Kenenisa Bekele feels he has nothing left to prove after a spectacular running career but still fully intends to defend his Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres titles in London later this year.
The Ethiopian will be gunning for an unprecedented third successive 10,000 metres gold in London in a feat that was beyond middle distance greats Paavo Nurmi, Emile Zatopek, Lasse Viren and Haile Gebrselassie, who all won it twice.
Three years of struggling with calf and knee injuries have dented Bekele’s aura of invincibility, however, and in the 5,000 metres at Saturday’s Shanghai Diamond League meeting, qualification for London rather than dominance is on his mind.
His first outing on the track this year at the Diamond League opener in Doha last week ended with a disappointing seventh place in the 3,000 metres and he is hoping for better in China.
“I’m feeling good, I’m trying to reach my best shape, to get get back to my best level like before,” he told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
“I’m feeling well, I’m feeling happy. I’m healthy. I’m getting better, it was a long time injured and it’s not easy. I’m trying to get back to a good level.”
After pulling up injured in the 10,000m at the world championships in Daegu last year – the first time he had lost a race at the distance – Bekele withdrew from the defence of his 5,000m title.
Many thought that he would drop the 5,000m in London to focus on a third gold in the longer distance but, despite his poor time in Doha, he said he was still planning to double up.
“I have to qualify, I have to try and get the time, I have to prepare for the next big race and see where I am, you know,” he said, adding: “Yes, if I qualify, if I prepare well, I will be competing (in both events) in London.”
His rivals would be foolish to write Bekele off. Two weeks after his Daegu disappointment in his first race for a year, he ran a blistering 10,000m in 26 minutes 43.16 seconds in Brussels.
“One month before the world championships, I missed 15 days training through injury so after I only trained two weeks,” he recalled.
“After the world championships, I trained well and then I ran the fastest 10,000 metres of the year.”
After Shanghai, where he will compete in a field made up entirely of East Africans, Bekele’s next race will be a showdown in Oregon against the man who took his 5,000m world title in Daegu, Mo Farah.
Bekele said the Briton, who is also contemplating a double gold bid in London, was a genuine contender for an Olympic title in front of his home crowd in London.
“He has a good chance to win in the Olympics, he’s at a good level, he’s in good shape,” said Bekele.
“From what he showed last season, I think he has a good chance. Maybe if I’m in good shape we are competitive.”
With a role of honour that includes the three Olympic golds, five world championship titles on the track, both 5,000m and 10,000m world records and an astonishing 11 cross country world titles, Bekele feels his legacy is already assured.
“I have achieved many championships, world champion, two times Olympic champion, record holder, what do I need after this?” he said.
“Just improving, continuing achievement, I’m already at a good level.”
Bekele turns 30 next month and has said he plans to emulate compatriot Gebrselassie by taking up marathon running after his track career ends.
First though, the great competitor will train his eye on Olympic glory one more time.
“Of course I’m going there to win, I’m not going there to lose, everybody expects to win, but losing sometimes comes afterwards,” he said.