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Haile Gebrselassie - from farmer's son to Olympic & world champion runner

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Haile Gebrselassie - from farmer's son to Olympic & world champion runner

16 December, 2014   Nicolette Mok

World distance and Olympic medallist Haile Gebrselassie, who was in town to race in the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 10km category, shed light on how the sport of running transformed his life for the better.

Haile Gebrselassie_Running Clinic_SportCaresHaile Gebrselassie conducting a running clinic by SportCares (Photo by Dave Poh/SportCares)

We all know the story of how a young Haile Gebrselassie would run 10 kilometres through the sprawling Ethiopian countryside every day just to get to school.

Today, the farmer’s son has more than just two Olympic gold medals and numerous marathon world championship titles under his belt. He is also the proud owner of an extensive and continually-expanding business empire, and currently has political plans on the agenda.

Crediting his present successes to his lifelong dedication to sports, the bouyant 41-year-old was at the Singapore Sports Hub on 6 December 2014 to conduct a SportCares running clinic for a group of youths. He expressed his hopes for the programme’s beneficiaries to enhance their lives by incorporating sports into their daily schedules, sharing how competitive running had helped shape his own destiny.

“[It is incomparable], where I’ve been and where I am now. Because of sports, [my life has] changed a lot. My life has changed completely because of running, and that’s why I need to keep running,” he revealed.

Haile Gebrselassie_SportCares Running ClinicPhoto by Dave Poh (SportCares)

Haile spent the morning interacting with the youths and running enthusiasts, imparting inspiring tips, before leading them on a short jog. Enthusing how “lovely” it was to be here in Singapore, he expounded on the value of sports - not just to the individual, but also to societies as a whole.

“Sports is everything. It is a tool to communicate with people; it is global. I’m here in Singapore, after a several-thousand-kilometre flight, all because of sports. It’s universal,” he remarked.

This is (as he explained) because a latent love for sports can be found in everyone, as long as they possess the desire to be healthy. When asked how best to engage the tech-obsessed youths of present-day Singapore, Haile believes that the key is to discover the sport that each individual enjoys best, and activate his or her passion through it.

“Some may want to be runners, some may want to be footballers. Ultimately, when we talk about sports, you will find that it is in the blood of everybody,” he affirms.

So how does sport help an individual to hone traits that will aid them, even off the track? Such a question is perhaps best answered by the well-rounded Haile, who has seen exceptional successes both in sports and business.

With investments in diverse fields such as films and automobile sales, the philanthropic track star is keen to get more young people involved in sports. He believes this will help them develop positive traits that will be useful when facing the mental rigours of their professional lives in future.

"With sports, you can prepare mentally. [When you are dirty], you wash your body. But how can you wash your mind? The best way is to do sports, and sweat, and wash the mind. The mind is always refreshed after sports."

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During the SportCares CareRunners clinic, participants got to rub shoulders with celebrated long-distance runner Haile Gebrselassie from Ethiopia.