my age, but because I’m coming back from three years of injury problems. It’s not easy to come back from that and start preparing again. I don’t want to push too hard and risk another injury.”
Bekele said that his battle with injury had left him despairing at the prospect of having to quit athletics.
“Not just once, but many times, I thought I’d have to give it up. There were two or three times I tried to come back after what I thought was sufficient recovery only to discover the injury was still there,” he said. “I’d feel bad and think that maybe I wouldn’t come back to competition again. It really wasn’t an easy time. My family, my wife and friends supported and advised me. They told me not to think about it and maybe it would come.”
Bekele has opted to put himself under direct pressure by choosing to compete in the 3,000m — an event he has not raced since his triumph at the World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki in September 2009.
He will come up against a raft of Kenyan athletes led by Augustine Choge and Edwin Soi, recently crowned world indoor silver and bronze medalists, and Eliud Kipchoge.
“The race will be important for all of us. We can check each other out. There’s no 3,000m at the Olympics, but I want to test myself, it’d be great to have a good test,” Bekele said. “I expect it to be a fast race. It’s the beginning of the season, so I hope everybody’s fresh and they push me.”