As a child growing up on a farm in Ethiopia, Haile Gebrselassie ran 10 kilometres to school each day and another 10 kilometres back home. As an adult, he ran with his left arm crooked, the effect of years spent running with books under his arm.
By Atlanta in 1996, Gebrselassie was the reigning world record holder at 10,000m and the twice-defending world champion. His main rival was cross-country champion Paul Tergat of Kenya. The two men dominated the final with Gebrselassie winning dramatically by just six metres. This tense rivalry was repeated in Sydney, when Gebrselassie sensationally took gold with his very last stride.
At the 2004 Athens Games, Gebrselassie finished 5th in the 10,000m. After Athens, he concentrated on the half-marathon and the marathon, and soon became a specialist. He won many prestigious victories in the Berlin, Fukuoka and Dubai races. He even set a world record in the distance in 2007.
At the 2008 Beijing Games, Haile Gebrselassie finished sixth in the marathon. It was won by Kenenisa Bekele, who is considered to be his distance-running heir.