One of the greatest distance runners of all time, Kenenisa Bekele, is set to make a remarkable return to the Olympic stage. Bekele, who turns 42 next month, will compete in the 2024 Olympics, his first appearance since 2012. This announcement came as the Ethiopian Athletics Federation revealed its marathon teams for Paris on Thursday.

Bekele, who secured second place at April’s London Marathon, will be joined on the men’s team by Boston Marathon winner Sisay Lemma and Seville Marathon champion Deresa Geleta. The women’s team includes world record holder Tigst Assefa, making her Olympic return since 2016, world champion Amane Beriso, and Megertu Alemu, who placed fourth in the London Marathon. Notably, Tamirat Tola, who set a course record at the New York City Marathon last November, was not included after dropping out of the London Marathon.

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Tola and Boston Marathon runner-up Mohamed Esa have been named as reserves for the men’s team. On the women’s side, 2022 world champion Gotytom Gebreslase and Boston Marathon fourth-place finisher Buze Diriba are the reserves.

Bekele’s path back to the Olympics has been a long and challenging one. Dominating the distance running scene in the 2000s, he claimed three Olympic golds and five World Championship golds in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. After a fourth-place finish in the 10,000 meters at the 2012 Olympics, Bekele transitioned to marathon running in 2014.

Throughout the past decade, Bekele has showcased glimpses of his extraordinary talent, winning the Berlin Marathon in 2016 and 2019, and recording a personal best of 2:01:41, the third-fastest marathon time ever. However, injuries and business commitments often hindered his training and consistency, leading to his exclusion from Ethiopia’s Olympic teams in 2016 and 2021.


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Many believed that Bekele’s fourth-place finish in the 2012 Olympic 10,000 meters, overshadowed by Mo Farah and his younger brother Tariku, would be his last Olympic appearance. His seventh-place finish at the NYC Half Marathon in March 2023 further fueled doubts about his return.

However, Bekele defied the odds when it mattered most. At the Valencia Marathon in December, he set a master’s world record with a time of 2:04:19, his fastest in over four years, reviving his Olympic hopes. He then solidified his spot on the team with a second-place finish at the London Marathon in April, clocking 2:04:15, and benefiting from Tola’s withdrawal.

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Bekele will now head to Paris for one final Olympic showdown against Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who aims for an unprecedented third consecutive Olympic marathon gold. The Stade de France, where Bekele and Kipchoge first won global titles 21 years ago, will be the venue for this epic battle.

Bekele and Kipchoge have defined an era in distance running, similar to rivalries like Brady vs. Manning or Ronaldo vs. Messi. Their race in Paris will mark their 25th head-to-head encounter, with Bekele leading 15-9. It will be their first face-off since the 2018 London Marathon, won by Kipchoge.

On August 10, the streets of Paris will witness the final chapter of this legendary rivalry, as Bekele and Kipchoge compete one last time, leaving an indelible mark on the history of athletics.