Kenenisa Bekele ahead of the 2013 SPAR Great Ireland Run (© Organisers)
Kenenisa Bekele insisted ahead of Sunday’s SPAR Great Ireland Run, an IAAF Silver label Road Race, that despite a disappointing two-year spell when his career was derailed for much of the time through injury, he is targeting a medal at this summer's IAAF World Championships.
The Ethiopian star surrendered his World 10,000m crown title to his compatriot Ibrahim Jeilan at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, when he failed to finish, and was fourth over 25 laps of the track at the London 2012 Olympic Games but was adamant he will bounce back ahead of his first race since last August.
"My goals this year is the World Championships," said Bekele speaking in Dublin on Friday (12), where Jeilan will be one of his opponents in Phoenix Park over 10km on Sunday.
"It won’t be easy this year, there is a lot of competition - but I hope I will do better. Of course I’m thinking about Rio, it’s not so far away. I’m not sure if it will be the Marathon or the 10,000m for me."
The World record-holder over 5000m and 10,000m admitted that he expects sooner or later to follow in the footsteps of his legendary fellow countryman and early mentor Haile Gebrselassie and move up distance.
"I’m not planning on any Marathons this year, but maybe next year; 2011 and 2012 were not good years for me. I ran out of time preparing for 2012 Olympics; fourth was disappointing. Maybe if I'd had two or three weeks more (training), I would have had a medal."
The 30-year-old has not competed since that occasion in London but revealed: "My calf injury was very, very bad. I recovered through hard training.
"Mentally being away from racing for a long time, recovering from injury is not good. I’m still a little bit disappointed about the Olympics, but it’s OK, it's life."
In Dublin, he will be aiming to revisit his form from last year's SPAR Great Ireland Run when he flew to a spectacular Irish all-comers record over 10km of 27:47.
"I had a great time last year," said Bekele, who blitzed a field comprising some of Europe's best distance runners. "It was my first race of the season and I’m looking forward to it again."
The defending champion conceded that the presence of Jeilan will bring out the best in him.
"This is a great place and great country, people are lovely supporters; it was fun last year. This year is a different race. There is a very strong field, anything could happen, but there is a chance I could break the course record again – and so could Ibrahim."
Jeilan, who pulled off what many considered a shock victory in Daegu when he beat Great Britain’s Mo Farah in a thrilling sprint for the line, is himself recovering from an injury which prevented him competing London last summer.
The 23-year-old used to be based in Japan but has now returned to his homeland and has had two races this year, placing fourth in Dubai over 10km at the end of January and ninth in the very high profile Carlsbad 5km race last Sunday.
Jeilan, who has a ‘wildcard’ as returning title-holder for the World Championships in August, not surprisingly identified Bekele and the double Olympic champion Farah as the men to beat in Moscow.
"Last year I had an Achilles injury and it was hard to recover, but I’m still very young so it’s ok.
"It is not easy to beat Mo. Bekele is faster than Mo over one lap - but Mo is faster over two.
"I’m looking forward to going to Moscow and defending my title," added Jeilan.
Also in the men’s field will be Australia’s Collis Birmingham, who finished an outstanding eighth at last month’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Moroccan marathon star Abderrahime Bouramdane and Ukraine’s nine-time European cross-country champion, Sergiy Lebid.
Great Britain’s Gemma Steel will defend her women’s title against Ireland’s Linda Byrne, Spain’s Diana Martin, Great Britain’s Olympic 5000m and 10,000m finallist Julia Bleasdale and Italy’s Elena Romagnolo.
More than 10,000 adults and children will enjoy a family running day out with SPAR Great Ireland Run 10km being just one of four events. The SPAR Mini and Junior Great Ireland Runs and SPAR Great Ireland Mile will also take over Phoenix Park.
David Martin (organisers) for the IAAF