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Updated: Thu, 31 May 2012 19:49:38 GMT | By pa.press.net

Ethiopia: Ibrahim Jeilan

Born: 12/06/1989


Ibrahim Jeilan shows his 10,000 metres gold medal at the 2011 World Championships. (© Press Association)

Ibrahim Jeilan shows his 10,000 metres gold medal at the 2011 World Championships.

Born: 12/06/1989

Place of birth: Bale, Ethiopia

Event: Athletics

Previous Olympics: 0

Previous medals: 0

The influence of legendary long-distance runner Haile Gebrselassie has extended far beyond his native Ethiopia, and even the Olympic Games.

However, for Ibrahim Jeilan, the inspirational achievements of his compatriot on the biggest sporting stage of all 12 years ago had a bigger impact than he could ever have imagined.

Had it not been for Gebrselassie's memorable triumph in the 10,000 metres at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Jeilan's destiny could have been very different.

At those Games in Australia, Gebrselassie produced an astonishing burst of pace on the final stretch to surge past rival Paul Tergat of Kenya. It was his second Olympic gold medal in the 10,000m after his success in Atlanta four years earlier, and the pinnacle of an amazing career.

It was also a critical moment in the life of an 11-year-old Jeilan, listening on a radio at his home in Bale Province thousands of miles away in eastern Africa.

Having heard one of the most thrilling conclusions to a race in the history of the Olympics, the youngster was spurred into action, and he started training as a runner immediately.

His journey to potential glory has not been straightforward, though.

Jeilan competed in the 5000m and 10,000m at district level, but he failed to qualify for the regional team. It was not until the age of 16 that he first represented his country, and in 2006 he was rewarded with his first international title - a gold medal in the 10,000m at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing.

Another gold medal followed in the junior race at the 2008 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, but his early promise was not recognised by everyone.

Frustrated by missing out on a place in the Ethiopia team at Beijing 2008, Jeilan opted to pursue his dream away from his homeland.

A move to the Japanese corporation-backed athletics system in 2010 provided him with different surroundings and a different climate. It also provided a stable income, enabling the ambitious Jeilan to concentrate on his training.

His move to the Honda team in Saitama, near Tokyo, has paid off, and he is now one of the most respected athletes over 10,000m in the world.

In 2011, he claimed gold at the All-Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique, but the greatest triumph in his career to date came later that year.

In a performance that was reminiscent of his idol Gebrselassie, Jeilan sprinted past Great Britain's Mo Farah in the final 20 metres to win gold at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

Ironically, London 2012 may represent Gebrselassie's grand finale on the competitive stage, but in Jeilan it seems increasingly likely that Ethiopia will not have to look far for a new hero.