Spotlight on Ethiopian Runner-Turned-Entrepreneur Haile Gebrselassie

As a child, Haile Gebrselassie was asthmatic, but that didn’t stop from becoming a two-time Olympic gold-winning athlete, and subsequently one of Ethiopia’s richest businessmen.

Retired now from long-distance track and road-running, Gebrselassie is a sports ambassador. He has made an economic impact on his country with proceeds from his appearance fees, prize money and endorsements, according to a report by Rosalind K. Amoh in GraphicOnline.

He used earnings to make investments which he runs with his wife and brother. Combined, his businesses helped make him one of Ethiopia’s richest men.

These include a five-star hotel in Addis Ababa, a real estate development company, and thousands of acres of farmland.

Gebrselassie owns the Alem Building, one of the tallest buildings in Addis Ababa, named after his wife. He and his wife run a successful property company which has financed seven more buildings in Addis Ababa.
His businesses employs 1,600 people and his interests range from growing coffee and beans to selling cars.
He has the sole licence to import Hyundai cars into Ethiopia and has a large showroom.

“I wake up every morning feeling grateful and still a winner,” he said in an interview with GraphicsOnline.
Gebrselassie is also a philanthropist, and built two primary schools in Ethiopia. He’s involved with the Great Ethiopian Run, an annual 10-kilometer running event held in late November in Addis Ababa.
He has advice for professional athletes, GraphicOnline reported.

While they enjoy their success, athletes should plan for the after-career period which can be lonely, sad and frustrating, he said.

“Of course, we all have our plans with what we do with money, but success in sports is not guaranteed all the time, so while you are successful and make money, it is good to also plan and prepare for the life after those active days. As we all know, active participation and competition is not a life-long event.

“The age of retirement for sportsmen is perhaps the shortest compared to all other professions and living happily and still remaining relevant after that time depends on the plans and choices you make.
“I chose to remain and invest at home in Ethiopia despite the lure of all the beautiful countries I’ve travelled to. And I’m very happy about my choice.”

Gebrselassie entered the spotlight in 1992 when he won gold in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter track events at the World Junior Championships in Seoul.

From there, he began to dominate 10,000 meter races, winning two Olympic titles and four World Championships — the first in 1993 — and breaking 27 world records.

As he grew older, Gebrselassie became more interested in marathons. He set a world record in 2008 for the Berlin Marathon and won the marathon a record four times. That record was subsequently broken by three Kenyan runners in 2011, 2013 and 2014, according to BBC.

Gebrselassie is considered by many as the greatest long-distance runners of all time, according to SuccessStory.

This Post first appeared on Ethiopia Today

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